As cosy and warm welcoming English pubs are, as quickly as you can behave wrongly there. That is not a bad thing and you may not notice it at all, because the proverbial reticence of the English will not even raise the eyebrow here. But it’s more fun when you get it right. And sometimes you experience the opposite, as happened to us even on our very first pub visit to England in 2009: Completely blue-eyed we walked into the “George & Dragon” at noon in Salisbury, see a great garden at the back and go straight there. Almost everything is free, we sit down at a table in the sun and think nothing more. And that was the mistake! After a while, the Landlady (head) came from the bar and told us in the “strict teacher” type that we were in an English pub and that it was customary there to order first at the bar and then to sit down. There would be no service at the table here. Do you know the feeling of “watered poodle”? That’s what we had. But only briefly, because then supplied with drinks and an excellent food we enjoyed this highly recommended pub with terrace towards the River Avon. To get it right right, here are some tips for your next (or first) pub visit.
Finding the right pub:
- Quietly look for quite inconspicuous pubs – they are almost always incredibly nice. And the nicest restaurants are not on the main street, so just follow the signs and rejoice at the “finds”! The pubs are very proud of their “welcome” atmosphere – everyone is welcome, they are “public houses”, just “pubs”.
- Free houses are free because they don’t belong to a brewery! Therefore, they decide for themselves which types of beer are offered to which breweries. Otherwise, there are usually only the beers of the respective owner.
- Attention, if there is a publicity call for TV events such as football or pay TV (e.B. “Sky”): in this case, television will be very present and a conversation will be rather difficult, especially in the evening. But if you don’t advertise it, there’s a great chance that there are no TV sets in the pub! Because the good British pubs, despite the British passion for television, do without this constant sprinkling and clearly rely on the personal conversation (quite different from many Irish pubs and their replicas on the continent…).
- In most pubs there is also something to eat – but here the differences are very big! In many (usually simpler) pubs there are “pub crub”, i.e. simple foods such as Burger & Co, which are more calorie-rich and are supposed to support drinking. In the “Gastro Pubs” (please ask for exactly these!) there are often really upscale and sophisticated dishes, which are quite fun.
It is not very common for menus to be published – in cities in the tourist areas they are, but at the latest in the countryside you usually have no idea what to eat before entering the Pub. Therefore, it is worth searching the website of the pub on the Internet (simply enter the place and the pub name as search terms) in order to look at the usually also published menu. But beware: often it is only a sample menu from last season – so please do not expect that there are actually all the mentioned dishes. However, this is not decisive at all – only by the description of the dishes you can see whether they are rather simple or exciting and lovingly elaborated.
- The best method is always to ask for a recommendation at the property. Especially in the privately run B&Bs, the hosts are usually extremely keen to recommend the right pub. We have almost never been disappointed. A list of pubs and pubs in the room is also common (in the information folder for the quarter). Here again the menu search on the Internet helps – since the vast majority of quarters (also B&Bs) offer free Wi-Fi (here called “free wifi”, with “W-Lan” no Brit can do anything!) this is no problem. By the way, the hosts are happy to reserve the table for the desired time – the willingness to help is enormous anyway, you almost always feel like a “all-round carefree package”.
- On Sundays, many restaurants are often closed – better inquire in advance. And please don’t be surprised, often there is only a very limited selection of dishes. At lunchtime, the “Sunday Roast” is almost always offered exclusively. You can usually choose between lamb, beef, pork and chicken. The whole thing comes to the table in a strong roast sauce with vegetables and potato side dish. Extensive and usually very inexpensive!
Entering the pub:
- The path always leads you first to the bar, the fulcrum of the house.
- In “normal” pubs, both drinks and food are generally ordered at the bar and paid for in cash. Usually you get an object (e.B. painted cooking spoon or similar) with, with which the operator knows who ordered what. Just put it on the table and look forward to the food!
- In restaurants and the “gastro-pubs” you usually get assigned a table (please don’t sit down somewhere!) and the waiter takes the order at the table. If you want to pay, sometimes the waiter cashes in and sometimes you are referred to the counter. Just wait and see what the house use is.
- When you come into the pub, you can see if there is a separate dining room. If so (especially if extra cover was covered there), this is a clear sign of service. But it doesn’t say whether there are drinks at the table. So the path leads first to the bar and you order your favorite drink there. When you get the drink, you ask what it looks like with the food. Either you are referred directly to a waiter (take drink with you, then pay later!) or you get the card pressed into your hand and have free choice of place. If one of the waiters is set, you can also order from this one. If you only get the card, you look for a place for yourself, choose the food and order and pay for it at the counter. There you usually get the already mentioned painted cooking spoon or similar, which you drape on your table. So you will find the food carriers that bring the food out of the kitchen. There is no more service, but you can sit for hours undisturbed.
- When you come to a pub and all the tables are occupied, there is nothing against a polite question of whether you are allowed to sit down. On the contrary, the table neighbours are usually extremely pleased about this and immediately one is in conversation. Almost even the best way to get in touch with the locals!
- The drinks used in the pub are alcoholic and usually beer and cider (a kind of alcoholic apple juice, usually carbonated). Of course, there is also wine and soft drinks. Beer and cider are usually served in two sizes: “pint” or “half pint”. If you don’t say anything about it, the landlord (bartender) serves you a pint: Pint: 0.568 liters.
Half Pint is 0.284 liters by the way.
