Pub Food? That’s come a long way, baby. No longer the poor cousin of cafés and restaurants, pubs have had to up their game. In a big way, and many have. So much so, that sometimes the food and the surroundings seem… sort of a culture shock.
But in the very best way. The old pub food? Parmies and cheap tough steak that’s been pierced with a thousand needles? Going, going, gone! Oh there’s still the odd parmi, and sometimes that can be a great alcohol soaker-upper, but these days the new wave of pubs are pushing new ground.
Ian Johnson, of Johnson Architecture and Interior Design, dropped an epiphany on me the other day. Something so simple, and pure, that it leaves you breathless in the ‘why haven’t I ever thought of that before?’ These days I love nothing more than to reduce everything to one word: whether we’re looking at concepts, emotions, issues, problems or solutions.
So here it is: Efficiency. Ian has designed upwards of 80 hospitality venues, so he knows what he’s talking about. It makes so much sense when you think about it. Kitchens have to be designed to be as efficient as f**k. Pardon my language, but it’s a strong point I’m making.
Front of house, as well, needs to be efficient. Without that, we open up an enormous jar of broken glass, and they will tread on it. Trust me. Life, in 2017, is moving on. Fast and furious. So much so, that buildings built for a different era need to be re-thought, re-purposed, and re-engineered.
Most obviously, that’s pubs. No longer the sole dispenser of legal drugs – alcohol – they’re now competing with an increasingly crowded landscape of restaurants, bars, cafés, markets, pop-ups, you name it. And they’re stuck with huge spaces, big licensing fees and overheads.
It’s change or perish. When they’re purpose built, they also need to break away from the ‘old’ idea of a pub, where the disco carpet competed with the bad taste of the furniture and soulless atmosphere. Enter Jack Greene “a european inspired local tavern specializing in craft beers and gourmet burgers.”
And no, that small ‘e’ on European is their choice, not mine!
Jack’s been around for a few years now, and makes a vibrant addition to the Salamanca strip, with live music at times, good, friendly service, and great, and I mean great atmosphere. And that’s the key, in my book anyway: the design. For those who’ve been there – have you noticed?
The tables are mostly tall, downstairs, to the point where I struggle to mount the bloody bar stools, but when I’m up there, the view’s great. It’s clever – that raising the customer view changes the dynamic exponentially. And upstairs? The opposite – low lounges and coffee tables make for a relaxed, almost homely feel.
All around the space is filled with ‘books’, nick-nacks, antiques and dark, dark wood. It’s cosy and welcoming and with a big range of ever-changing boutique beers both local and overseas, it’s hard to find an excuse not to go. And then there’s the food.
There are many who’ll say that Jack’s do the best chips in town. They’re the Heston ones – big, soft and fluffy inside and crisp and tasty out. For me, the burgers are good, consistently good, but do we need the huge menu? I don’t really think so, and scaling that back to match the minute kitchen would be a good start.
I’ve had great burgers there, and so-so ones. Never anything bad, or to really complain about. Just good, solid, consistent food. The hoi-sin duck mini-burger is always a favourite, and the choice? We’re spoilt, and for $21, the 3 little burgers aren’t exactly cheap, but they are tasty.
And when they’re super busy? The staff give a wait time. And it’s never that long. That’s efficient. The only real quibble I do have, is that last time, the bun was stale. They use brioche – that new light version of the old, heavy, bready bun. And it’s sweet, so the punters love it. But when it’s stale, it splits, and well, you get the picture.
What I love about the Jack? It knows its place, its identity, doesn’t try too hard, and is mostly, on the money. This pub space, though, is getting crowded, and we’re on a mission to test them all. Your opinions are welcome!