While England has never been known for its cuisine, I, for one, am quite fond of the traditional fare found in the pubs that seem to be on every corner there.
My son Quinn has lived between the U.K. and Encinitas since sixth grade so I’ve had the opportunity to experience it several times over the years and found myself most at home in the pub atmosphere.
Yes, we dabbled in fancy fare at Jaime Oliver’s 15 Cornwall and it was quite spectacular, but the exchange rate made it one of the most expensive meals I’ve ever eaten. My travels with Quinn have taken us to Portsmouth, Bangor and Newquay in Wales, and a music festival in Dorsett. Each area has had regional culinary specialties that I still crave on a regular basis.
The one constant during our travels was the traditional English breakfast. It’s a meal so hearty that it can fuel a body through an entire day. I also find it very appropriate the morning after a night of imbibing. Whilst there are many variations on this depending on the region, it usually consists back bacon, poached or fried eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast (that is fried in the bacon grease) sausages and baked beans. As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly called a fry-up and believe me; bread toasted in pork fat is really good. Churchill’s does a version of this breakfast on weekends and I’m going to have to make it a point to get there soon for it.
Bangers and Mash is another favorite of mine and a popular choice on the Churchill’s menu. They serve it with two juicy pork sausages (bangers) with “lashings” of gravy, mash (mashed potatoes) and mixed vegetables. Just FYI, lashings loosely translates to “abundance.” And of course, what kind of English pub would it be without Fish & Chips? Churchill’s does it right with flaky, moist Alaskan Cod in a beer batter and crispy chips, or French fries as we know them as.
Pasties are another U.K. favorite of mine and while on a surf trip in Cornwall a few years back with Quinn they were a perfect meal for our surf-fueled appetite. Traditionally they are a hearty pastry filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, turnip or rutabaga and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper and baked. Churchill’s puts their own spin on it with a lighter puff pastry then covers in in gravy.
The Cottage, or Shepard’s Pie, is another hearty pub dish that I’ve enjoyed on a regular basis. The Churchill’s version consists of seasoned ground beef simmered with carrots, peas, onions and Newcastle Brown Ale topped with mash and cheese. The Shepard’s version of this is usually made with lamb instead of beef.
Although curry is not a standard item in U.K. pubs, it is everywhere in England and Churchill’s represents it with a vegan curry and Tikka Masala. I’ve been more inclined to indulge in curry after a night of drinking, so that could work out well here with the huge amount of beer on tap. I tend to keep it simple at Brit pubs and am quite satisfied with a pint of perfectly poured Guinness. A good bartender knows that pouring a pint of Guinness can’t be rushed and the crew at Churchill’s is well-versed in the proper pouring technique.
Speaking of beer, owner Ivan Derezin has turned Churchill’s into quite the craft beer mecca, with 52 taps drawing a loyal following of beer lovers. On top of that he has compiled an impressive whiskey list as well. It should be noted that Winston Churchill, for whom the pub is named, was known for his affinity for a good whiskey. While doing some research for this story, I found that he was quite a drinker, but never to the point of being drunk and sloppy about it.
I found the crowd at Churchill’s to be all over the demographic map. Students, beer geeks, families, hipsters, and just regular folks all gathering in a very comfortable atmosphere and getting along. The fire pit outside is great for meeting new people, and for those that still prefer a cigarette with their drink, it’s allowed outside there. It takes the best of a U.K. pub and gives it just enough of an American spin to work. Check them out at churchillspub.com.