I recently attended a Dubliner magazine debate on food at which an expert panel including Kevin Thornton (Thornton’s), Ross Lewis (Chapter 1), Ernie Whalley (ex Editor of Food & Wine magazine), Helen Lucy Burke (well, Helen Lucy Burke), Eoin Higgins (Sunday Tribune foodie) and Asheesh Dewan of the Jaipur Indian restaurant chain, referred to pub food during the course of the discussion.
However they quickly dismissed pub food as being ‘non-existent’ in terms of quality.
“Is there such a thing as a Gastro Pub in Ireland?” they asked.
— “We don’t think so, pubs can’t cook” they answered themselves before quickly moving on…. I was disappointed to hear this as I don’t necessarily agree. One of our industry reports this month deals with a survey of food in Dublin pubs. Look around at the successful competition. Stylish venues and cocktail bars have become a noticable feature of the pub trade purely as a result of the more demanding customer emphasising the importance of having high standards. Bar food follows suit.
But God is in the detail of the overall offering and it’s surprising how frequently one can enter an establishement and have to wait at a table piled with empty glasses and used plates to ‘enjoy’ the dubious pleasers of overcooke, over priced food. Frequently I’ve adopted the role of clearer-up and collected these and landed them on the counter out of pure frustration. That’s on the rare occasion that I haven’t already left the place.
So how’s your food operation really doing? If you don’t know, you can do one of two things. You can send in a couple of people to assess your outlet’s strengths and weaknesses via a mystery visit or you can print up comment cards and try to ensure they’re used by offering some kind of incentive (it’s cheaper than hiring the services of a research company). It’s amazing the feedback this can generate. But is anyone out there listening?
While there are quite a few pubs doing a great job in promoting good quality pub food, contrary to the widely held belief as posited by the panel, sadly to my mind they find themselves in a minority when put alongside the truly terrible chancers still out there.