Sunday, 11 March 2012


I love the pub. A watering hole for social outcasts with nowhere else to go and it's the nearest thing they have to a family. Obviously the pub is a great place to hang out with your friends, but I do like those people who go to the pub on their own and join a club with all the other outcasts.

"Because the finest people that I've ever met are in pubs"

Oliver Reed.

A few years ago the smoking ban started and pubs began dropping off the map like lung cancer victims. So they've adapted in a Darwinian manner, survival of the fittest perhaps. Pubs need money to run, not fast legs. But you get the idea. Landlords have tried to get people to bring their kids in, serving coffee, attempting to become a gastro pub, quizzes, showcasing live music, live football, but unfortunately they feel less alive than ever. A sorry state indeed. A desperate state. But I'm sure when the dust settles, pubs will find there customers again. Not that I disagree with the smoking ban, I just want pubs to find their identity rather than having multi personalities to suit every customer's needs.

There are still some alright pubs knocking around, The Hour Glass, The Nobody Inn, The Bay Horse, these are my locals or regular hangouts. But all of them display elements of the above.

A particularly good example of a bad pub is The Cott Inn (Dartington).  I worked in this pub about 12 years ago and in 1996 it won some prestigious award like Pub of the Year, then it was all down hill. I definitely have a soft spot for the Cott Inn and I'd heard the food was now great again. But it really wasn't.

I ordered a bottle of Malbec (Aires Andinos) as we had beef on the mind, and it delivered, good stuff. But they suddenly sold out of the Braised Blade of Beef we desired. So my lady had a Sirloin and I had Fish 'n' Chips with the red wine! The steak was a complete embarrassment to cowkind. I think my main beef with the Cott is their over fancy menu with under fancy food. They described the tomato, which came with the steak, as "confit tomato', what ever the fuck that is. Maybe a tomato slowly cooked in its own oily juice? It turned out to be half a cheap tomato with a green bit of garlic and a sprig of thyme placed on top. Utter guff. But in contrast to other pubs I've eaten in recently, it was a real let down. In the week I had a Ribeye Steak from the Hour Glass (Exeter), near perfection.

So my Cod and Chips, probably not the best choice in a so called fancy pub, but I did find the menu really hard work. It came with half my chips in a mock newspaper cone (using The F.T. which is actually quite funny) and the rest scattered on the plate for my tiny, over cooked bit of cod to sit on. My bland Mushy peas and highly acidic Tartare sauce served in little glass bowls, totally gutts. To be fair the chips were OK, but the ultimate disapointment was the cheap Tomato Sauce and Mayonaise. When a pub is serving that standard of condiments it is a bad foundation to work on. Mayonnaise is very easy to make from scratch, so why buy in cheap catering mayo?

The Beer Engine (Near Exeter) serves real mayonnaise and the waiting staff almost apologised when then brought it out, and said "just to warn you, it tastes different to normal mayonnaise". 

What next? "I'm sorry we ran out of Bisto, so we knocked up some beef stock from veal bones, I hope that's OK!".

I don't like to review an eatery until I've scoffed there a few times. But I don't want to go back to the Cott for food, maybe a pint, but not dinner. 

Just a quick note. I had a pretty good Sunday Roast in the Dartmoor Lodge today and I'll go back. The Cott probably do a Sunday Confit Dinner. They really are a bunch of confit bell-ends, simmered in their own piss vinegar. Piss 'n' Chips.

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