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Jan 21, 2012 07:09 AM

Ploughman's Lunch in LA Area

Going to be in town for a few days (today onwards) and have a craving for a good Ploughman's Lunch. Anyone know if one can be had anywhere? You'd think it's possible with all the British places around town. But so far research has yielded only a "Ploughman's Salad" which isn't what I'm after.

- English Cheese
- Pickled onions (preferably lots of)
- Branston Pickle
- Non ersatz bread (ideally unheated but will likely have to let that prerequisite go)
- Looks akin to attached! - No fruit
- Beer available on premises.

Pipe dream? Or feasible?

Thanks for any advice.


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  1. I've searched LA far and wide for a good ploughmans (with prerequisites above) and found the best and brightest to be at Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena.

    - English Cheese - Check. Good Cheddar and Stilton
    - Pickled onions (preferably lots of) - Available on request
    - Branston Pickle - Check. (I usually request extra).
    - Non ersatz bread (ideally unheated but will likely have to let that prerequisite go) Check. They have french baguettes heated or otherwise. Again I ask an extra portion to handle all the cheeze and branstons.
    - Looks akin to attached! - No fruit. No problem. Ploughman's plate is look-alike, only larger.
    - Beer available on premises. Good Lord. Plenty actually, and great choices. If you require Fullers ESB or a few of the usual English imported kegs, they have them. (Sadly, they pale to the real thing in UK). Guinness usually works well for me.

    Not sure how far you'll have to go, but it is "feasible."

    Good luck, happy hunting.

    Lucky Baldwins Pub - h (I usually frequent the original on Raymond St.

    23 Replies
    1. re: cagey

      It has not crossed my radar but is now on the screen and will definitely beat a path and report. THANKS!!

      1. re: bishopsbitter

        A bitterly disappointing outing to Lucky Baldwin's on S Raymond in Pasadena.
        A double shame as quite a nice space but a lot of prerequisites were missed.
        Well let's start at the very beginning, as Julie would say.
        I was served a 20oz draught Guinness that was entirely without head. Instead of the bartender taking charge of an obviously defective pint, clearly there was a possibility that they would charge me and watch me drink (or attempt to drink) the thing had I been of a more retiring nature. I didn't. "The lines have been cleaned." Blah blah. I am reminded of an episode of Fawlty Towers where the American guest (from California!) berates Basil for making excuses for all the slipshod aspects of his operation. Just as he said, so say I: "I'm not interested" (in why it's defective). Why do I have to worry about why I can't have a pint of my favorite brew?

        So a really bad start. I said "I had heard" they served a really good Ploughman's with real English Stilton and Cheddar and such. I could tell by the girl's expression (even in agreeing with me) that she already suspected I had higher hopes than were healthy for me.
        So I order a bottle of Guinness and enjoy looking around the (undeniably) pleasant and intimite space that comprises the bar. I don't know what the history of the space is, but the bar itself is one of the nicer renditions of an English "feel" bar in the US I have come across.
        So the ploughman's arrives. Oh dear: what were the prerequisites again?
        - non ersatz bread - survey says X-X-X the most ersatz of ersatz bread HORRIBLE not fit to grace English cheese
        - on which, unless Wisconsin (or Kraft Foods Inc.) in now part of England that was no English cheddar. The stilton may have been some sort of factory rendition vaguely with the name stilton but 1000000 miles from the creamy blue delight that is real Stilton. So the cheese verdict: junk
        - pickled onions were probably of the white vinegar cocktail variety versus English packed in malt vinegar. pickle was OK.

        But really since a ploughman's is de facto bread and cheese if both the bread and the cheese suck it is impossible to make much headway.

        Another punter came in and ordered chicken curry (I think it was) which took all of about 20 seconds to be dished up (quite a fast cook) and the only part missing was the defrosting as the punter sent it back for a little additional microwaving. First time it looked really cold and unappetizing. Second go it looked unappetizing but was emitting a bit of steam. The customer seemed to be of the kind entirely reliant on eating out and therefore basically (as I think is part of the general dining malaise) looking on the bright side of it be calorific and preventing him from starvation.

        To the person who recommended it and indeed to all who may have caught it on a better day this is just how I found it. I certainly don't mind having made the trip, even if wasted, for hwo else can one find the holy grails?; and I always appreciate the tips. As I said I have had the trip severely curtailed (and it was short to start with) so cannot make any of the other venues in Santa Monica etc. for possibly better luck.

