There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..



Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Return to Crowdecote: Pies at the Pack Horse Inn

As I mentioned in Cowpat Walk 6, I left my cap in the Pack Horse Inn last Saturday.

On reaching home I called to check it was still there and to ask them to look after it for me. We returned on Wednesday to fetch it.

As on Saturday, we were welcomed as we came through the door. This should be a hospitality industry basic, but does not always happen. I asked for my cap, and the young man who had greeted us went to fetch it. ‘I thought I recognised you,’ said Mick the landlord.



Wearing my restored cap
Outside the Pack Horse Inn, Crowdecote
And that story is not worth a blog post. What is, though, is Good Food. This is a travel blog not a food blog, but I like to eat, and I like to eat well, and frequently record the experience. Occasionally I open up my wallet and indulge in Fine Dining [see ‘Dandly’s idiosyncratic system of food classification’ below] but I cannot afford that every day and I do not think I would want to. What I am lucky enough to be able to afford on a daily basis is Good Food, whether cooked at home or eaten in restaurants.

Few (possibly none) of this blog’s food related posts involve pubs. Pubs usually serve Comfort Food, and there is nothing wrong with that, but - almost by definition - it is not interesting enough to write about.

As I entered the Pack Horse on Saturday a stranger coming out held the door open and said to me, ‘Excellent pies. You must have one of their pies.’ We were walking so I only wanted a sandwich, but the sausage sandwich (a ‘serious sausage’ from Bagshaw’s in nearby Butteron, not sausage from a mass caterer) encouraged me to think a pie might be worth trying.

On our return Lynne and I both ordered ‘pie of the day’ which turned out to be one chicken and leek and one pork, apple and cider as we hit the day when ‘pie of the day’ changes.

The pies arrived with chips and mushy peas; no, this is not Fine Dining, and it is certainly not Pretentious. ‘Which is which?’ I asked. ‘The pork,’ the lad said, ‘is the one with a pastry pig on the top.’ To his credit, he managed to say this without sounding patronising, so it was entirely my fault that I felt a pillock.
 
The pastry coffins were stuffed with meat: chunky pork, tender and well flavoured with apple in my case, a sumptuous blend of leek and chicken that really tasted of chicken (so much of it does not) in Lynne’s. The pastry had been cooked with the filling inside, as pies should be. They were, we decided, masterpieces of the pie maker’s art, qualifying with ease as Good Food.



Lynne, a chicken & leek pie and a half of Hop Gun
The Pack Horse Inn, Crowdecote
I went to fetch more beer and asked Mick where he gets his pies. ‘We make them here,’ he told me with more than a little pride in his voice. He said that when he took over the pub the chef would put a spoonful of stew in a bowl, stick a flat piece of catering-pack pastry on the top and bung it in the microwave until the pastry fluffed up. ‘That’s not a pie,’ Mick told him. ‘It’s what we call a pie round here,’ the chef replied. He does not work there anymore.

But the chef was right, that is what they call a pie round here (and by ‘round here’ I mean the affordable end of the catering market, not the Upper Dove Valley). And Mick was right too, that is not a pie. The pie is one of the many noble British culinary traditions that became debased during the twentieth century and that chef was one of the debasers. We have seen the rebirth of craft brewing, artisan cheese making and artisan sausage making. There are now signs of a renaissance in artisan pie making, and the Pack Horse Inn, we were delighted to find, is in the forefront.
 
Having mentioned craft brewing, I should note that there was a choice of four real ales, one of which changed between Saturday and Wednesday. Hop Gun from Church End Brewery in Nuneaton is the sort of magnificently bitter hoppy brew that God Himself would choose to wash down a pie.

Crowdecote is a tiny out of the way place and yet the Pack Horse was busy on a cold Wednesday lunchtime in March. Pubs everywhere are closing in alarming numbers, but the Pack Horse proves that if you get the welcome, the beer and the food right, people will make the effort to come to you, wherever you are.
 
Dandly’s personal, idiosyncratic, unscientific and deeply prejudiced food classification system.

Presented in descending order of desirability.


 

1


Fine Dining
Always expensive, always an occasion.
We like to splash out to celebrate our wedding anniversary.
Abergavenny and The Walnut Tree
Ludlow and La B├ęcasse
Ilkley and The Box Tree

2

Good Food
Good Quality ingredients well cooked. Available on a daily basis at home (we try) and in good restaurants, which are easier to find in some countries than others. Many posts, so I will link to just two:
Out to Lunch in Corsica, Tamil Nadu and the Western Desert
Breakfast in Kerala, Lunch in Libya, Dinner in Chengdu

3

Comfort Food
Toad-in-the-hole, baked beans on toast, fish & chips and  the produce of most pubs.
We all need these occasionally.

4

Pretentious Food
A growing sector in the pub trade.
Differs from good food in that the flowery menu and the use of trendy ingredients is more important than the quality of those ingredients and chef’s ability.
5 Refuelling A sandwich bought in a supermarket or motorway service station. A necessary evil.
6 Macfood
Kentucky fried pizza-whoppas and the like.

 

4 comments:

  1. Another good read! If I had not been with you on Saturday afternoon and seen your distress at the discovery that your cap was back at the pub I'd think you left it there on purpose in order to make a return visit necessary.

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  2. You are right, I didn't do it on purpose, but in retrospect it was no bad thng.

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  3. Yeah, you say that,we all believe you.

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  4. Such a comment from my own flesh and blood. Ow, that hurts.

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