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Gastropubs

Despite the restaurant rant, some gastropubs are a delight to visit. Delicious cooking, local produce, foaming ale and a warm welcome. The original Slug and Lettuce (nothing to do with the chain) in Winkfield Row was a star example as well as being one of the first. Plus many of them have turned round the fortunes of a declining local, keeping the heart of a community beating as well as catering to the hungry and thirsty. Well done.

Sadly, others are dire - run by companies in search of a fat profit with cook-by-numbers trendy menus hiding microwave mediocrity. And when this is combined with a complete disregard for that which makes a pub a pub, you can only vote with your feet and hope the owners will one day see the light.

For example, the "Bel and the Dragon" in Cookham used to be a great old pub with a great restaurant attached. Now some chain has taken it over and also turned it into a "brand" with two other "Bel and the Dragon" outlets; one in Windsor and one in Godalming. Step forward Gourmet Holdings plc - a name redolent of Basil Fawlty. I am surprised they don't put "no riff-raff" on their trendy website with its sub-Gilliam graphics and overuse of Flash which crashes both Firefox and Mozilla.

They proudly proclaim about the WIndsor outlet that it is "Set in an 11th century alehouse that has been in existence 200 years longer than [Eton school]" but can you get a pint in it? Trawl their website (if you can get past the crashing, bad spelling/grammar and broken links) and although they do their utmost to trade off the pub / inn image, not once do they mention what beers they serve. And no suprise - the best they could offer was John Smiths, Becks and Budweiser.

And in an 11th century alehouse too. No NO NOOO, Gourmet Holdings, this is simply not good enough. Unfortunately they are not the only ones perpetrating this travesty. All we can ask is please don't encourage this crassness and if you want a good meal out, choose a real Gastropub - one which concentrates as much on the "pub" as it does on the "gastro".