        One thing I will rant on about a little further is the ersatz bread. Not only horrible, but someone had sawed it into "semi slices" that is, had cut it through 50%. I sometimes wonder if people in the business really think what the **** they are doing. Because by doing so you create a loaf you can NEITHER cut successfully into slices, NOR break off chunks. The 50% slice renders the entire thing only good for wiggling around like some semi tumescent male organ. Why don't people THINK these things through? Or customers complain?

        So not a great outing. The best thing: the bar itself. It could fit in (apart from all the hoses and spigots) in a Sussex country pub and is as such nicely thought out.

        But please do not pursue this particular pasadena ploughman.

        But a Chilli dog with kraut at Pink's and a lamb dip at Philipes by way of breakfast was pretty good.

        1. re: bishopsbitter

          Well, then I guess I should be flogged. My apologies for a wasted trip.

          I noted in my response that what LB's had was "good" Cheddar and Stilton. Maybe not to your standards, but it's hard to find the real thing around here unless you go to a fancy cheese shop and build it yourself. (There simply aren't any Neil's Yard shops around when you need one.) Did not fully understand your desire for imported cheese. (Was it THAT bad?!)

          Perhaps I did not take into account the quest for beer perfection either. I have noted on occasion that LB's does have "flat" tasting beer lines. I've had outstanding pints there, and dismal ones.

          I really don't find the bread that "ersatz." (And yes, I have seen that type of bland french baguette type served all over the UK). It's french bread in a city where such bread isn't really the strong suit. I've never seen someone get so frothy about a loaf of french bread..... sliced, hacked, cut, or otherwise. (??) I never centered my enjoyment of a Ploughman's lunch based on the bread. I think you seek the dry, crusty, baking-soda tasting bread that certain italian restaurants find appealing? Dunno, it's just me.

          Again sorry. I recommended it because I have yet to find another "pub" in LA that has a ploughman's lunch even close to what I used to get in my travels to Shropshire, Yorkshire, Somerset, or even London. And even there, I've had some "lame substitutes" in the mix.

          You had a lot of *hard* and intransigent prerequisites there. Good luck in your quest.

          (Pinks? Chili dog? really.... Hmmm).

          1. re: cagey

            As I said, not so at all. One man's meat etc. I call it like -I- see it but certainly with no implication that I could not be totally in the minority, or out of whack or just plain crazy. Today was just one of those things (bad beer, etc.) that seem to tumble downhill. But as I said, I'd rather chase up 1000 places to find one that's nice. So is Pink's generally not looked on as kosher? I thought the slickest operation and best food of the day. The lamb french dip was rather underwhelming but the bread much less ersatz. Yes, to me bread has to have a bit of gravitas. But also that one today was stale on top of all its other defects. The best ploughman's had in the US was at the late great Sherlock's Home. They served real stilton and double-gloucester. Just as with cask ale (now with Sherlock's closed) the only real remedy is a trip to the Old Country for a ploughman's and a pint. Please know none of the criticism implies superiority of insight. You may be right, I may be wrong. Hate to be thought to be intimating anythign different. Best wishes, and thanks if nothing else I loved that old building I walked past next door. Grand apartments of old I suppose. What a lovely building. Worth the trip in itself. bb

            1. re: bishopsbitter

              >>>Today was just one of those things (bad beer, etc.) that seem to tumble downhill.

              I feel like I owe you one.

              >>So is Pink's generally not looked on as kosher?

              Not to stray off topic, but I don't know if it's kosher as you might relate to an east-coast ripper dog or a chicago dog. Pinks is fine if you can stand up to (and see past) the hype.

              >>The lamb french dip was rather underwhelming but the bread much less ersatz.

              You have me scratching my head here. At Philippe's, the bread usually plays 3rd fiddle to the meats (mostly with soppy, soaked up juice).

              ...and gosh, had I known you were so adamant in your quest I might have given more details about LB's shortcomings - of which there are MANY. Do try the King's Head in Santa Monica next time you're around. The fayre there (menu items) are worth the trip alone. Cheers.

              1. re: cagey

                The trouble with Philippes was rather the opposite. Not "soppy" enough. Perhaps triple or quadruple dipped is the way to go. Also while a nice concept hand-carved lamb in a sandwich is actually trumped by a machine sliced boneless leg (I think). The sandwich with the hand-carved is too much "peaks and valleys" in term of meat per square inch. Sort of a Heimlich maneuver waiting to happen and I fondly recall leg-o-lamb sarnies of yesteryear at McSorley's in NY dipped in au jus and basted in mint sauce with raw onions on the side. [Sorry, verging into erotic areas.] Good people-watching @ Phillipe's though. Yes, in a way I wish I had headed to SM. Trip was too short!! On Pinks, hype for sure but at 10am with the rain teeming down probably saw it at its best. And their product was good (hype I can live with: e.g. Arthur Bryant's in KC or McSorley's in NYC) if there's a payoff for those who look beyond it.

