Matt and Cat chose the previously prohibitively smoky Hogs Head as the venue for their first meal in a newly smoke-free environment. A visit the week before had seen them not even stay long enough to order a drink at the bar, so breath-taking was the fuggy atmosphere.
However, this post-1 July visit was a different and better experience for your tobacco-phobic reviewers. Although the smell of smoke was not entirely dissipated, it was certainly on the wane and, as well as the vertical drinkers and pool players, the bar also had at least one family having an evening out (if the sound of a baby crying was anything to go by). The yellowed ceilings and sticky furniture still borne the unmistakable aroma of old fag-ends, but surely this is bound to fade?
Enticed by the offer of two meals for an unbelievably cheap £6.95, Matt and Cat nearly didn’t trouble to read the rest of the menu. However, in the interests of research, they scoured the comprehensive bill of fare and Matt soon found himself juicing up at the thought of the mega grill – a towering stack of burger, chicken breast and bacon. Denied the opportunity to have chicken Caesar salad from the value menu, Cat eventually selected Cajun chicken with regular, rather than the alternative curly, fries. After a bit of a wait at the busy bar, the food was ordered and M and C retired to their table.
Their choice of table was not a good one; sitting in the previously non-smoking area out of habit – despite the entire pub now being smoke-free – Matt and Cat were positioned under a giant TV pumping out pop music and adverts at an intrusively loud volume. And it wasn’t even good or new music. There’s a time and a place for Tiffany to warble “I think we’re alone now” and it’s probably an American mall in 1987. Tiffany was soon replaced by a wholesome Whitney Houston belting out “I wanna dance with somebody” another unwelcome classic from 1987. This lead to a lively discussion about music in pubs, which came to no definitive conclusion as it was eventually interrupted by the delivery of M and C’s food.
Matthew’s towering grill had an impudent bacon tongue poking out, however, this was not taken personally and soon the the thickly cut meat was eaten. It was a good, tasty stack, not overwhelmingly large, but more than up to the mark.
Cat’s chicken breast came complete with skin, chunky fat-free bacon, a layer of melted cheese and a dollop of Cajun sauce. There was also a big pile of chips and some nice tender peas. The chicken was a bit cool around the edges but was certainly cooked and was warmer towards the middle. The bacon was very good; a generous cut, almost like gammon. There was a good range of sauces on the table and the food was served by a friendly waitress.
So, can a pub which used to be a haven for smokers, prevail in these modern times? The Hogs Head showed no sign of tumbleweed blowing between its many tables; the bar area was busy and punters abounded. With good value pub grub and its High Street location, it seems unlikely that this bar will notice a drop in custom – even if the clientèle is from a different demographic.