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The English Lounge review

Jonathan Schofield likes the unspectacular solid feel of a popular city boozer

Written by . Published on February 10th 2009.


The English Lounge review

Here’s a difficult task: define a pub?

When does a pub merge into a bar or a bar become a pub? Is a pub older, has ales, does food (usually British), with maybe a games room? And is a bar newer and trendier, with food perhaps, cocktails and ear-splitting music in the evening? If so, then what’s Knott Bar, Fuel, the Lead Station, the Bay Horse or the Northern? Which category do they fall into?

The definition's have got mixed up. Metrosexuality has spread into drinking establishments: some pubs seem so in touch with their feminine side they may as well wear a tutu. Given the fact pubs were almost exclusively male until the last few decades, the change is palpable. And welcome. Last time I checked women apparently made up half the population. It’s sound business sense to broaden the audience.

Despite this leavening out of difference, some places can still be boxed off and are very clearly pubs or bars: Briton’s Protection versus Walrus, the Peveril of the Peak versus Panacea.

The English Lounge is very ‘pub’ but you suspect it would like to be metrosexual. It has a ‘restaurant’ upstairs, it serves wraps (or effing bloody crap pointless wraps as they should be known) and even wine at the table like any other louche la-di-dah dining establishment.

But it doesn’t manage the cross-over. It’s a pub. With its cluttered interior (one of those places where the management seems to have an unhealthy furniture collecting addiction), its low ceilings, heavy wooden decor and ales, it’s definitely a boozer with food rather than anything more airy-fairy. The place is solid.

It also has another defining quality of the pub, a mixed-age, mixed income group, a proper democracy of drinker and diner and with all the joy and pain this implies.

The food reflects all this. It’s unspectacular but wholesome and a cut above most pub food. Definitely worth the odd lunch or two. On the last couple of visits I’ve had grilled black pudding and apple stack drizzled with mustard dressing (£4.90), 10oz rib-eye steak with chunky chips, Portobello mushrooms, vine tomatoes and peppercorn sauce (£13.95), and the fish and chips, ‘cod in a light tempura batter, served with chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce’ (£8.95).

The pick was the steak which was good value, and a decent cut, cooked, just as requested, medium rare. The accompaniments were unsurprising but all adequate. The fish and chips dish was fairly standard but did the job. That description of the tempura batter is one of those metrosexual elements which is not needed and distracts from the wholesome virtues of the dish. The black pudding betrayed a slight concern with this honest pub grub too; it’s fussiness. I don’t require mustard dressing to be dribbled on any of my dishes ever, on any occasion. Keep it simple chef would you?

I’ll keep coming back to the English Lounge. I won’t make a night of it, but it’s a good city centre boozer, good for bar-fatigue, when you want somewhere dark with a mixed clientele. It’s got plus points as a great afternoon escape with the papers and a pint of Black Sheep. Sunday roasts with roast and new potatoes plus a selection of seasonal vegetables for £8.25 are worth a go too. The place has that welcome down to earth feel, that aforementioned solidity, that makes for a decent diversion for robust grub and a pint or two.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2009.

I agree a proper pub with decent pub food and at weekends somewhere to go for a not too late drink but not throwing you out at 11.00 and where the music isn't ear splitting (for those of us not as young as we used to be but not quite over the hill either)

beeFebruary 10th 2009.

i like the steak and chicken sandwiches - and how they lay a chive across most dishes. the kiwi (?) bloke is quite funny as well.on a tangent, the building next door has finally had its scaffolding moved and ooooh, it's like a little bit of history has been revealed!

Paul MFebruary 10th 2009.

I used to go in the English Lounge with a vitriolic Welsh lass. So it must be good ;o)

gorFebruary 10th 2009.

Yeah lets get that pasta back!! I actually wrote to them to tell them that the pasta I got wasn't the same and they said it hadnt changed!! I actually got a free meal where they promised me the best chicken pasta I had ever had but it was just some imposter pasta. The one I loved had nuts and sweet chilli sauce - the latest one with the same name has pesto and roast veg in it! its ok but its nowhere near as tempting as the original.

jimFebruary 10th 2009.

Not a bad pub but the quality of food was alot better a couple of years ago. The hot chicken sandwich doesn't compare well with how it used to me. Plus i agree bring back the pasta!

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2009.

I notice that when they say steak served with portabello mushrooms, they actually mean "one portabello mushroom", unless you had eaten the others before you took the photo?

Man About TownFebruary 10th 2009.

I agree Mr Schofield - it's got good, solid grub and is a friendly venue, which, to my surprise, was not dramatically altered, Jekyll and Hyde-fashion, on a Saturday evening...

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2009.

Every time I've had a sunday lunch at the english lounge I've still been hungry afterwards (and I havent got the biggest appetite anyway). The sarnies are good though but steaks a bit pricey really. Only use it for convenience as I live next door to it and when I cant be bothered to make visitors any food.

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2009.

love it, honest and proper pub type pub but not grotty in any way. intresting clientele too.

gorFebruary 10th 2009.

I haven't been back since they did away with the chicken pasta..I loved that dish.

Hel'sbellsFebruary 10th 2009.

I love The English Lounge. Especially the top secret alfresco smoking terrace roof garden thing. Which perhaps won't be quite so top secret now!

GlossopsharkFebruary 10th 2009.

Does the best pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord in the city centre, almost as good as the Star in Glossop

NQFebruary 10th 2009.

I agree with Gor, bring back the Chicken Pasta. And I don't mean the last version of it that graced the menu, but the original incarnation circa 2006 with sweet chilli sauce all over it.

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