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Where have the pubs gone? Or have they all gone become gastro?

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

I am desperately looking for British pubs. Do you know where they are?

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I have decided to start writing my experiences when dining out with my family. I am fully aware that I might be someone with high expectations, or probably of high maintenance, but I do like food and I have tasted and eaten a lot during my 23 years in hospitality. Moreover, I was lucky enough to dine out a lot growing up and worked abroad, from several Countries in Europe to South East Asia.

A pub is an establishment for the sale of beer and other drinks, and sometimes also food, to be consumed on the premises - Oxford Languages

What are pubs?

According to Oxford Languages, a pub, an abbreviation for public house, is a place where you can drink and eat at times. But what are they for me? I still remember to this date my first trip in the 90s to Berkshire and then London. The inebriating smell of 'pub', the cozy and cuddling decor, a crackling fire in the colder days, the wonderful noise in the background, a gorgeous meal. The bell at midnight to remind you it was time to leave. Ever since experiencing a pub for the first time, I would look forward to visiting, every time I returned to the U.K.

So where are they now?

Have you ever travelled to a pub and left disappointed? I did, on multiple occasions. I have been looking forward to visiting, hoping to relive the same experience as I did many years ago, but I am yet to find THE one. I am all for the evolution, but I do believe that pub's food has lost its identity.

Disclaimer: what I will write about, will be my personal opinion only and all meals have been paid, not gifted. Please let me know if you recommend a heritage pub, worthy of a visit.

I always start with a recommendation, I search for past diners' experiences and feedback, and then I try the venue myself. Today we decided to visit The Dolphin Pub in Stoke Hammond. When looking for recommendations for pubs, The Dolphin came up as one of them, although I would call it more a restaurant inside a pub, gastropub. We didn't have a reservation, but we phoned before leaving and were made aware that they needed the table back at 6pm. As this was our first visit, I popped their address in the Google Maps App, and unfortunately, we overshot it as the pub was indicated to be a couple of minutes further down the main road. We then drove back and were just about to park in a close on the side, I thought it was the parking, I soon realised and had to back up on the main road to then park in the right spot. I couldn't see the parking being signposted.

The location has been revamped, the decor is nice and modern, but somewhat not inviting and felt a little like a copy of, rather than authentic. The staff was pleasant and attentive and we sat at a table overlooking the outdoor area, backing on to the kitchen.

Going somewhere under the impression you are going to a pub, I was expecting a different menu, full of pub grub classics, instead, we were presented with more of a sort of restaurant style menu. There wasn't much that I would have chosen, it was a little confusing, so we opted for what would sound classic. I love a pie, but I saw one passing by, and it didn't seem made on site, so went for the fish and chips, a portion of sweet potato fries and ordered two mains and one dessert from the children's menu.

My impression. The children's portions were way too big and the chicken breast on one of the meals was very dry. As for our mains, the fish batter wasn't crispy, although the fish was flaky and not greasy, the mushy peas were more the consistency of a puree, with a subtle hint of mint, was pleasant but cold, the tartare sauce I have my doubts was made on site and the chips, they looked as if they were pre-cooked and then fried again which made them very dry. I don't understand why the obsession of placing a piece of fish on the chips, but I would think was for presentation only. The waffle from the children's menu was strangely half and the icecream was definitely more than needed, given the size of the waffle.

Final thought: The visit didn't blow me away, and I don't think I would visit again, due to the selection on the menu. I would give an overall rating of average. There isn't anything different from other similar offerings around.

Ups and downs: A point goes to how the staff responded to me bringing to their attention the chicken being dry, although I was at first offered gravy, they then removed it from the bill. Downs, the drinks' menu available online is cheaper than the one available on site. the soft drinks have no cost on the menu.

Cost: £55.40 which is what we would spend on average


Photos above taken by me


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