Its an entertaining review which I enjoyed reading, but there's an angle which the writer probably hasn't considered possible.
Whilst the diners at the Aberdeen Angus Steak House appeared all to be tourists,I've no doubt that if the concept were to be rolled out nationwide it would be just as busy,but not exclusively with tourists.
If you like good food its a difficult concept to grasp,but actually,controversial though this may seem, there is a demand for bad food in this country.
Before we took the plunge into self employment, we ate at most of the pubs in the local area in the interests of market research and the obligatory business plan required by the bank.
The pubs we visited fell into five main categories:
The Straightforward Boozer
Wet sales only with snacks the only food offer.An increasing rarity in country areas,only really feasible in a town centre with high volume sales.
The Posh Pub.
The place to be seen.Food edible but not great, more focus on presentation,fancy plates and food piled vertiginously high.Lots of people, but not everyone eating.
The Bog Standard Pub
Nothing really to make it stand out,food not great, a bit tired and down at heel.
Don't even go there.We were afraid to eat in some of these.
The Branded Chain Pub.
This most sinister of pubs, black boards professionally written,usually a concept brand run by a brewery.Probably most similar to the Aberdeen Angus Steak House mentioned in the review.Food abysmal.
The majority of the pubs visited varied from atrocious to marginally bad.In a thirty mile radius there were only two pubs serving the type of food we would willingly pay for.There seemed a definite gap in the market for somewhere serving decent food.We could clean up.
As the research progressed,there emerged a worrying pattern.There was a certain type of place which despite serving crap food was exceptionally busy.
The Branded Chain Pub.
Though the food was invariably notably inferior to that on offer at both the Posh Pub and in some cases the Bog Standard Pub,they were unfailingly,consistently mobbed.
The menus at the Branded Chain Pub offer a multitude of options and variations.
Specials boards,"lite bites",sandwiches(wraps,baguettes,rolls,sliced bread),classics,from the grill,fresh from the ocean etc,etc.So much choice that if you know anything you know everything is straight from freezer to plate,no skill required to produce.All centrally sourced,cheap ingredients yielding maximum profits.
In one local Branded Chain Pub we noted that some bright spark in head office had clearly picked up on the trend for specifying food provenance, but had totally missed the point.The menu read like a whistle stop tour of the British Isles and beyond.Particularly nauseating were the "freshly baked white rolls served with Somerset butter swirls" In Northumberland.
But no matter,to the average Branded Chain Pub diner 'food miles' is the distance from their front door to the nearest Chef and Brewer.
It took us a while to get our heads around what we had uncovered.We were dismayed but went ahead with our plans.Eventually, we came to accept that there was indeed a significant market for crap food.Moreover, the market for crap food is actually bigger than the market for decent food.Its no accident that places like the Aberdeen Angus Steak House and the local Chef and Brewer survive.They do more than that,they thrive because they exist to meet a massive demand.So next time you pass by, don't feel outraged that they exist,the diners inside are enjoying themselves,they like it there.
Known within the trade as the "Scampi and Chips crew" these particular diners don't want freshly cooked food.Their palate is honed to appreciate pre prepared reheated meals which require no skill to prepare.We can spot them when they come in the pub.Its easy,they scan the menu,look uncomfortable then ask if that's the 'only menu'.The ones who do stay and order food stare incredulously when you explain that there's no children's menu.What nothing for children?Well hold on, here's a novel concept, why not let them eat the same as you, except maybe a smaller portion?
In the absence of chicken nuggets, I'm constantly depressed by the increasing number of parents who choose to feed their offspring "plain pasta no olive oil or butter with some grated cheddar on top".Not exactly providing any of the requisite five a day..
Without wishing to get into a Jamie Oliver style rant,though his intentions were admirable,it was clearly manifest from the outset that the school dinners initiative was fatally flawed.People cant be forced to eat food which they have no taste for.Taste for food is instilled at home and at an early age.The truth is people aren't being forced to eat bad food,they want to,hence the pasties through the school perimeter fence debacle.
I fear the current generation could be the worst affected,fed on an increasing diet of convenience foods there are fewer parents who cook at home than ever before.
The other night,out of interest we took a trip over to the nearest Branded Chain Pub,just to see if anything had changed since our last visit.
It was still heaving.
As we approached the bar an Ethel Stout type character greeted us:
Are You's wanting to eat?
Chef:No thanks, just drinks..
A pro written A-board barred our entrance to the coveted dining area, lest drinkers commandeer valuable eating spots:PLEASE WAIT TO BE SEATED.
Recalling from a prior visit that the wine selection
Self: Can I have that small champagne please?
Ethel:Is it your birthday??
Self:No I just fancied it..
Ethel:Why don't you get the big bottle it'll be cheaper?
Self:No,I only want a small one
Ethel:But you can take it home.
Self:No it'll be flat by the time I get home
Ethel:What about some sparkling wine, that'll be cheaper..
By this time I was getting frantic, I could see the wee bottle just out of reach, if she doesn't give it me now I'm going to lamp her..
Self:No, give me the champagne - its what I want.
Raising her eyebrows and giving Chef a knowing look(I can see you've got your hands full with that one, pet),Ethel reached down and begrudgingly proffered the prized bottle.
We retired to the tall stool area specifically allocated for drinkers.
I had just managed to take a sneak photo of one of the many menus before Ethel's voice boomed out.
Are you enjoying your Champagne then?
Twenty sets of eyes within close proximity fixed their sights on me as I decadently necked the last of the Champagne, and it wasn't even my birthday.
I turned to Chef:
That's it,I'm done,lets go.
Chef shook his head in disbelief as he gazed at the caption 'Chicago Chicken' on the classics menu.Classic from where??Its a British pub classic of course.
( Can I suggest you zoom in on this item to fully appreciate its constituent ingredients)
When we arrived home Only Daughter was at the computer attempting to check in on line and select her preferred seat,in preparation for her much awaited trip overseas.
She called me over.
Only Daughter: Mum,what's a bland meal?
Self:What do you mean?
Only Daughter:It says here in the in flight meal options 'Bland meal' You can pre order it.
There it was in black and white right between Gluten Free and Vegan.
Self:Well I suppose its exactly what it says.
Only Daughter:But who on earth would want to eat a bland meal?
I was about to respond by saying I have no idea,but stopped myself.
Unfortunately, I know only too well ....
The writing is on the wall for the future generation of generic eaters-in- waiting.
This morning, I deposited Only Daughter at Newcastle International for her first unaccompanied trip abroad.Armed with a healthy appetite and a Makansutra Guide,courtesy of Amazon,I've no doubt whatsoever that she will seek out some tasty scran,in spite being a tourist...