I like pubs. They are great institutions and important parts of local communities. However, I don’t like every pub. I am going to tell you what I look for in a pub and, for me, what makes some pubs better than others.
Firstly, and most importantly, a pub must allow dogs indoors. This is not just because I am a dog. It is more than this. It is a reflection on the attitude of the landlord. My view is simple – a pub is a “public house” and therefore at least some of the pub should be open to all. I do not mind if I am not allowed in every part of the pub. In fact, I am a great fan of pubs that have drinkers separated in different bars. This means that I can entertain ladies in the lounge bar or the saloon bar without necessarily mixing with the riff raff of the public bar. Conversely, when I have been on a muddy walk, I can relax in the public bar and not worrying about upsetting the snooty townies in the saloon bar. There’s also the bonus that the drinks are often less dear in the public bar.
Secondly, a pub must have dog bowls both inside and outside. It is a sign of a good landlord if the bowl is clean and has fresh water in it. Bowls do more than simply providing a receptacle for water. They provide tremendous amusement when, err, “accidentally” emptied. They can also be refilled with beer. I like beer. I really do.
Thirdly, a pub must be proud of what it does. By proud, I don’t mean a blackboard outside saying “Sunday roast £5” or “beer garden with umbrellas”. I mean that the pub is proud of its beer and, if it does food, its food. I will look for subtle signs of this.
Freshly printed menus, and ever changing blackboards listing beers, wines and foods are a sign that the landlord is prepared to make that little bit of extra effort to reflect seasonal food and drink. I don’t want my owners to read a laminated plastic menu in the summer offering pheasant casserole as they will embark on an hour long rant about how it must be frozen pheasant. At this point I’ll be hiding under the table with my paws over my ears. But I digress and I must not digress.
I like pubs that demonstrate the provenance of their food. For example, I like seeing “local partridge” or “outdoor reared local pork” on a menu. I prefer to only eat meat that comes from animals that have had a good life. For me that means that animals are free to run around in open fields and have a sensible diet. Be wary of the term “outdoor bred pork” as this can mean that the, err, “breeding” took place outside and then the poor sow and her piglets were moved into a barn and never saw the light of day again.
I particularly like meat when I know the name of producer. This, to me at least, is the ultimate mark of confidence in food – the landlord will happily offer full traceability. And, as an added bonus, it gives my owners something to do as they can Google the name of the farm and see how far it is from the pub. For example, the Old Queens Head which is one of my favourite pubs, offers sausages from Stockings Farm near Amersham.
Similarly, a sign that simply says a pub has guest beers never impresses me. I want to know what those guest are and, even better, that the landlord cares enough about his regulars to challenge their palate with regularly changing guest beers. I like pubs that offer local beer and I also like pubs that brew their own ale. When I use the term “beer”, I mean “real ale”. I do this to demonstrate that I do not drink lager and nor would I consider behaving like some of those who do.
Finally, I like pubs that offer a combination of open fires, stone floors and thick carpet. This makes the pub perfect for all seasons. If it is cold, I can warm up in front of the fire. If I want to cool down on a hot day, I can lie down on the stone floor. Thick carpet is fantastic for snoozing.
Some pubs offer dog biscuits. This is obviously a marvellous gesture but, on its own, isn’t sufficient to persuade me to visit or remain in a pub. I look upon biscuits, and especially those that are free, as an added bonus.
You may have noticed that I have used the term “landlord”. This is purely to save my paws as I type. Everything that I have said about a “landlord” applies equally to “landlady”. Ladies are just as good, or bad, at running pubs as we chaps are.
So now that you know what I like about pubs, please visit one, buy a pint and support a local business. If you meet me in a pub, mine’s a pint!