I’ve been suffering from London withdrawal lately. No, not because the Olympics are over. Truth be told, I haven’t watched a combined 10 minutes of Olympics coverage in the past 20 years.
But I was in London a few weeks before the games got underway, and the city was at its finest. I Loved wandering through Parliament and Trafalgar Square, admiring the paintings at the Tate, strolling along the Strand.
And, of course, the pubs.
There’s something quite homey and convivial about a London pub. You can meet with friends to have a cold pint (they’ve finally figured out that refrigeration thing) and fill your belly with basic British fare. The food rarely rises above average -- for that you need to visit a gastropub -- but it also is rarely unacceptable. It’s comfort food at its most epitomal.
So finding myself missing a pub, I figured it was a good time to check out The Pub. That is the decidedly uncreative name of a new establishment at Pointe Orlando. The Pub is, in some ways, very much like a pub. But in other ways it is very much different.
An example of how it is similar is that The Pub is part of a chain. It’s nigh impossible to find a “neighborhood” pub in London that isn’t owned by one of the large brewing houses.
An example of how it’s different would be its sheer size. It is immense. Cavernous, even. There is a large, wood-framed bar that floats in the center of the space just inside the front door. Around it and beyond are dining areas, some with high-top tables and some with regular seating.
Perhaps the biggest difference between a British pub and The Pub is that no matter how friendly the folks in a London pub can be they almost never allow you to draw your own beer. But you can do that at The Pub.
The Pub has an option that allows beer drinkers to pour themselves as little or as much of a variety of brews from a couple of banks of taps. To take advantage of this option, drinkers get a special card that they scan at the tappers. Once the card is recognized, the taps are opened -- for a short window, so that no one can tap after you -- and you can pour a taste or a full draught. This is sort of like what we’ve seen at some of the high-tech wine bars around town. But in those places, the pours are usually automatic half or full glasses. And you’re charged for a short pour or a big pour.
At The Pub, you pay by the ounce because the taps gauge the flow in much the same way as a gas pump. Come to think of it, at 34 cents per ounce, the beer costs about as much as Brits pay for petrol.
I did not go for this option, choosing instead to let the bartender pour me a draught. And except for a couple of guys when I was first seated, I saw no one use the bank of taps near my table the whole time I was there. This is a gimmick that might take a while to catch on.
There are some traditional pub foods on the menu, but there are some unlikely options, too, such as the shrimp po’boy that was the “toastie of the day,” and the chicken Florentine featured soup.
I selected the Scotch egg appetizer and an entree of shepherd’s pie. The Scotch egg was prettily presented, quartered and placed on a drizzle of mustard on a long white plate, garnished with a fresh sprig of parsley. The flavor was good, too, with a bit of spice in the sausage and in the mustard. I also liked that it was served a bit warm -- they’re usually cold when ordered in the U.K. But $7.95 for a serving? That’s a bit steep for something that’s essentially the equivalent of a hard-boiled egg with some Jimmy Dean’s sausage molded around it.
The shepherd’s pie was good, too, although the kitchen took some liberties with the classic recipe. It featured a mix of seasoned ground beef and lamb plus plenty of bright green peas and sticks of still-crunchy carrots. But along with the usual topping of mashed potatoes was a layer of melted mozzarella cheese. It wasn’t unpleasant, just odd. There wasn’t much in the way of sauce (supposedly bordelaise) so I made liberal use of the bottle of brown sauce on the table. A lovely mesclun mix salad was served aside the pie.
I was very pleased with my server. She had an easy and genuine smile, and she checked back with me frequently. She also had a very impressive knowledge of the beer menu and the characteristics of the various brews. She was also eager to offer samples of any of the beers I was interested in tasting before committing to a full glass.
Servers all wear kilts -- standard length for the men; mini kilts for the women, although some of the more discreet chose to wear tights with them.
Music classics from the ‘70s (or maybe it’s the ‘80s; I’ve lost track) plays rather loudly. That’s another difference for the usual staid atmosphere of a real British pub.
But this is an acceptable -- if larger than life -- facsimile of the real deal.
The Pub is at Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive. It is open for lunch, dinner and late night dining daily (the kitchen closes at 1 a.m., one hour before last orders at the bar). Here’s a link to experiencethepub.com where you can see the menu but not the prices of the food. (Besides the ridiculously overpriced Scotch egg, I paid a more reasonable $11.95 for the shepherd’s pie.) For checks over $25 -- easily done -- the restaurant will validate valet parking vouchers. The phone number is 407-352-2305.