It’s hard to argue that eating out hasn’t become cheaper, relative to income, in the last 20 years or so, but harder to argue that food is better or more interesting. The homogenisation of pub menus continues apace, with the same ten or so “pub classics” on most menus in both chain and free houses.
Some major chains such as Chef & Brewer and Vintage started with quite interesting offerings, but appear to have joined the pack offering admittedly good value but less individual meals.
The one pub group to apparently buck this trend is Cheshire’s Brunning and Price, a Cheshire Pub Group expanding rapidly over recent years from North West into affluent South East towns. Their pubs feel like smart-casual restaurants, often being converted from landmark local buildings. I’ve drunk in a few over the years, and the beer has always been “OK”, but clearly suffering from offering a large range of beers to diners more interested in wines and premium lagers. They do source the beers well though, and promote local breweries.
The food is harder to comment on. The Lancashire hot pot you can see in the left hand photo was superb, but £14 and without the sort of accompaniments you might expect at that price. On the other hand, the setting (the Wharf in Manchester’s Castlefield) is wonderful, and I can’t fault the quality that runs throughout the pub. I could have had an equally tasty meal in This’n’That in the Northern Quarter for under a fiver though…