Putting the Great into Britain since 1979: The gammon food critic goes to Wetherspoons

Restaurant reviews by Justin Tanner, our retired food critic who won’t watch Match of the Day now women are on it

WAS there a Britain before there was a Wetherspoons? Technically yes, because it was only founded in 1979 and fucked if I remember it before ’92. Spiritually? No. 

It’s up there with the Royal family, chippy teas and shite summers for me. If Tim Martin were leading the Tories they’d never lose an election again.

The limp-wristed liberals love to slag it off, sitting in their pop-up bars where imported craft ale costs a fucking fortune, but that’s because they’re out of touch with the ordinary working man who needs a Full English and a couple of vodka oranges at 9am.

I’ve heard all the whines. ‘The telly’s always on!’ Well, where isn’t it? Not at my place. ‘The loos are miles away!’ Stops the junkies, pet. Anyway, it’s nice to have the walk, test how pissed you are, and you can pop your pint on the cistern when urinating.

So, like the Crusaders to the Holy Land, like Livingstone to darkest Africa, like an RAF Lancaster loaded with bombs to the Ruhr valley; like all those British heroes I’m off to Spoons.

As standard, it’s full of my kind of people. Proper English blokes, white, middle-aged and mostly divorced. Granted, they’re a bit rough, but even in paradise there’s the occasional shower of rain.

I get my first pint in – at less than three quid a time, the first of many – and prise the menu open to peruse what I’ll dine like a king on tonight.

All the greats are there, like a Who’s Who of English culinary superiority. Fish and chips. Scampi and chips. Wiltshire cured ham, egg and chips. Burgers, with or without chips. Bangers and mash. And the cornerstone of British cuisine, chicken tikka masala.

There’s a ‘vegan chilli’ which I’d personally rather flick a rubber band on my testicles than endure, but that illustrates how inclusive and non-judgmental it is here. If some twat wants to chow down on shit best suited to a pig’s trough, that’s their prerogative.

I’m torn between the BBQ chicken melt and my usual beefburger, so pop to the bar and get a couple more pints in while I decide. Might as well stock up, as it’s the usual delay getting served and they’ve got funny about cash, but good things come to those who wait.

If more restuarants understood that food tastes better drunk, they might have a chance of equalling Spoons. By the time my burger arrives it’s like a blessing from the Lord: hot, cheesy, almost perfectly tasteless.

It’s devoured in minutes, along with the complementary pint, and to soothe my burned tongue there’s ice cream with toffee and Belgian chocolate sauce. Show me a pud more British.

‘Fucking Henry the Eighth would have loved that,’ I say out loud after burping. Seven pints in and fully satisfied, though the off-duty dinner ladies on the next table are looking worrying attractive so I must be wrecked.

Meal complete, full of ale, I get up to stagger home. There is a heaven on this earth, in the converted banks, cinemas and post office on every High Street. I hope I go there when I die.

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This week in Mash History: Guy Fawkes's lads night gets out of hand, November 1605

AT the weekend, the UK once again remembered Guy Fawkes by creating him in effigy and burning him atop bonfires which also badly scorch the neighbours’ fence and shed. 

But most Britons are ignorant that the notorious Gunpowder Plot was barely a plot worthy of the name, and would be more accurately remembered as banter that got out of hand with the real culprit the unwise decision to start drinking on empty stomachs.

And while historians have previously focused on a hatred for King James I, they are now considering the role of Fawkes’ desire to look like a proper legend in front of the lads.

A clearer picture of the night’s proceedings is given in a letter of appeal written by the caught and imprisoned Guido: “I beseech thee, have mercy on my soul.”

“Who among us has not awoken after festivities with an aching head, lain in the undercroft of the House of Lords, with a phallus etched on our brow and 36 barrels of gunpowder at our feet?

“I only intended a flagon or two of ale. My senses were lost not due to overconsumption but because I had an upset stomach at several points in the night in addition to the bouts of attempted regicide, which never normally happens for I hold my brews well.

“Forsooth, events took a sinister turn when Thomas Tresham brought along his weird brother. It hastens one’s drinking when one is having to battle through a discussion of agricultural practices.

“Before long Catesby was trying to milk a cow, Keyes requesting if the landlord knew where he could score fly agaric and Tresham proclaiming he did not recognise the divine right of the King of England. I remember little else.

“The next I knew I awoke, a burning brand in hand, in the aforementioned undercroft trying to remember why it would be so hilarious to blow up Parliament. I admit I fail to see the humour now.”

King James did not pardon to any of the plotters, primarily because of treason but also due to his not being invited on the night out. All were hung, drawn and quartered and the mirth of their banterous acts lost to this very day.

Next week: to 51AD, when the first ever gammon complained that political correctness was ruining Christmas.