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Gastropubs: What if you can't drink -- still worth it? [London]

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I've been stalking the boards this past week to plan our 10th anniversary trip to London and Paris at the end of May, and I realized we have a big problem: my husband can't drink (he's got a rare inability to break down alcohol), and I am a cheap date at about two drinks max. Should we then forgo the gastropub experience, even though the food is what draws us, not the drinks?

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

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  1. Definitely do not rule out eating at gastropubs because they are called 'pubs.' I drink very little or nothing at all these days. No one will expect you to drink alchohol and there are lots of other choices. And one doesn't have to order bottled water, either, unless one wants to. Most places will bring tap water if you ask for it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      Absolutely -- almost every gastropub has a somewhat separate dining room from the pub (even regular pubs have dining areas) so they really aren't that different than regular restaurants.

      I would, however, avoid the Absolute Vodka ice bar.

      1. re: brokentelephone

        And whether you eat in the bar area or the restaurant area, there'll be a better wine list than at a regular pub so you'd be able to have a single glass of something decent if you wanted to.

    2. All pubs serve soft drinks too - just like all restaurants - so it's no different ... many people drink non-alcoholic drinks even in pubs that don't do food. You wouldn't avoid a restaurant because most people there drink wine, would you?

      9 Replies
      1. re: Theresa

        Thanks. It's never an issue at regular restaurants, but actually we *have* been to a micro-brewery/restaurant where everyone was expected to have a beer, and we ended up "donating" my husband's beer to our friend. I just wanted to check to see if that was the case with any of the gastropubs. Thanks everyone, for your input!

        1. re: Theresa

          I can only handle about three sips of any alcoholic beverage myself, but I love to eat at pubs. My regular drink at pubs is the lemonade -- truly a delicious fizzy lemon soda unavailable in the states. Another thing you could try is the "shandy" -- it's half beer, half lemonade. Really nice and refreshing.

          1. re: khh1138

            Isn't lemonade just Sprite?

            To make this more relevant for the OP, I've been to plenty of gastropubs and they've always been happy to provide a jug of tap water if asked (I don't really drink alcohol, and I think it's stupid to pay for still or sparkling water)!

            1. re: astereilla

              Lemonade comes under the same heading as Sprite but traditional English lemonade is far superior and far more interesting than the canned/bottled lemonade generally available in the US/UK.

              1. re: ManInTransit

                Agreed! I don't like the taste of Sprite at all. But I look forward to the lemonade. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but every pub I've been to seems to have it. I've tried Fentimans and I'm sure that's *not* it. Shweppes or Corona lemon soda maybe? It has a very fresh, pleasing taste, and no sticky, syrupy mouthfeel. Anyway, whatever it is, it is common and plentiful in UK pubs, and not to be found in the US.

                1. re: ManInTransit

                  FWIW - American lemonade doesn't have anything to do with Sprite and most Americans that order lemonade in a pub are very surprised the first time to find out it is not 'our' lemonade.

                  American lemonade is made with sugar, juice of many lemons and water. At least that's what I've always had to drink. To call Sprite lemonade is not a good comparison at all!

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    I'm a bit confused now - and I've lived here all my life! As far as I am aware, there are broadly two types of "lemonade" in pubs - clear lemonade either in bottles or served from a pump, and which is similar to Sprite (but Sprite has lime in it too, I think). Then there is "bitter lemon" - by Schweppes etc - which is a cloudy/greeny colour, and comes in little bottles - but I don't think that this qualifies as good traditional lemonade. There may be more places which do decent traditional lemonade, but not many do as far as I'm aware - only places which pride themselves on good beer and wine.

                    Is the lemonade you drink in British pubs clear or cloudy? Because to us, normal lemonade is just like Sprite without the lime.

                    1. re: Theresa

                      The lemonade I've had in pubs is the clear type, Theresa. The point I was trying to make is that American lemonade is not fizzy at all and is a what I'd call a fruit drink, not a soft drink or soda. I guess it's just a difference in the meaning of the word lemonade, depending on where one lives. We don't call a vacuum cleaner a 'hoover,' either, unless that's the brand. :-) Jelly is always Jello in America.

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        Ah, thanks - that makes it a bit clearer. While Sprite is almost the same as our definition of lemonade, I don't know anyone who uses the word "sprite" as the name for lemonade ...

          2. Many of them also have some good non-alcoholic drinks these days like the Fentiman's Victorian recipe lemonade and sodas.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Joan Kureczka

              I quite like the Fentimans ginger beer. Nice and herby.

            2. I quite often drink an iced lime juice and soda, which is lime cordial mixed with soda water. Lime juice is also added to lager beer and is called a lager and lime. I prefer it to a shandy. If I have a shandy, then I ask for a bitter shandy, which I prefer to a lager shandy. A traditional lemonade here is R. Whites, but most supermarkets have their own brands. A lager and lime with a nice bag of crisps (potato chips) is something I like to have in any pub if I don't want to drink much.

              One more soft drink is a St. Clements - which is orange juice with something lemony added, usually some bitter lemon. Very refreshing.

              5 Replies
              1. re: cathodetube

                I wouldn't call "R Whites" traditional, it may be quite an old brand but it is still a clear carbonated drink. Traditional lemonade is cloudy and is made with fresh lemons. I noticed some pubs/shops do now stock some brands, so it is becoming more generally available. And whilst some will say Sprite is the same it isn't as it has a lime in it and a "unique" branded flavour.

                1. re: PhilD

                  If you are asked if you want 'a lemonade' it is usual to be offered a clear carbonated drink. That is what I meant. It is certainly traditional for people over the age of 30 in this country. I also think that lemon barley water is also a common summer drink for people of a certain age. I don't remember ever being offered lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemons here like lemonade you would get in the States - the kind made with fresh lemons. The exception is citron presse in French places.

                  1. re: cathodetube

                    "I don't remember ever being offered lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemons here like lemonade you would get in the States" - it is probably an age/backgroud thing. My mother (born in the 1920's) always thought of lemonade as the fresh/cloudy drink and would make a jug to to enjoy in the garden on a hot country day. I recall most British cookbooks from the 50's and 60s included a recipe for lemonade. In those days the commercial carbonated drinks were very rare and quite a special treat usually only offered to calm the bored child (me) confined in the pubs children's room.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      I think the key word to this discussion is 'carbonation.' American lemonade is not carbonated.

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        And another key thing is "age" - what a British person sees as being lemonade will depend on their generation ... I never had lemonade with squeezed lemons, and lemonade was a carbonated drink through most, if not all, of my childhood (although I still wouldn't describe it as being traditional). Bitter lemon (an attempt to copy the traditional sqeezed lemon drink?) was what grown-ups had with gin!