Sunday, 28 July 2013

The English Pub Experience

After a day of hiking in Dedham England, the girls were ready for something to eat.  Ally loves meat pies and mashed potatoes and had been craving them since our arrival.  So a traditional English Pub was what we had in mind.  

We hiked back to a mill in Dedham, we loved this garden path, which was much darker than it appears above.
The trees were linked overhead and created a tunnel, with the light shining in the end.
This is the sight where one on Europe's most famous artists, John Constable, painted the Hay Wain. 
We ventured to Colchester to see the sights and seek out dinner.  A fellow we met on the street gave us the names of a couple of pub options. 

The Colchester Castle, unfortunately it is under construction so we could not go inside for a tour.
The one was called the Slug and Lettuce, the other, The Duchess...I opted for the Duchess for obvious reasons.  Mark and the girls thought it would be neat to try the Slug and Lettuce.  We came upon the Slug and checked out the menu, it had what we were looking for but we thought we would check out the Duchess before deciding.  It was OK as well, but in the distance there were a few more that looked interesting.  Mark and Meg went into one while Ally and I checked out another.  Mark and Meg’s was quickly stroked off the list, as Meg was ID’d when trying to enter.  She didn’t even know what the man had said when he asked to see her ID and Mark was a little perplexed as well.  Did they really look like they were on a date together? In Europe, if you are underage you are not allowed in many of the pubs on a Sunday night after 6:00, this was going to throw a wrench into our dinner plans. Who parties in a pub on a Sunday night anyway?  Turns out all of the pubs, which we had checked out, had the same rule except for the Duchess – they said we could stay until 7:00; the Royal Family has quite the pull in England I guess. 

Short on options, we decided to sit down and order our meat pies and mashed from the Duchess.  We waited, and waited, and waited – didn’t the woman just say we had to be out by 7:00?  Why was she not coming to take our order?  We continued to patiently wait, but were really starting to question the service at this establishment.  Several more minutes passed and we decided to leave.  At this rate we would have to stuff the food down our throats to be finished by 7:00.  Since dining out would be a rarity on our world trip adventure, we thought we better take the time to enjoy it properly.  So there we were, back out on the street again with two very hungry girls and no pub prospects.

After being turned away from yet another establishment, a kind woman directed us to The Castle. We made it in without being ID’d so things were looking up (not quite sure why it was allowed to serve minors, but we didn’t ask).  It was a traditional pub all right, with worn out tables and seating and lots of beer on tap.   Mark was happy, and there were meat pies on the menu.  Two for two!  The woman at the bar told us to take a seat, and when we were ready to order, to come back up to the bar and pay for our meal in advance.  We did so and our meals came out shortly afterwards.  Mark asked me about a tip and wondered how much to leave.  I figured the standard 15% but since we were unsure we decided to consult with the local expert…Google.  What did people do before Google?

One happy man!
This is what we learned:
A British pub must never be confused with a Canadian or American bar.  Pubs are an important part of the life and culture in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, of course, the Republic of Ireland.
The word “pub” comes from “public house.”  In older times, the term signified someone’s house that had been opened to the public.  A pub is truly the neighborhood’s living room.  It’s an everyday party for the neighborhood, and your welcome is a bit warmer than in a Canadian or American bar.  The owner or operator is referred to by various names:  host, publican, landlord, and governor.  He often lives on the premises.

Our research also told us that there is quite a code of etiquette to be followed when frequenting an English pub.

There is no tipping in an English pub!  To offer a tip is to display your unfamiliarity with pub etiquette.  (Yes, you do tip in a restaurant as opposed to a pub.  Fifteen per cent is a very generous tip in an English restaurant.  Ten per cent is acceptable.)
There is no table service in English pubs.  Order and pay at the bar.  The barman or barmaid is very aware whose turn is next.  Signal your readiness to make a purchase by holding money in your hand.  You will be waited upon in turn.  All purchases are in cash.

Suddenly it dawned on us. The Duchess was doing her job, the same way she had for many, many years - free of judgment until our arrival.  To our knowledge this was the first blunder of our travels and surely not to be the last. 

Enjoying our meals, turns out Ally didn't get mashed after all... I guess we will have to hit another pub!
We finished up our meals and felt a little uncomfortably not leaving a tip, but happy to have a few extra pounds still in our pockets.   About halfway home I looked at Mark and said – I do hope The Castle was an English Pub and not an English Restaurant…maybe it was a restaurant and that is why the girls were able to be there after 6:00. Oh drat…I think we should have left a tip...blunder number two.  To all of our English friends, we are so sorry to have disgraced you so! 

Tomorrow, we are headed to the beach, I’d better check out Google before we leave!  


  1. I should warn you as well.. most pubs stop serving food at a particular time of day. Food is generally only served at proper "meal times". You might find a "carvery" which will serve you roast beef by the slice as they "carve" it for you straight from the roast to your plate that serves food later. A lot of pubs will have picnic tables out back and will allow the girls to join you there. Nothing at all like the so-called North American "pubs" are they?

    1. Thanks Bernice, we are headed to London for a couple of days - any suggestions, tips or 'must sees' for us there?

  2. Sounds like fun! Guess there is no better way to describe it but "live and learn"

    1. That is for sure, everyday is something new and exciting!

  3. Hey there Mitchells We ran into the same situation in Nashville when Elizabeth was about 16, she could only be in certain restaurants until 6:00 then they became 'bars' and they age requirement went to 21, who knew??? While you are there you should try a 'chip butty' it is french fries (chips) on buttered bread or bun certainly a carb load!! I believe they also make sausage butty's :)mmmmm happy travels and eating. Karen

    1. Hi Karen,
      We are certainly having to adjust our schedules - many of the shops and restaurants close early, and trying to get a loaf of bread past 8:00pm can also be tricky! I suppose it is quite civilized; however, we have gotten used to shopping on Sunday's and all through the night. Chip butty...yikes! That will make for a VERY long run day - I'm already trying to compensate for the tea biscuits and lemon curd!


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