                My breakfast at other meals (in a scant 6 hours of LA grazing) were breakfast ("#1) at Pann's near LAX. I think I read this is a place that "looks like" (but isn't) the diner in Pulp Fiction. It does look like it. The meal here was poor. I ordered "country ham" asking "it is 'country ham'?? very explicitly. Of course, it wasn't "country ham." Just a horrible regular pink rubbery slice. And although short-order egg cooking (decline of) deserves a whole blog to itself, the three over easy monstrosities purveyed here were simply not cooked correctly - memo to short-order cooks, NO-ONE wants uncongealed whites and ice cold yolks, these truths should be self evident. And they didn't offer my preference of eggs "basted" at all.

                Nice space and setting on the intersection is the best I can say..

                Dinner last night at a little sports bar place in San Pedro San Pedro Brewing Company. It was well-priced (4 drinks 2 appetizers and a main for $50 these days seems a good price to me) and the food fine if unexceptional. Steady locals business. I was going to try the Whale and Ale (nearby [another British place] but it was totally empty, albeit OPEN, and I never like to eat in empty places so I went here instead. The service (from the bartender) at San Pedro Brewing Co was the best I've stumbled across in a while.

                Enjoyed rambling around LA in search of ploughman's. Like selling anvils door-to-door, it's a tough business but it's what I love.

                1. re: bishopsbitter

                  >>>>in a scant 6 hours of LA grazing

                  Good lord man, 6 hours! You didn't say you were on a "bombing run!" Logistics alone for your foray was daunting to say the least. Am again sorry that I led you astray on LB's. I work nearby and occasionally do Friday-lunch with fellow Caltech folks - nowhere near as determined in their culinary perfections.

                  1. re: cagey

                    It was meant to be a 2-day stay. Thanks to Delta Airlines . . . had to mimic the sailors in "On The Town" type of deal. (Where were the girls??) I was on the "hunt" from 630am till 8pm so a bit longer than 6 hours [which alluded to the run up to and "bombs away" of the ploughmans in the morning a lunchtime]

                  2. re: bishopsbitter

                    > at Pann's near LAX . . . The meal here was poor

                    Pann's has a very specific set of core competencies. Things go downhill quickly if you stray from them. They are: fried chicken, southern-style biscuits with gravy, the patty melt, and the elusive corned beef hash special (so I've heard -- I've not been there when it's been available).

                    1. re: Peripatetic

                      I've come to really like and continue to order Pann's country breakfast which has the already mentioned biscuits along with eggs, sausage patties and country style gravy, plus country style potatoes with green and white onions. Really a filling and delicious meal.

                      Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                      6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                      1. re: Peripatetic

                        You've just reminded me, I ordered "a side of gravy" and it never came. I was too depressed over the non-country ham to remember the oversight.

                    2. re: cagey

                      >>>The lamb french dip was rather underwhelming but the bread much less ersatz.

                      >>You have me scratching my head here. At Philippe's, the bread usually plays 3rd fiddle to the meats (mostly with soppy, soaked up juice).

                      To clarify, I meant that had the "PRE" dunked Philippe's bread been used for the Pasadena Ploughman's it would have been a quantum leap of improvement.

                      1. re: bishopsbitter

                        Show me pre-dunked bread on a ploughman's plate and I'll show you a.... er,.... well... Not sure what that would be. ( I've shot at one once.)

                  3. re: cagey

                    Mmmm a Shropshire Blue ploughman's. [noise such as Homer Simpson makes contemplating doughnuts or all-you-can-eat seafood]. (W) Sussex and Oxfordshire to me are the most fertile of ploughman's territories. And as you said you have to watch out for "pretty cheese" and . . . the perennial threat of FRUIT! :-) All best. bb

                  4. re: bishopsbitter

                    I've never had the ploughman at LB, but I'm not surprised it wasn't great. I AM surprised about some of the details of your visit, e.g., the bad pour and indifferent attitude. I've not been to LB since the owner died last October. I wonder if things have since gone downhill?


                    1. re: Peripatetic

                      I wondered about whose concept this place was. It did feel a bit "adrift" and maybe the passing of the co-owner explains it. I also noticed the Belgian beers so perhaps this is a pommes frites with mayo versus ploughman's retreat.

