Everyone will tell you that the nightlife in New York is magnificent. You can sip cocktails in Waterford martini glasses overlooking the cities spectacular skyline or knock-back bottled beers in low key bars pumping out classic nineties hits until four in the morning. But what I miss is sitting in a good old English pub. Its low ceilings, wooden door-frames outdated patterned carpets, roaring fireplaces and its regulars- old chaps with drooping jowls and glazed eyes; propping up the bar with cigarettes and lager held between their puffy palms. With its many Irish immigrants in New York there are Irish ‘pubs’ all over Manhatten but having been to Ireland I can say quite credibly that they are not remotely similar to Irish pubs, which are like English pubs (with a few more drunk people). I was only 14 at the time- but the Irish don’t seem to bother with age restrictions and I seem to recall doing my first pub crawl there- snagging a coaster from each pub as proof of my first brush with law-breaking. Sure, the outsides look traditional but inside American ‘Irish’ pubs tend to have neon-lit signs saying ‘beer’, loud pop music and have a tendency to be overburdened with frat boys playing beer pong. They are commonly known as Dive bars meaning (and I think quite aptly) “a dirty or shabby disreputable bar”. Do Americans’ of Irish decent, who are so proud of their heritage really believe that this is what British pubs are like?
Décor aside, for most Ex-pats I’m sure that it’s the British brews that they yearn most longingly for but as a (shock, horror!) non-beer drinker and seeing as this is after all a food blog- yes you guessed it, it’s the pub grub that I miss the most! Grub meaning food and not dirty floors or faces- for those, my friend, would be referred to as ‘grubby’. Lately I’ve found myself dreaming about creamy fish pies with buttery smooth mashed potatoes, steaming steak and ale pies that burn the roof of your mouth, comforting shepherds pies, cottage pies, game pies, crumbles and steamed puddings drenched in hot custard all after a long Sunday walk on an inevitably wet and dreary English day. Aahh, comfort eating at its finest and most deserving. That is what English food represents for me. Shepherds pie and bangers and mash are often seen on an American ‘Irish Pub’s’ menu but they are followed by Chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, nachos and 8oz bacon cheeseburgers. It’s like Indian restaurants serving steak and chips- why go to a restaurant to eat food that you normally eat? Why go to an Irish pub and eat wings? It’s not the actual chicken wings or the mozzarella sticks or the nachos or even the 8oz bacon cheeseburgers that I take offence to- it’s the fact that they are on an Irish pub menu. You don’t after all buy a BLT in a kosher deli.
To console myself, I’ve reverted to cooking a lot of British food recently- but I have to say without the low ceilings, outdated carpets, roaring fireplace and the regular old chaps propping up the bar chain smoking and drinking pints of lager- they just don’t quite taste the same. A bar is simply not a pub.