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Putting on grub should be so simple – good service, polite staff, and tasty food served with a smile. The odd log on the fire wouldn’t hurt either. Bob Lethaby encounters some culinary cardinal sins.
I have been in several pubs and bars over the few days, eating and drinking far too much for my own health. However, as far as I am aware you only live once, though, with the correct information, I am willing to stand corrected and accept that Glenn Hoddle and Eileen Drury were right after all.
The one thing that always catches my attention during the visits to these varying establishments is how people present themselves and whether or not they are going to succeed in their position of being attentive and customer orientated. The line between success and failure is a thin one.
A classic example of this was a pub near Alton that I visited for lunch with an old customer last week. When we got there it was like walking into some sort of North Pole theme park experience; it was so bloody cold that at one point I thought I was going to get frost bite. In fairness, when we sat down, the landlady, skilfully playing the part of a horse that had already bolted, screwed up some balls of newspaper and threw them on to the fire with some pathetic looking kindling, a process that raised the temperature by approximately 0.5 centigrade. I felt like smashing my chair on the floor and throwing it on there, it was pretty farcical and we did begin to wonder whether we were the victims of a practical joke. Why on earth would anyone try to entertain customers with no heating?
To make it worse, the landlady (think brunette Barbara Windsor) proceeded to be over-attentive, asking us approximately every three minutes if everything was okay, which, remarkably, it was, even if I couldn’t operate my fingers that were now so numb it felt like they had undergone a local anaesthetic.
If there is one thing I really can’t stand when eating out, it is being interrupted between every mouthful of food and I started to wonder if this woman had some sort of attention disorder and would only leave us alone if I allowed myself to burst into tears of joy before embracing her tightly and informing her that the food made Claridges look like a Harvester. As a bonus, her voice was real nails down blackboard stuff and her on-going search for compliments was a hideous personality defect that will have customers running to the hills.
Experience tells me these things:
If a pub has the confidence to serve just seven or eight dishes, it will generally be good. However, If it is in the middle of a tourist trap featuring an ambitious menu, it will generally be a place where words such as “fresh” and “butchers” are a patronising way of covering up the fact that it is all pretty dull and possibly out of a freezer.
Finally, if it is an igloo on a ludicrously dangerous crossroads somewhere between Basingstoke and Alton and run by the human equivalent of a Red Setter; you can almost guarantee its days are numbered and it will soon be sold off to be someone’s house.
Check out Bob’s ace blog here – http://www.boblethaby.co.uk/