You would not believe the difficulty a normal day out can bring when you want nothing simpler than a ham salad. On Monday we decided after working the weekend to have a few hours ambling around a few places and maybe pop in for a light bite around lunch time. A simple task, not too taxing and indeed the ambling about bit was fine but the light bite was problematic, nobody does simple food well anymore.
Most places used to offer this type of service, you know, a salad with a bit of an accompanyment or even a small sandwich just in case you didn't want the full blown three overcooked veg, chicken in cream sauce with a basket of chips, indeed there used to be many places I could recollect that would offer such a service, alas all now a distant memory.
It turned twelve and we began our hunt, the first place we arrived at looked promising. It had a nice selection of quiches amongst other things but irritatingly the menu was above the only till and serving desk so you had to stand in the way of other customers who were paying or ordering to read it. It was a dismal display of 'let's prepare it at the beginning of the week and reheat it up when necessary' type of menu and everything came with some kind of dip and vast quantities of bread. Even the salads proudly boasted that they were all smothered in saucy dips and came with a platoon of crusty baps but mysteriously no meat unless you would like the mayonnaise, tuna and sweet corn topping. It wasn't a specialist place either so the lack of any kind of meat ham, chicken or otherwise was a mystery, also for such a long standing place and it had been there many, many years it still took cash only.
We harrumphed and strode out, next on the agenda was a delightful place we had already visited a few years ago and had a glorious meal. Unfortunate as we pulled into the car park we realised that maybe, just maybe it had changed hands. It was full of car fully of OAP's. Now I'm nearly one myself so have no problem with that but I also know that they always know a bargain place to have a slap up feed. With heavy hearts we strode inside already with a heady fried smell clinging to our clothes knowing exactly what to expect.
The decor had that weathered look with peeling wallpaper, row after row of featureless mock brown tables stood in tight rows, a far cry from the snug little benches and open fire that treated us before. On each table was a beer mat and a napkin wrapped around a knife and fork. The menu was sealed in a red wipeable folder and printed in a fanciful font describing most items as coming with hand cut chips or having a lemon cream sauce or mushroom cream sauce or Parmesan cream sauce or creamy tomato sauce, I kid you not, it was a sauce emporium with hand cut chips. It did have a Caesar salad on the menu but as this was spelt Ceaser I felt unable to partake in poor spelling especially as I now realised that I would be sat amiss a sea of grey flanked by mountains of hand cut chips and food covered in a saucy slop no matter how lemony or mushroomy it was.
The rest of the light menu consisted of a baguette with coleslaw and chips, hand cut of course. We could of course gone for the children's menu but that too was a little odd, how many children would order a 'trio of fish fingers' or a 'trio of sausages', if you mean you get three just say it. Adult rules to kids menus don't work, oh, and the all came with chips, hand cut so you didn't feel left out. Did I tell you they did hand cut chips?
So on to the next one, surely this would be the one, we had heard good things about this and Jayne had been there a few years ago.
The carpark was full, I say full, it had one car in it even though it was open, full of emptiness I meant to say and that signifies a problem. From the outside it looked lovely, inside was a different matter it was so uninviting for a working pub / restaurant that should have been serving a busy service at 1:15pm. We entered and stood around, it was empty, we even shouted a few times but we got no answer. After a few minutes we returned to the car and looked it up on tripadvisor. Indeed it was still in business but the last four ratings had been one stars coupled with a damning review that quite frankly they didn't give a monkeys how long you stood, we got off lightly the reviewer had stood ten minutes to be seated in an empty restaurant then left for thirty minutes between courses of banial fare.
It looked like anything we attempted this day would be thwarted so we did the only sensible thing, went home and cooked our own.
It's quite sad that so many public houses have closed over the years that it's had such a serious effect on the traditional community hostelry. Sure we passed loads of family pubs with their shiny menus, the pub equivalents of Starbucks but occasionally you just want a nice comfy place to have a nice bit of food devoid of fancy menus serving just plain old pub fare without the saffron infused spring rolls or the brandy cream sauce smothered beef.
Sometimes the simplest options done correctly can still be the best.