HELP US: Gastropubs in the 1990s

The Eagle pub.

Did you drink, eat, work at or run a gastropub between 1990–1998? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

We’re espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in diary entries, let­ters, arti­cles, emails or oth­er records you might have made at the time – noth­ing is too scrap­py or too minor.

But mem­o­ries are help­ful too.

We’ve got lots of facts, dates and fig­ures: what we want to know is, how did these places feel?

Like jour­nal­ist Kathryn Flett, a great cham­pi­on of gas­trop­ubs in the 1990s, did you appre­ci­ate their un-blokey atmos­phere and rus­tic chic? Did you wel­come the oppor­tu­ni­ty to enjoy good food with­out hav­ing to dress, mind your table man­ners and take out a small bank loan?

Or per­haps you’re with Patrick Harve­son who, in 1995, wrote an arti­cle in the Times call­ing for The Cam­paign for Real Pubs. Did your local became some­where you no longer felt you could pop in for a pint? Maybe you saw the very idea of the gas­trop­ub as dan­ger­ous – a threat to the very idea of what pubs are meant to be.

The Eagle in Clerken­well, Lon­don, gen­er­al­ly giv­en cred­it as the orig­i­nal gas­trop­ub after its 1991 rein­ven­tion, is one we’re par­tic­u­lar­ly focus­ing on but we’d be hap­py to hear about any oth­ers you think are notable or inter­est­ing.

You can com­ment below but it’d be much more use­ful if you could email us via contact@boakandbailey.com.

Thanks!

Main image adapt­ed from ‘Eagle, Clerken­well, EC1’ by Ewan Munro (Pubology.co.uk) via Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.

9 thoughts on “HELP US: Gastropubs in the 1990s”

  1. My first job in That Lon­don was on Bowl­ing Green Lane – more or less oppo­site The Eagle- in Clerken­well. This was in August or sep­tem­ber 1992.

    My new col­leagues took me there in my first week. I remem­ber being slight­ly hor­ri­fied by the prices – and also by the size of the plates the food came on. I think I had lamb. I’d nev­er been in a place quite like it. Black­board menus and what have you – although the floor­boards ‘n’ open plan approach was also in use by oth­er pubs, espe­cial­ly the Firkins which were all over the place then.

    I was so very green. It might have been here or at a neigh­bour­ing restau­rant that these same super-sophis­ti­cat­ed work­mates (gen­tly and patient­ly) explained to me what tortelli­ni was.

  2. Much too recent for me – I have dif­fi­cul­ty dis­en­tan­gling the 1990s cat­e­go­ry from ‘cur­rent affairs’! (That nice Mr Blair, what­ev­er hap­pened to him?) Also I loathe gas­trop­ubs, on a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent gen­er­al prin­ci­ples. Hope you don’t mind if I sit this one out.

  3. Things were a bit tight for me, back in the 1990’s and hav­ing just start­ed a fam­i­ly mon­ey was in short sup­ply. I was lucky to be able to afford a few pints in a pub, so posh nosh was def­i­nite­ly off the menu for me.

    Btw, I’ve nev­er liked the term “gas­tro-pub”; it’s far too pre­ten­tious for my lik­ing.

  4. Most­ly I remem­ber the gas­trop­ub move­ment as involv­ing the con­ver­sion of sev­er­al real­ly great, old, tra­di­tion­al coun­try pubs that used to host us after crick­et match­es and pro­vide free chip butties and let us play 3 card brag in the back bar and drink til mid­night, into pre­ten­tious places where we were made to feel uncom­fort­able as the land­lord no longer want­ed 22 sweaty blokes putting his din­ers off their chick­en in jus.

    They took mixed use (food and wet sales) pubs that were busy and pop­u­lar and mak­ing more than enough mon­ey to tick over, and turned them into restau­rants that did ok for a year or so and then went under as the din­ers moved on to some­where new and the pre­vi­ous reg­u­lars had no inter­est in return­ing.

  5. In Lon­don in the ear­ly days it was more about tak­ing over dead/dying inner city pubs (because they were cheap and avail­able), and cer­tain­ly in the best ones there was nev­er a prob­lem if you want­ed just to drink. In those days it felt like they could be a good mix of Eng­lish pub and French bistro cul­ture. The beer in the Eagle (Charles Wells) was nev­er great, but oth­er places (e.g. The Lord Palmer­ston in Tufnell Park and St John’s Tav­ern, Arch­way) made more of a fea­ture of their real ale, as some­thing din­ers might have a cou­ple of pints of before they moved on to wine with their meal, and that was as con­sci­en­tious­ly “sourced” and served as the rest of the menu, along­side the arti­san cheeses and local­ly made bread. They were nev­er very pop­u­lar with CAMRA, but in this way they played their part in the rise of craft beer; they cer­tain­ly cre­at­ed a mar­ket for it.

    1. I said I object­ed to gas­trop­ubs on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent prin­ci­ples – think­ing of some of the points py has made – but on reflec­tion there’s one key prin­ci­ple, & I think it’s quite a wide­ly shared one. I just don’t like going into a pub and being made to feel uncom­fort­able – even if they’ve kept good beer on, and don’t actu­al­ly repel drinkers. Take the Plough at Duloe, near where we stayed one year: some of the best Prop­er Job I’ve tast­ed, but drink­ing it perched at the bar, while a Din­ing Pub did its thing all around, took the shine off a bit. (00s rather than 90s, oth­er­wise this would be a fine spec­i­men. Home-made pork scratch­ings, sold by the glass.)

  6. There was a recent arti­cle in The Guardian writ­ten by Zoe Williams: “Twen­ty-five years of the gas­trop­ub – a rev­o­lu­tion that saved British booz­ers”. Here is my own opin­ion of this extrav­a­gant claim.

  7. I remem­ber going in the Eagle cir­ca 1995 to see what all the fuss was about. I got a very frosty reac­tion for only want­i­ng a pint and not want­i­ng to eat – and the beer selec­tion was very poor. I don’t remem­ber any spe­cif­ic beer, oth­er than it was the 90s equiv­a­lent of what Doom­bar is today.

  8. I don’t real­ly recall ever going to a gas­trop­ub in the few drink­ing years that I spent in Blighty before abscond­ing to oth­er climes. Prob­a­bly the clos­est I ever got was a place in Brum called The Malt House round on Brind­ley Place – actu­al­ly, look­ing at the web­site now it prob­a­bly qual­i­fies as one. I don’t remem­ber feel­ing unwel­come because I was only hav­ing a cou­ple of pints, but I do remem­ber the ‘no track­suits, no train­ers’ pol­i­cy sign on the door.

    There used to be a ‘British style’ gas­trop­ub here in Char­lottesville that closed down very recent­ly, it was called the Horse and Hound and I only dark­ened the door of the place once. Being told by the bar­maid that the own­ers knew about Scot­tish beer because they had spent a year liv­ing in Lon­don kind of put me off. I may have had a spring in my step when I walked by it with a big ‘For Lease’ sign out­side the build­ing, heart­less git that I am.

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