Sometimes, holding an establishment up to the standard of the mythical perfect English pub can be unfair because there are now so many different business models operating successfully under that banner.
One of the most common alternative models is one we associate particularly with Wetherspoons, although we’ve got no idea if they originated it. These kind of pubs:
- are “food-led”, but certainly not gastropubs
- high turnover
- operate on a “what’s your table number?”, order food at the bar basis
- are usually based in very big hall-like buildings and
- have some of the trappings of a traditional pub, e.g. dark wood.
In Cornwall, with its busy tourist trade, there are lots of these places, half empty in the winter but heaving in summer. Most are run by St Austell but not all.
What does a good pub of this type look like? Let’s take a St Austell pub in Newquay as an example.
- Despite being food-led, a great range of beer in tip-top condition.
- Efficiently run — not too much waiting, food delivered quickly.
- Clean and tidy — no peas rolling around the floor or crumbs on the tables.
- As cosy as possible — big enough to house a Zeppelin but warm, with booths and pillars to hide behind.
- No illusions — this pub doesn’t claim to be traditional, historic or characterful.
We’ll always choose a proper pub first but, in their own way, pubs of this type give beer a home in unhospitable territory. They’re rarely charming, but they surely have their place.
Bailey used to work in a pub like this as a student waiter (a “Brewer’s Fayre”). One of his jobs was picking chips and peas out of the revolving sauce tray and stirring in the crust on the ketchup. That is why they always have sauce in sachets these days.