Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Never mind the bollocks, here’s a Pub review!

Photo of The Pub in Lexington, from the website of the Tavern Restaurant Group

The black siding clad structure sticks out like giant bruise in the middle of one of Lexington’s mega-outdoor-shopping-malls.  Known simply as “The Pub” it passes for what a British bar might look like if it were dropped into the middle of Kentucky. Truthfully you can’t miss it, even if you can’t read the red, white and blue 15 foot tall letters spelling out “The Pub” on the side of the building.  It’s 11:30am and the parking lot is packed.

Venturing inside I’m greeted with a gigantic space for a restaurant, and right in the center is a massive wood carved bar – the kind with pillars and display shelves high above. Flanking the bar on all sides are bottles of Bourbon and Scotch Whiskey, always a good sign in my book. I opt for a seat at the bar instead of a cozy table and begin to check out the place.   The walls are adorned with quotes from Winston Churchill, Yeats, Joyce and others, along with several large plasma televisions. On this particular Saturday afternoon I have a choice of watching NCAA basketball games or English Football courtesy the Fox Soccer Channel. I think to myself, “This has to be the only place in Lexington to even have a subscription to the Fox Soccer Channel”. Patrons can enjoy a pint with their Fish and Chips or a serving of Bangers (spicy sausages for the uninitiated).

The menu features traditional English Pub fare – or what a Central Kentucky restaurateur thinks is traditional English Pub fare – along with items from “around the British Empire”. Evidently the British Empire only stretched as far as India and Jamaica because those are the only other countries I could find represented. It’s cold outside, barely 20 degrees, so I order Bourbon to warm up.

Now I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to restaurant Bourbon selections (see my post Bourbon, Bartenders and Sommeliers: A Rant), but seeing as The Pub was a sister bar to one of my favorite watering holes, Lexington’s own The Horse and Barrel (named by Whiskey Magazine as one of the top whiskey bars in the world), I cut them some slack for only representing 9 Bourbons on their drink menu. I noticed around 20 more lined up around the bar. Evidently management didn’t want to publish prices on the rest of their collection as the bartender indicated these were available at “current market price”.

I mutter to myself “What the heck?”  This is Kentucky for crying out loud – everything the bar calls Bourbon is made within an hour of here. Market price is for lobster and Wagyu beef. Bourbon is cheaper in Lexington than anywhere else in the world (as least in the good ol’ pre-tax days of, well, earlier this year). As I sulked in my drink – Woodford Reserve on the rocks at $7.50 – I decided on lunch.

Pizza of the Day. Sounds interesting, so I inquired as to the special du jour. Turns out today the kitchen was dishing out a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza, made with a base of garlic and basil then topped with Jerk Chicken, diced tomatoes, shallots, green onions, and cheese. Now, I consider myself as cooking up some of the best jerk chicken you’ll ever find from a white guy in his mid-thirties who resides in the center of Kentucky, so I was somewhat incredulous but elected to give it a shot and checked out the game score while I waited.

English Football Update: Manchester United 2 / Newcastle 0

The pizza was phenomenal – not spicy enough in my book – but excellent all around in other respects. The crust was both crunchy and chewy (not an easy thing to do), the toppings fresh, the cheese grated in big chunks, and the allspice flavors of the jerk penetrating every bite. My only complaint was that there could have been more chicken on the pizza.

I washed the last bite down, ordered a second Woodford and began to peruse the drink menu. Now I’m a sucker for a well crafted menu, and The Pub’s drink menu did not leave me disappointed. In addition to listing all 30 beers on draught (plus an additional 30 available by the bottle) along with over 25 single malt Scotches and the aforementioned 9 Bourbons (“ask your server about our local bourbons available at market price…” – what Bourbon isn’t local when you are in Lexington?) the menu included a glossary of British pub terms and slang. I was somewhat disturbed to learn that “bollocks” means “testicles”, mainly because I wondered why I didn’t know that already. Wednesday it seems is Martini Night, and the sign advertising “Sunday Bloody Mary Sunday’s” may have been the most politically incorrect aspect of the menu. However, I’m a sucker for a good Bloody Mary, and on Sundays The Pub features a “Make It Your Way” Bloody Mary bar. Their signature mix includes the usual ingredients along with Guinness Stout. This I will have to come back and try. A two page description of the process by which Scotch Whisky is made was followed by the lyrics to Monty Python’s “The Drunken Philosopher’s Song”. Agreeing that “Immanuel Kant was a real piss-ant” I turned my attention back my immediate surroundings.

