By Jason Offutt
Author’s note: I recently spent three and a half weeks teaching in London. The next few weeks I’ll explore what it was like living in that city.
The pint of Guinness at The Warwick Arms in the Earl’s Court district of London cost £4.15 pounds, which figured out to $6.25 American.
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about London, it’s so expensive I don’t know how normal people can afford to live here. I paid for and drank the pint anyway. Later I had another. The barmaid began to hate me during the first 10 seconds of the order exchange because she had to repeat everything she’d just said. I can’t believe I couldn’t understand her. All those years watching “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” down the drain. I grabbed a menu and sat at Table 6.
The Warwick Arms was the first traditional public house (pub, for short) I’d visited in England. Sure, I’ve been to plenty of American pub knock-offs to know they tried really hard to capture the atmosphere of a British pub, but will never be able to because it takes a building that’s been a pub three times longer than America has been a country to feel like the Warwick.
Red brick, the edges rounded with age, make up the walls, broken occasionally by windows with heavily painted wooden frames. Signs and memorabilia dotted the walls, and consisted of musical instruments, shovels, and soccer balls.
I didn’t quite understand the shovels, but if a zombie attack happened right then, I knew we’d be adequately prepared.
Pub Lesson No. 1: order and pay at the bar, sit down, and someone will bring you your food. Don’t expect too much from them. If you need another drink, get off your lazy arse and get it yourself.
The menu largely featured Indian dishes, however it did boast a section entitled, “Best of British Cuisine.” Having asked a British friend living in America about what traditional food I should have in London, it sounded like the link between “British” and “Cuisine” was tenuous at best. He suggested I eat Chinese.
The British selections on the menu included lamb chops, three-cheese ploughman’s lunch, fish and chips, this week’s handmade pie, and sausage and mash.
After ordering and paying for the sausage and mash at the bar and getting comfortable at Table 6, a worn smooth oak table with a brass number plate at the end, a barmaid (different this time, and not so angry with me) left a plate of malt vinegar packets and a small ceramic pitcher of water. The pitcher featured a classic Guinness advertisement (pronounced, advert-es-ment) of a smiling ostrich choking on a pint glass. I guess Guinness makes even dying delicious.
Someone eventually brought the sausage and mash. Called “bangers” because evidently British sausages make people fart, the dish was a heaping plate of mashed potatoes, covered in sausages and brown gravy.
I got heart palpitations just looking at it, but it was delicious. The mild, tender bangers mixed well with the taste of the creamy potatoes and tangy gravy. I drizzled malt vinegar over some of my dish, which made it that much better.
Unfortunately, this kind of food kills people from the inside, so I probably won’t have it again … tonight.
I went back the next day.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.