When you walk into an English pub, Sunday Night Football probably shouldn’t be playing on the flat screens. I’ve never been to England, but that seems like a safe assumption to make, and yet the Blue Boar Pub on Cahuenga Boulevard was playing the Dallas v. Philadelphia game when we walked in.
That’s when I stopped being optimistic. And while judging a venue’s food based on its ambience is premature, I wasn’t wrong to assume the menu would be lacking the full offerings of a traditional English pub. Given that the goal of this column is to explore the foods of different cultures, then I can’t say the Boar was conducive to learning.
English pub food was suggested to me by a friend and her roommates. At first I was skeptical ““ I didn’t want to spend an entire column writing about how Brits call french fries chips and potato chips crisps. But with any country there are going to be unfamiliar foods, and reading the feast scenes in the “Harry Potter” series doesn’t make me a connoisseur of British cuisine.
And yet, as soon as I entered the Boar, I got the sense that it was only a Hollywood bar with an English pub theme. It has the sleekness of a Hollywood bar (where half the menu items are $10 cocktails) but also the gimmicky paintings and posters of a theme bar. Most of the wall space was covered with pictures of the Beatles, Winston Churchill, the queen, the flag and Guinness bottles.
The Boar’s food is definitely English with an American twist. Between the five of us, we ordered the chips and curry, the fish and chips, the sausage roll up and the Scotch eggs.
The curry that accompanies the fries is sweet with a mild herb flavor. It went well with the fries, especially after they were doused with malt vinegar. I think I might have walked out if they didn’t offer fish and chips. Made from battered and fried Atlantic cod, the Boar’s version is crisp without being too dry or too mushy.
Imagine a super-sized pig in a blanket, greasier but with better seasoned meat, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the sausage roll up.
Other than the curry sauce, the only menu item we were unfamiliar with was the Scotch eggs. That is to say, it’s not every day in America that you come across a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and deep fried. It can be served hot or cold; in Britain it’s made with black sausage (made from onions, fat and pig blood). The Boar serves them warm with ranch dressing on the side.
There are similar variations throughout the Boar’s short menu. Its Scotch eggs are made with chicken sausage and its traditional English breakfast (fried eggs, English bacon, beans, fried potatoes and a sausage called a banger) is served with toast instead of the fried bread commonly eaten by the British.
The problem might be that English food, like German food, breaks many of the rules Angelenos try to follow. It’s heavy, it’s greasy and some of the ingredients don’t sound appealing to people who haven’t been raised on them.
For instance, I can’t say that I’d ever knowingly incorporate anything with pig’s blood into my daily diet, but black sausage is a breakfast food in Britain.
To be fair, I wasn’t dissatisfied with the food my group was served. Someday, when I have a full-time job, I might come back and pay $10 for a Henry VIII cocktail (orange vodka, Champagne and raspberries) and happily order the Scotch eggs along with it. But if I really wanted the English pub experience (Manchester United game optional), then I would try a place that feels less watered down.
Email John at [email protected] if you know where to find a good steak and kidney pie. “Global Grub” runs every Friday.