During a recent spontaneous flush of adventurous spirit the current Mrs G and I decided to take the Bentley out for a run in the country for a spot of pub lunch.

Fancy a spin in the country for a bite to eat and a pint of beer, Mrs G? I said with a growing sense of bravado at the thought of such high adventure.

Splendid, absolutely splendid! The current Mrs G responded gleefully; swept along as she was with the thought of such romance and danger.

We naturally logged a generalised route and expected time of return at our local police station; one can never be too careful when venturing out and off the beaten track. Mrs G and I have both watched ‘Deliverance’. Country folk, whilst appearing quaint from a distance, often have a distinct air of inbreeding and lack of personal hygiene which only becomes obvious when you have to get closer to them.

Undaunted by the concerns and dire warnings of friends and neighbours we set off, the Bentley purring gently as we passed along leafy lanes, the smell of farmyard animals (and probably locals too) drifting in through the slightly open windows. We passed farms, their cobbled courtyards littered with strangely medieval looking equipment presumably designed to be pulled behind horses, and groups of ruddy looking youths in utilitarian clothing. We passed ponds, the ducks scattering as we swept past, and fields of animals inexplicably all facing in the same direction. The countryside was even stranger than I remembered it from my only previous visit some thirty years earlier. I seem to remember overhearing my father talking once in hushed tones of a cousin who moved to the countryside when I was only very young; behaviour that could have wrought shame on us all.

We were now miles from civilization, but the directions I had been given by a close, if somewhat odd, friend and regular frequenter of the outdoors held true, and we soon drew up outside the pub he had recommended. The faint smell of manure only seemed to get stronger as we swung open the heavy iron studded door and stepped into the dimly lit interior. The current Mrs G held my arm a little tighter and stepped slightly closer as we crossed the few steps to the bar under the silent and watchful eyes of the locals. “Lunch?” I mumbled almost apologetically to the large rosy cheeked barmaid who leaned forward placing hands the size of ham hocks on the bar as we approached.

Do you have a reservation?” She replied sweetly. The room seemed to suddenly become brighter, less foreboding. Those people already seated at the tables seemed less like the warty, muck stained individuals one might expect to meet in the outdoors, and more like normal people; stock brokers and bank managers; professional white collar types, people who knew with some certainty who their parent were. This was, it turned out, a ‘gastropub‘, no longer the haunt of Mellors the gardener so beloved of Lady Chatterley. No longer the haunt of the broad backed, sun darkened farm hand; locals could no longer afford to live in the country. This pub was now the territory of the wonnabe Michelin Star chef.

So what did we settle for? The current Mrs G had the Steamed Salmon Fillet with Lime and Pepper Butter and a Salade de Pois Chiches (chickpea salad with roasted red peppers and cumin vinaigrette) and for myself the Agneau Chapvallon and a Topinambours en Daube. All very nice but not quite what we had planned when we set off to sample the delights of traditional English pub food; if such a thing exists anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to visit the countryside every day, it’s untidy and above all it smells, but it would be nice just once in a while to be able to go there and eat real English food. Perhaps it can still be found in places like ‘the North’ but I have no intention of every setting foot there. It’s simply not safe. The countryside of southern England offers quite enough thrill and mystique for the current Mrs G and me.

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