After nearly 24 hours of travelling, when you arrive in London, one the most comforting things in the world – after taking a Guinness world-record-breaking long, hot shower – is to grab a bite and a bevy at your favourite pub (or at least the one closest to your accommodation if it’s your first time).
It’s no wonder there’s a ‘local’ on practically every corner of the UK…no matter how empty, or full to the brim with jovial patrons they are, they always seem to ooze charm, coziness and warmth. I have never been in a traditional English pub that hasn’t made me feel welcome from the get-go.
On our most recent trip to London (our second together), we decided to forgo the much-needed afternoon nap – but not the shower, of course – and head straight to the pub we claimed as our ‘local’ the previous time we were there. Even though it is situated on one of the busiest corners of Paddington, you could just as well be walking into any old small-town English pub that generates a busy crowd after the 5 o’clock whistle blows.
Sit down, and…”aaahhh…” Happy days – flight, what flight? As you do, we ordered dinner at the bar from the blackboard menu. We’d been on a strict diet of plane food for the previous 24 hours or so, so we were ready for some real food. Meat. Salad. Fresh stuff. Anything other than token slivers of a meat-like substance with rice. What was the first thing we spotted? Meat Grill. Sold to the overtired, dehydrated Aussies who still smell like plane!
It was just what the doctor ordered. However, we were still after some fresh vegies or salad, and unfortunately the delicious-sounding Haloumi Salad wasn’t available; the next best option on the menu was Bruschetta (fresh tomato is still salad, you know…)
Now, I’m no chef, nor am I Italian, but I know what Bruschetta is, so I was a little confused (and had to giggle) when our “Bruschetta” was served looking like this…
I’m not sure what it was exactly that allowed me to hazard a guess the chef had no idea what Bruschetta was – was it the sliced (as opposed to chopped) tomato? The slices of zucchini? The melted cheese? Or the fact that it was all served on a toasted, buttered hot dog bun? Now, don’t get me wrong, despite all appearances it was very tasty. I’m quite sure if it had been sold to me as it was (i.e. a Tomato and Cheese Toastie), I still would have gone for it. Bless. I just had to laugh.
The next day (which just happened to be my birthday), we found ourselves at a different pub. For a little while we felt guilty; it was almost as if we were ‘cheating’ on the other pub, but this one was smaller, cosier and – best of all – across the road from where we were staying. It was a cold and rainy day (perfect museum weather) and we were rather peckish after spending a few hours traipsing through the British Museum.
The pub didn’t appear to have a full kitchen, but there was a menu, so we decided to give it a go – sausage and mustard toasted sarnie for him, minestrone por moi…all for the bargain price of four pounds and fifty pence! It was then we noticed the ‘kitchen’ was a mini toaster oven and microwave situated behind the bar.
I don’t know if it was because we were cold, tired and hungry at that point, but I kid you not – that bargain lunch was possibly one of the most delicious, soul-warming meals we have ever enjoyed! I only wish we’d stayed in London long enough to find out how they managed their Tuesday Curry and Quiz Nights from that tiny ‘kitchen’!
Long live the traditional English pub…and its grub!