- Beer: England has a huge number of local and smallest breweries. Accordingly, the offer of beer is varied. It is customary to order a “draught beer”, i.e. a freshly tapped beer and none from the bottle (except for pubs that specialize in special craft beers, but you can see that). A distinction is made between the carbonated beers (very similar to or even imported from continental beers, usually “Lagers” of large international breweries such as Heineken, Stella Artois, etc.) and the classic English “ales“. The latter are very low in carbon dioxide and are tapped into the glass with muscle power at basement temperature. The English pubs are very proud of their “Real Ales”, i.e. particularly crafty and sophisticated brewed beers, mostly made from locally grown raw materials. The “draught” beers (and ciders) are advertised at the large taps with artistically designed signs. Therefore, it is best to look at all the signs first and only then order the right one.
- Cider: A drink that has become very popular in recent years is the cider – a mixture of fermented apple juice and non-alcoholic apple juice, mostly carbonated. Only the ciders referred to as “vintage” are non-carbonated. Cider is available from “dry” to “medium” to “sweet” and really everyone tastes different. You can’t avoid testing different varieties gradually. Some pubs have “cider festivals”, where more than 20 varieties are served.
- If you don’t know any of the beers or ciders on offer, just chat with the “Landlord” (barkeeper) and find out your personal favorite. Almost always you get a tasting sip and can find the right one, from which you should order a “pint”, i.e. about 0.568 liters (the large glass). And otherwise: Just take a “half pint” (just under 0.3 liters) and try it out! You’ll be surprised at what exciting things there are.
- Wine: If you prefer a glass of wine, you will actually get your money’s worth everywhere. The selection is usually large and ranges from wines from France to Spain to the “new world” (especially Australia, but also Africa and California as well as Chile). Even though in England more and more (and sometimes surprisingly good!) wine is grown, it is practically non-existent in gastronomy. It’s a pity, but all the more worthwhile to visit a winery in the south of England.
Wine drinkers usually have the choice of different glass sizes: Small: 1/8 = 0.125 liters medium = 0.175 liters Standard / Large: 1/4 = 0.25 liters But be careful: The selection of wines is often large, but not that of the glass-by-glass! The prices for the glasses are quite high – but for whole bottles, on the other hand, they are comparatively moderate. Thus, for two wine drinkers at the table, the bottle is usually always worthwhile instead of glasses.
- Alcohol-free drinks: Of course there is also a lot of soft drinks in the pub. We also know a “Ginger Ale” or “Tonic Water” and also a “Coke” or “Sprite” / “7Up”. Also popular is “Sparkling Elderflower”, i.e. a carbonated elderflower drink (e.B. from “bottle green“).
Usually the soft drinks are lined up on a shelf on the wall behind the counter and you can choose what you want. Otherwise: Just ask the landlord (host)! Available everywhere and always in good quality is the tap water .tap water. There is also a great law, according to which every restaurant that offers alcohol must also give out tap water free of charge!
Choose the food:
- We have written our own travel tip with many examples of English food itself and its now outstanding quality.
- The food almost always comes with a salad or vegetables – even if it is not there at all! Especially the vegetable side dishes are usually large portions of low-salt and bite-proof steamed seasonal varieties.
- At least one vegetarian and often another vegan dish on the menu are standard.
- Almost always there is at least one Asian/Indian dish as well as a pasta dish on the menu. Delicious, but please don’t expect an Italian “Al-Dente”!
- Many pubs are very proud that their food is made of local ingredients and are organic.
- The salads are sometimes without dressing – don’t be surprised, but just nice to ask for some dressing, it likes to come after.
- Meal hours are noon 12-14 (partly 11:30 – 14:30 h) and in the evening 18 – 21 h (partly 17:30 – 21:30 h). Outside these times, it is almost impossible to get something edible except in the larger cities. In the afternoon there are also the Tea Rooms, which have excellent sandwiches! All day long, however, the cafés of tourist attractions (e.B. gardens, houses, etc.) are open – you often get into them without admission! In the evening there is often only a takeaway or a supermarket open until 22 hours or one of the rather rare petrol stations.
How to pay:
- Payment is usually made directly at the bar. There is an unwritten law: you don’t touch the glass that’s been put on until you’re paid!
- Almost anywhere can be paid by card. Payment by credit card is common, which is also accepted without trial for small amounts.
- Tipping is often taken, but is rather unusual – especially in pubs at the bar. The bill is always to be paid pence-precisely – almost always on the counter there is a plate or a glass for the “tip”. Just put half a pound or a pound in after feeling. For the waiter, on the other hand, the “tip”, the tip is already very common. As a house number you can take 10%, but that is not fixed. Even less will never lead to a protest of the waiter – we are not in the USA after all! And beware: In some tourist-visited restaurants, the tip as a “service charge” is already on the bill. It would not be appropriate to give a double example here.
- The legal curfew has officially been abolished – pubs now decide for themselves how long they want to keep open. However, the self-defined opening hours are strictly adhered to and the call to the last round usually still sounds in due course. Or the landlord comes around when there isn’t much going on and asks for it himself.
Definitely not: Smoking in the pub!
- England is very strict: smoking is generally banned in pubs! If you want to pursue your addiction: just grab a drink (in the evening also the candle from the table!) and go out on the street. There is certainly a small table and two chairs and so you can then continue to chat nicely.
Finally: Go there yourself!
- Under “PUBs” we mention a few nice pubs from our travels. But the best method is still easy to go and go! :-)
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