A few days ago, a friend in America asked me on Facebook what the pub food over here is like and if it’s anything similar to what you’d get in England.
The short answer is yes, I think it’s quite similar to British pub food, but there are some obvious differences, and the pubs themselves can be quite different from each other as well. I suppose the most striking thing about Irish pubs is the “nooks” or little partioned areas within the room where you can go with your group for privacy… and while sharing the craic, you’re focusing on the task at hand – drinking! The English and even Northern Irish pubs I’ve been to seem much more… how do I say it… English! And definitely more comfy for a meal out as opposed to just a few pints of lager.
(I must always remind you that my experience is still quite limited, so forgive me if I speak out of turn.)
I went to some amazing pubs when we were in England – a fantastic place called The Titchfield Mill with a big roaring fire, hot mulled cider and food as good as I’ve ever had in a pub. (Seriously – I used to consider myself a connoisseur of Fish & Chips, but I’ve never had any as good as those in the Titchfield Mill.) We also had a fantastic meal at a place called the Fox and Hound near Gosport, but I couldn’t tell you how to find it and there are about a million Fox and Hound pubs in England.
In Belfast, I’ll always remember the Crown Bar Liquor Saloon, which was overflowing with character and served good, down-to-earth and reasonably-priced food. All of these pubs were appropriate for bringing Evelyn into, even in the evening, but they had specific dining room spaces that were much cozier than your run of the mill bar atmosphere.
In Ireland, some pubs serve food and others do not. Most – and I found this hard to believe – stop serving food at 5 pm!!! So when it advertises on the door that they serve food “late,” they mean a late lunch! I can’t say I’ve ever had an AMAZING meal at a pub here, but I’ve had decent food. There’s a great little place in Carlow we went to several years back at Christmas time, and it was lovely, just beer and soup and bread etc. Our favorite pub in Dublin, at least for meals, is consistently the Porterhouse. In Drogheda, I like the character of local haunts like The Pheasant and The Mariner, but again, the actual food is nothing to write home about.
So what are some examples of actual Irish “Pub Grub?” Well, not exactly what you’d find on the menu at the Claddagh chain in America! (Old Heartland peeps, remember that lovely chicken sandwich we always used to split?)
Here’s a run down of most pub menus and specials:
– Fish & Chips
– Lasagna & Chips
– Shepherd’s Pie
– Chicken Curry with Rice & Chips
– Boiled Bacon, Cabbage and Mashed Potatoes
– Sausages with Chips & Beans
– Full Irish Breakfast (rashers, sausages, beans, black and white puddings, fried tomato, fried egg, fried mushrooms and toast)
– Roast Dinners on occasion (Beef, Ham or Chicken and gravy with steamed veggies and both mashed and roast potatoes)
So, it’s basic. Fine. Lots of chips. But fine.
But I have to say, outside of the generic pub fare, I’ve had some incredible meals in this part of the world, both UK and Ireland. Really fresh flavours and clever cooking! I think we still get such a bad rap in America for having bland meat & spuds type food, but that’s just not the case anymore. (Have a look.) England, in particular, is a real front-runner in the culinary world these days, miles ahead of the old stereotype from the last generation, and Ireland is not far behind. I would seriously LOVE to do a gastronomic tour of the UK and Ireland… every bit as much as I’d love to do the same in Italy and France. Seriously!
Now Drogheda may be hit and miss for incredible food… but I’m not giving up on her yet! Chefs are a nomadic bunch, so remember that even if you’ve had a poor meal someplace before, you might have a great experience a few months later. Word to the wise.
In the meantime… there’s nothing wrong with dependable ol’ Pub Grub when you’re in the mood. Really, who doesn’t like chips??!!?? Mmm, with salt and vinegar… in a little paper bag as it’s drizzling rain on your way home from a night out… Mmmm… one of my favourite guilty pleasures here. 🙂