                      1. re: bishopsbitter

                        Sadly they don't really understand the friterie/frituur concept, either. Not very crispy and no selection of mayos. I usually just douse them in vinegar or brown sauce.

                2. re: cagey

                  However, don't be lulled in into thinking that everything at Lucky Baldwins is authentic British pub fare. Their cottage pie was like mashed potatoes with Tesco Bolognese sauce. Their fish an chips are excellent, though.

                  1. re: Peripatetic

                    IN the part of England I grew up in that wasn't 100% UNauthentic. Never did do tomato sauce in CP in our house, but I knew people who did!! :-)

                    1. re: bishopsbitter

                      > IN the part of England I grew up in that wasn't 100% UNauthentic.

                      True, I never ordered cottage pie in the dodgier pubs, so this might be an inadvertently authentic touch. I'd still give it a miss.

                    2. re: Peripatetic

                      >>>>However, don't be lulled in into thinking that everything at Lucky Baldwins is authentic British pub fare.

                      Well stated. I would stay far away from their sandwiches, as well as their F & C. (The Golden Hind, Marylebone, they are *not*). Far better F & C to be found at Robin Hood Pub or Kings Head.

                      Noting that the OP's enquiry was for a proper ploughman's, between Lucky's, Robin Hood, and King's head -- imo Lucky's wins out in my book.

                      1. re: cagey

                        > I would stay far away from their sandwiches, as well as their F & C.

                        I agree with about the sarnies, but I think their F & C are better than many chippies I had the (dis)pleasure of patronising. True, it's not quite up to Golden Hind quality, but GH was exceptional. (It didn't hurt that the owners were Greek!)

                        1. re: Peripatetic

                          Strangely enough one of the most popular chippies (still) in my home county of Northumberland England in the Choppington/Blyth Valley area is similarly owned by a Greek whose enterprise and person are both locally known as "The Greek" as in The Godfather of fish & chips.
                          A cod and chips there will definitely redefine F&C as can generally be obtained stateside. (Anyone visiting N England salt away the address.) :-)

                  2. I have not had it at either place but, in Santa Monica, there are at least two options which seem to fit the bill: Tudor House and Ye Olde Kings Head (better known for its fish & chips). Generally, I like Kings Head better and it will offer a better beer selection than Tudor House. Here are the menu descriptions for each, in order:

                    PLOUGHMANS LUNCH
                    A selection of British cheeses, pickled onions,
                    Branston pickle, Piccalilli, and a freshly baked bread roll. $9.50

                    PLOUGHMANS PLATE..........$14.95
Selection of British cheeses, Pork pie, pickled onions, Branston pickle, coleslaw, salad garnish, served with crusty bread

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: New Trial

                      Plus King's Head sells Branston Pickle in its retail store, along with other Branston products (e.g., Pickalilli).

                      1. re: New Trial

                        Pork pie "lagniappe" on the side I could live with. Sadly Delta have bollixed up the flight today so rescheduled tomorrow so probably only one PLoughman's opportunity available.

                        Thanks, a lot. I thought Santa Monica might be fertile area for result. I may try a Lucky Baldwins segueing into an early tea @ Tudor House / Ye Olde.

                        Thank you all for excellent rec's.

                        1. re: bishopsbitter

                          If you do plan on being in Pasadena to go to Lucky Baldwin's, consider Rose Tree Cottage for their afternoon tea. The owners can be both charming and/or persinickity but it is truely an authentic tea service.

                          1. re: Fru

                            I appreciate that additional tip. But despite being originally from England I am not a tea drinker and coffee does not substitute in an afternoon tea. Looks interesting though: thanks. I may go to the shop in search of golden syrup and suet.

                            1. re: bishopsbitter

                              Lucky Baldwins may have Lyle's Golden Syrup. They carry a few other British staples.

                              1. re: bishopsbitter

                                Whole Foods carries Lyle's Golden Syrup...

                                1. re: film_score

                                  I wonder if it does nationwide. Thanks for the tip. A good steamed treacle pudd and custard occasionally hits the spot.

                        2. Really enjoyable thread and short trip. I know "who to call" if I return to LA (which is definitely planned) for a better roam around on a slightly more leisurely schedule. Thanks to all who chipped in. It's always reassuring to know there are people as maniacal about food and service as one's self no matter where one goes. (Or at least, if simply insane, at least others are nutzo along with you.)

                          Thanks again for all responses.


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