Friday, 18 January 2013

I recently had the opportunity to drink a £200 bottle of red wine - Inapub, January 2013

I recently had the opportunity to drink a £200 bottle of red wine. Not all by myself, I hasten to add.  Even at around £20 an alcohol unit, that would undoubtedly contravene any number of government guidelines aimed at preventing my liver becoming a public nuisance and a burden on the taxpayer.

No, having been given the precious bottle in return for offering an acquaintance some advice on PR, I bought four decent steaks and gave it a go over dinner with some friends. How was it, you ask? Well, as it happens, it was floral and fruity, with notes of blackberry and liquorice. Was it worth 200 quid? I have no bloody idea.

My palate is calibrated around the £8 a bottle mark, on the basis that a six quid bottle ought to be OK and a tenner is pushing the boat out.  It would be stretching a point for me to claim that my £200 bottle of Chateau Whatever gave me 20 times the drinking pleasure of a £10 rioja.

I know that by the time you read this the festive season will be well and truly over, and any vague aroma of sprouts wafting around in the bar will be attributable to customers rather than the kitchen. However, as I write this Christmas is looming and in idle moments, I’ve been pricing up pub’s Christmas menus.

There’s quite a range of pricing available, ranging from Wetherspoon’s £8.75 turkey dinner – Christmas pud for afters is £2 extra - up to an independent pub in the area that’s taking  bookings for a four course Christmas Day lunch at £65 a head.   Clearly, there are obvious differences in the two offers, including the fact that customers expect to pay a premium to eat out on Christmas Day itself.

Fundamentally, though, what’s on offer in each case is a few slices of roast turkey accompanied by veg and sauces, just as every bottle of wine is fundamentally 75cl of fermented grape juice. The difference in the price that a customer is willing to pay mainly comes down to subjective judgements about value, quality and service.

In the cold reality of January, understanding what is that makes your offer stand out can be about much more than know what’s on the plate or in the glass.

On the menu this month: While I checked out Wetherspoon’s Christmas menu, what I actually had was a burger. The latest JDW menu goes a long way towards addressing my long standing gripe that many pub menus don’t tell you enough about what you’re getting. It’s a modular approach, with standard and gourmet options, sauces on the side and plenty of choice of toppings. Just the thing for fussy families. 
This 'Pub Food with Porter' column appears in the January 2013 issue of Inapub

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