This weeks kitchen escape lead us to Hadrians Wall for a bracing walk.The Chap came too.
Hadrians Wall is a world Heritage site.The wall attracts over 1 million visitors every year, from all over the world.
In another life, I worked in PR for the National Trust and was based on the Wall for a season,hence the place is close to my heart.
There are two hostelries along the most visited stretch of the Wall between Steel Rigg and Houseteads;The Twice Brewed and The Milecastle Inn.
On past form, the Milecastle was the better bet for some post walk refreshments.
A quick glance over the menu(chalked on a board)revealed I might struggle here.I have Coeliac disease,which I know is my problem,not theirs.I prefer to think of it more as a condition than a disease, as when managed I suffer no ill effects.Management means eradicating all gluten from my diet.This isn't difficult when cooking at home, but can be more of a challenge when eating out.
Scanning most menus, I can usually identify immediately whether its going to be safe to eat.Basically, the main problem is "bought in" foods.Most contain wheat flour,or gluten in some form.The menu at the Milecastle boasted lots of different pie varieties,plus scampi,lasagne and that traditional British pub favourite Chicken Tikka Masala, experience told me this wasn't a place where the menu was cooked from scratch.
No problem,Ill just have some snacks,peanuts, crisps,and a cup of tea please,a healthy lunch.I went to take a seat in the beer garden,enjoying the view with the Chap, whilst Chef went to purchase said refreshments.
The Milecastle is in a stunning location.
Chef arrived presently with a solitary packet of plain crisps and a lager for each of us.
What no peanuts? or tea? They must have been exceptionally busy.
No, advised Chef,the only snack they sell are plain crisps and they don't serve tea, only coffee.Why not?? Any caterer knows that tea costs pence to serve and the GP margin is excellent.Much better than coffee which is also easy money.High yield for little effort.Whoever heard of a pub with no nuts? Don't they know that nuts make people thirsty=buy more drinks?
We were the only ones there.Apart from a group of three ladies drinking pints of lager during a pleasant Monday lunchtime session,empties stacked up on the table.I wondered if they were killing time before collecting their offspring from school.I'm not one to judge of course.
As the 3663 man wheeled his delivery to the back door of the pub, I dispelled all lingering thoughts that the usual snack selection were simply sold out.The three depressing boxes of Walkers plain crisps,amongst the various boxes of tinned and dry goods,enough to last until next week,said it all.
A good customer of ours, an energetic character who owns a successful wet led pub chain(applause), once gave me a very good piece of advice:
"Every person that walks through the door is an opportunity,don't just give them what they ask for, ask yourself every time,what else can I sell them?"
I couldn't help thinking that here was a place that wasn't taking advantage of the opportunities they have.Take away the unique location, the Wall and a captive audience, I wondered how they would fare.
Today, I was contacted by a call centre,gathering survey data on the current state of the pub trade in Britain.She informed me that another pub closes every 6 hours in Britain.
I'm not surprised.What do you think?