It was then that I noticed the wait-staff, or more precisely, the female wait-staff. I should explain that for a restaurateur there are distinct advantages to opening in a college town, namely the near endless supply of early 20 something attractive female waitresses. The Pub was no exception but for one very noticeable detail – every waitress in the building was dressed in black knee high socks, über-abbreviated tartan plaid skirts and black logo “The Pub” tee-shirts with various British slang expressions displayed on the back. “Visit the Underground” – absolutely, your place or mine? “Cheers Mate” – and to you darling. After I saw the strawberry blond walk by with the words “Bugger Off” emblazoned across her back I realized I might actually be in love with this place. When you get to be my age, there is just something about a pseudo-Scottish lass with an attitude that is a real turn on. And there were plenty of them around. I mean these skirts were short. Ironically, the waitresses seemed to be rather clumsy as there was a lot of napkin dropping going on. I came to realize that the larger your drink tab became, the clumsier the waitresses would get. Just file that away for future reference in case you ever stop by. The sole male server was a muscular black man wearing a kilt. I should point out that only a handful of men can successfully pull off wearing a skirt. Sean Connery comes to mind. This server, however, might run a close second. Go on, tell him he’s dressed like a girl, I dare you. Not to be left out of the fun, the kitchen staff and runners (all guys) were dressed in jeans and the ever present “The Pub” logo tee shirts accessorized with studded black leather belts not seen in these parts since the last Judas Priest tour came through town. Evidently the owner is a Rob Halford fan.

English Football Update: Manchester United 3 / Newcastle 0

Turning my attention towards dessert and away from the waitresses (or the “Scottish Highlands” as I began to think of them in my mind), I decided to stick with the former British Colony theme and ordered the Jamaican Cheesecake. Again, I was not disappointed. The cheesecake itself was more of a custard than the dense New York style usually served in most restaurants. It was topped with bananas, toasted macadamia nuts and a banana liqueur caramel sauce. Yeah Mon, it was good!

Damn, Newcastle scored a goal. I was hoping for shutout. There goes my chance to see any of the waitresses running through the bar imitating Brandy Chastain.

Satisfied and satiated, I paid my tab and decided to find an open Sunday soon to return for Bloody Mary’s and plenty of English couture, I mean culture. Climbing into my car I dialed up The Clash and “London Calling” on my iPod. As I pulled out of the parking lot on my way home to watch an Austin Powers marathon and dream of the Spice Girls, I passed an inbound member of the second shift kitchen crew. Dressed in the ubiquitous black tee shirt, he sported the requisite symbol of British Punk Rock iconography on his back. Confident it wouldn’t be long until I paid The Pub a return visit, I gave him a slight wave as I drove off.

“Bollocks” to you too, mate.

Final score: Manchester United 5 / Newcastle 1

Check out The Pub’s food and drink menu by clicking here

 

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One response

  1. I surfed in because your post appeared as a “Possibly related post: (automatically generated)” on one of my recent posts about English pubs; and they’ve done this symmetrically, so I see that my “Going to the pub, with the best of intentions” is advertised on your site, too (but not my recent pub-sign photo-safari post).

    Anyway, that’s all fine and dandy, but then I saw that you’re from Lexington KY and that *was* a surprise, because so am I. But I live in England now.

    I clicked through several posts — nice blog! My blog isn’t particularly foody. Dining out is really expensive here, so we don’t do nearly as much of that as we did in the US, but we have run across at least two places over here that have Woodford Reserve on the drinks menu — very nice. And I can tell you that if that central-Kentucky pub serves something spicy and calls it bangers, it’s not terribly authentic; bangers over here are tasty, but not spicy, and full of fillers–they’re not a 100% meat product, or even close.

    I hope you’ll have time to stop by my blog if you get the chance. The pub-sign post is the most recent as I write this, or you can try clicking http://mefoley.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/a-pub-sign-safari/ . But the only post (I think) that has anything about bangers in it is the “Going to the pub…” one, and the link to that one is right there on this post. Small world!

    April 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm

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