12 February 2018

Restaurants

High Bradfield yesterday - "The Old Horns Inn" is in the centre
North west of Sheffield, there are two scenic sister villages. Down in the valley there's Low Bradfield and up on the hill there's High Bradfield. Our friendly German blogger Meike has been there.

Each village has a pub. Low Bradfield's pub is called "The Plough" and High Bradfield's is called "The Old Horns Inn". Though I have often enjoyed  jolly bimbles in the area, I hadn't been into either of the pubs in twenty years or more - until yesterday.

Shirley and I were at loose ends until I suggested taking a leisurely country drive via Dungworth and down into The Loxley Valley.  We'd treat ourselves to glasses of beer in one of the Bradfield pubs.

As we motored along High Riggs Road west of Stannington, we saw the distant drama of  snow-ladened clouds beginning to sweep along the valley. Indeed, by the time we parked Clint in the car park behind "The Plough" snow was flurrying around - not big feathery flakes but tiny white bullets like fragments of polystyrene.

We went inside the pub which I remembered as being a place of horse brasses, dark furniture and the vague aroma of  English ale. A place where you could have a pint and a chat and warm your haunches by a log fire. But yesterday I found something else. Eating had taken over the place. A scrum of waiting diners were at the bar and every table in the place was  occupied by Sheffield folk munching their Sunday roasts from the pub's carvery.

The smell of food filled the air as waitresses hurried about and there was nowhere for drinkers to sit comfortably - enjoying a couple of beers. "The Plough" is now a restaurant disguised as a pub.

We left immediately and went up to "The Old Horns Inn", only to discover that the same transmogrification had occurred. What had once been a lovely country pub with magnificent views over The Loxley Valley had now sold its soul to the food trade. In short, it  is not really a pub any more. It's a restaurant.

We managed to find a vacant window table and consumed our drinks there. Shirley had a glass of "Farmer's Blonde"  - a nice, light beer that is in fact brewed at High Bradfield - about a hundred yards from where we were sitting. We were surrounded by hungry diners but a joint of beef was waiting in our refrigerator and as usual I made a nice roast Sunday dinner when we got home.

Many English pubs have disappeared in the past twenty years and so I guess it's better to have a pub-restaurant with a food-led focus that no pub at all. However, I can't help my nostalgic feelings as I recall the pub trade of yesteryear and how those lost pubs were community hubs where your status or bank balance didn't matter. They were homes away  from homes. Public houses where you could wile away the hours. A great social institution that is now very much in retreat.
St Nicholas's churchyard, High Bradfield
yesterday afternoon

30 comments:

  1. How disappointing, but so many traditional old pubs are turning into these "all you can eat for a fiver" sort of eateries. Sometimes I wonder if any of the younger generation cook a roast at home anymore.

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    1. To some people, food is either processed with brand names on the packaging or it is bought in familiar places like McDonalds, Pizza Hut or the Toby Carvery. To such people the idea of preparing food from scratch is unthinkable.

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  2. Agreed YP. Time was that pubs and churches were the social centres of the community but no longer - cheap supermarket booze (and the smoking ban) have seen to that. I often wonder where the old blokes you'd see nursing a half of mild go for a little company these days. Probably the local betting shop - there are plenty of those.

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    1. The local that I have frequented for twenty nine years is but a shadow of what it once was. I think that another factor that has contributed to the decline is the ease and brilliance of modern televisual entertainment. So much better than it used to be.

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  3. I must say I do go for the restaurant pubs myself as they usually offer nice food at reasonable prices. The drinking-only pubs are a bit intimidating if you are a stranger to the area and in my experience not always attractive or well-kept. But you should be able to get just a drink if you want to and I'm sorry you and Shirley had trouble doing that.

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    1. I don't mind food in pubs but sometimes food takes over entirely - as in the two pubs at Bradfield. People coming in for just a drink shouldn't feel uncomfortable.

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  4. I think all of us of a certain age hanker for the romantic ideal of the old pub. After bell-ringinging we all used to retire to The Ring O'Bells where we all had our own seats in the snug. Nowadays I will not drink anything and then drive which rules out any visits to a pub if I'm not staying within walking distance. However in the 'old days' we all lived within hearing distance of both the bells and the pub so companionship flourished.

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    1. I am glad that I have stirred some lovely pub memories for you Graham. I guess that that was then but this is now.

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  5. Hello Mr pudding
    Nothing to do with this post but have you ever been to Wentworth wood house?
    We visited recently and was blown away by the grandeur and decay of this fabulous house.
    Would love a post on this if I may be so bold?

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    1. Yes. I have been there Christina - but not inside the great house. My wife has been inside with a Women's Institute group. Have you read "Black Diamonds" by Catherine Bailey? It's all a bout Wentworth Woodhouse and its secrets. If you haven't read it I think you would love this book.

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    2. I did reply but it's disappeared........

