Leave it to corporate America to supersize a British institution.
I noticed The Pub, flying the Union Jack alongside the American flag, while driving behind Fayette Mall one day. All I could think was: That's a pub? It's so big.
Pubs, or public houses, in Great Britain are usually small neighborhood places where folks gather for food and drink and to watch their favorite football (soccer to us Americans) team on big-screen televisions. The pubs I've been to in London were unadorned, and the food played second to drink.
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The Pub describes itself as a “gastropub,” where food plays a more prominent role. It's part of a regional chain — including Lexington, there are six locations (one each in Louisville, Northern Kentucky and the Cleveland area, and two in Cincinnati) and one more is planned for Ohio — owned by Tavern Restaurant Group, which also owns deSha's and several other restaurants.
When I entered The Pub, I was smacked with everything an American tourist is looking for in Victorian England: a Union Jack on the ceiling and paneling that looked like mahogany throughout the cavernous restaurant. The only thing it didn't have was the changing of the guard and Rule, Britannia! playing on the jukebox. But the Disneyesque pub is a popular gathering place no matter how inauthentic it might be.
A colleague and I visited The Pub on Tuesday, the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. How British. We were seated in a booth and ordered drinks — a pint of Fuller's Extra Special Bitters ($5.75) and a bloody Mary ($5) — and surveyed the “authentic British” menu. I had my heart set on bubble and squeak, but I guess it wasn't authentic enough.
For an appetizer, we split the spinach and artichoke dip ($8.95). Garlic, bits of spinach, and artichoke and herbs were mixed with mozzarella cheese and heated in a small gratin dish and served with grilled pita points. It was good — anything made with garlic and mozzarella will taste good — and was just enough as an appetizer, but the only authentic thing I noticed about this dish was the price. Everything in England costs twice what it does here.
For entrees, we sampled the crab-crusted halibut ($19.95) and the Pub Jacket ($8.95), a vegetarian dish. The baked halibut was mild and good, but the crab in which it was crusted was barely noticeable. It was served on top of some light mashed potatoes and sautéed asparagus, which were delicious. But one thing I did notice about the dish: It was not piping hot. It wasn't cold, but I think it had to wait somewhere in the kitchen for the Pub Jacket to finish.
The Pub Jacket, sometimes vegetarian, sometimes with meat, was layers of mashed potatoes with portobello mushrooms, tomato, green pepper, onion and mozzarella cheese. It was good and served piping hot. All of the flavor enhancers mentioned earlier — green pepper, mushrooms and onion — were noticeable, especially the green pepper.
One of the desserts we sampled was excellent: Jamaica cheesecake ($6.25). The cheesecake was very smooth and tangy, but the slices of banana and banana liqueur sent it over the top. Kind of like bananas Foster on cheesecake. Yummy.
I wish I could say the same about the strange Tipsy Laird ($5.95). Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries were sautéed in brandy and poured over fried pound cake, which was served over a vanilla custard sauce. I think everything would have been wonderful, but someone in the kitchen fried the cake in the fish grease. It was noticeable. Fish and custard just don't mix.
Lastly, service was a cut above the usual chain restaurant.
Dinner for two, including tax, but not tip, was $63.80.