Good health to the great british pub

16 min read

The stories and recipes behind our great foodie traditions

Bustling city institution, cosy country inn, pared-back gastropub… there is nothing quite like the British pub, says Sharon Parsons


HELENA LANG HEAD OF CONTENT ‘Is there anything better than a long, leisurely weekend walk followed by an hour or two at a traditional pub with all of its warm and friendly atmosphere? Pies, pints, roasts and wine, good conversation, flagstone floors, low-hanging beams and a toasty fire on the go. Let’s do it.’

A soldier walks up to the bar. ‘The usual, Titus?’ asks the landlord, carefully placing a brimming earthenware mug before him. Titus takes an appreciative sip of posca, a vinegary sort of inferior wine that’s a speciality of the house. ‘Phew, I needed that,’ he sighs. ‘Marched for miles today...’

For this centurion, popping into a taberna was a regular event at the time of the Roman invasion back in 43AD. These drinking houses were places where soldiers, travellers and labourers could unwind over a jar or two and, in that regard, not much has changed: fast forward several thousand years, and at the end of a long, hard day, a well-deserved pint or wine in a favourite hostelry will often beckon. Back then, thirsty Titus and his comrades could not have known that they were at the birthplace of a British cultural mainstay. Over centuries, our public houses have borne witness to everything from huge moments of national history to enticing local gossip. They’ve hosted weddings and wakes; managed altercations, celebrations and commiserations; and allowed quiet contemplation and noisy revelry. Samuel Pepys called the pub ‘the heart of England’.

But what constitutes our idea of a good pub these days? It varies widely from ‘destination’ establishments, where the customer can expect Michelin-star food and white tablecloths in a rustic setting, to old treasures where nothing much has changed in generations, and regulars would be appalled if they did. But there are also exciting industry developments, headed up by those who have seized opportunities, recognised what today’s customers want – or what a flailing community needs – and been bold enough to make it happen.


One such entrepreneur is Ethan Davids who, together with his sister Jordan and friend Tommy Tullis, established the Chickpea Group four years ago, aiming to provide relaxed hospitality with an emphasis on great food in classic pubs: they now have five such establishments with rooms in Wiltshire.

‘We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or be too clever,’ Ethan explains. ‘First and foremost we’re a pub, and we haven’t forgotten that. We aim to provide great food and drink that caters for everyone’s tastes in a friendly atmosphere. It’s important that the regular who

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