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  6. Your posts on pub visits, especially this one, are quite educational to me. When I was growing up, we had what are called taverns here, but they were rather disreputable and mostly for blue-collar men to have a drink on their way home. I remember feeling shamed that my father sometimes stopped at one on the way home from work. I can look at it through a different lens now, after having read how it is in your country. And we do have an actual pub here now, modelled after a traditional Irish pub, which is very popular with all ages but most people go there to have a meal as well as a drink. It's interesting how customs differ.

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    1. In Britain there was little stigma attached to pubs. They were a key part of our culture and at the heart of many communities. Though I am speaking in past tenses there are still many places where the pubs have not yet died or have found themselves being turned into restaurants that masquerade as pubs.

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  7. A sign of the times, I imagine. Attitudes and what the public desires change through the years, no doubt, and establishments must cater to the needs of the public, their paying customers.

    Nothing, or very little, remains the same...in many instances...unfortunately.

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  8. And you couple your story with pictures of graveyards? Does that represent the death of the English pub? If so, my condolences on your loss.

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    1. Ha-ha! Nice one Mr C! If I had predicted that I was going to blog about pubs turning into restaurants I would have taken photos in both "The Plough" and "The Old Horns Inn".

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  9. Catalyst beat me to it! I immediately thought St Nicholas's churchyard, final resting place for old English pubs.

    Alphie

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    1. Great minds think alike Alphie!

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  10. Things change . Our society has changed. People sit in front of the TV all evening and don't go out to the pub.

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    1. One day children's history teachers will talk about a past institution called "the pub" and they may not believe it.

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  11. My local here in Ludwigsburg, Towers Irish Pub, is a real and proper pub - people (LOTS of them!) go in just for drinks, but you can eat there if you like, and their food is good, portions are very generous and prices reasonable. The pub quiz on Tuesday nights is immensely popular, and you have no chance getting in if you haven't booked your table around 2 weeks in advance.
    It is also the place where I will be celebrating my 50th birthday next month.

    During my visit to Low and High Bradfield, we did not go into either pub. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we sat on a bench on the village green, watching the cricket and eating ice creams from the ice cream van behind the low wall around the green.
    We had been to St. Nicholas church and graveyard first, and I remember thinking what a feeling of community there was at the church - we happend to arrive just when mass finished, and everybody was still standing or sitting in the church, chatting, greeting each other, getting cups of tea from a table at the side. Even we, complete strangers, were given friendly greetings, some even shook hands with us. I also liked it that there were many families, not just a few eldlery ladies as you would find in most German churches on an average Sunday.

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    1. You have some nice memories of Bradfield...but I can't believe you are going to be fifty! Long may Towers Irish Pub thrive!

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  12. We came over to Sheffield on Saturday for my God Twins 21st birthday party. We normally travel via Macclesfield, chapel-en-le-frith and Whaley bridge both ways but my husband decided to go back via the A6 through Hazel Grove and Stockport. I looked through pub windows (the sort of pub that are drinkers' pubs rather than eating pubs) as we travelled and was thinking how do these pubs keeping going as none of them were busy. My husband had already bemoaned the loss of several pubs on Sheffield's outskirts that we used to drink when we were 'courting' - Robin Hood in Holmesfield, the Rising Sun in the Hope valley. I suspect more and more of these pubs will close.

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    1. I hope that you enjoyed your god twins' birthday party. Regarding pubs I think it is possible to achieve a happy balance where nice food is available but people who just want a drink can also feel welcome. The death of the English pub is like the failure of a vital organ so that our society will never be quite the same again.

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  13. A most enjoyable post, and the quality of the writing was superb. I do think I caught a little stumble — didn’t you mean to write “homes away from homes”? Finally, and I’m almost afraid to ask, what are jolly bimbles?

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    1. You are right about the mistake Chief Eagle Eye! I shall amend the post forthwith. As for "bimble" - it's a leisurely walk or ramble. I was introduced to this lovely word by a commenter called Christina very recently.

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  14. As you said, I would rather they serve food and exist than not serve food and vanish. People just don't hang out and drink the way they used to, which I think is both good and bad. Didn't pubs always serve Sunday roasts? To me that's normal, but of course I've only lived here in the UK since 2011.

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  15. Once, when pubs were only for drinking....and often drinking a LOT!, there could be seven pubs ranged along the main street of a town in Oz. Now, with drink driving laws, non smoking laws and better entertainment, they are still there but empty. The only pubs that survive on drinkers alone these days are the ones frequented by uni students and in Brisbane you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Thank goodness! I hate that culture of drinking. My own dear Dad went to the pub on the way home from work every night and Mum would make us wait till he was home before we ate our dinner which often resulted in my younger brother going to sleep at the table till Dad stopped doing it. Food and the popularity of eating out has breathed new life into many old pubs and they have been smartened up and prospered.
    Of course English pubs were different to ours in that women were never allowed into the bar in ours, so they remained just drinking holes and not like the English ones where Mum and Dad would often stroll down after dinner and coffee was ordered almost as often as alcohol and the conversation sometimes included everyone in the bar. I'm so glad we have been able to experience that in several places we have visited in England. Looking forward to finding a few more soon.

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