Oh, harmony. Rapture, even. Gentle tastes used strongly and strong flavours used gently. There is a public house* called The King’s Head in an immaculate Cumbrian village called Ravenstonedale (pronun. Ray-vun-stun-dayl), which has a chef who can give you a balance and not just a choice between upmarket chic and satisfying fullness. The menu has all the elements of modern gastro desirables (fondant potatoes sprout to mind) but with a strong emphasis on local food production. Nothing new there; these days any gastro pub worth its Maldon is getting its meat from 5 miles away and its chutneys from local producers. What is new** is a strong element of tradition that genuinely filters through the menu and the place as a whole.
Tradition isn’t just a parody from the olden days, when farmers said “ooh arrgh” and miners took pasties with meat in one end and fruit in the other.Traditional pairing of flavours happens over time as people use the foods they can obtain in the combinations that work.
If you limit your base to the local supply, you should find yourself with the means to make proper traditional food. Most local gastropub menus try to do this, although the ones I’ve seen have had too much variety. It takes discipline when there is so much to choose from. They haven’t limited themselves enough to properly achieve the genuine traditional article. And it’s worth it to do so because the focus is so sharp. At the Kings Head, they do it so well.
Tradition trickles through every fibre of bespoke upholstered, secondhand chair, every Real Wood floorboard in the dining room. But most of all it tripped off the menu onto your tongue and somehow you found yourself ordering it.
*it’s too posh to call it a pub but it isn’t a bar and its atmosphere too relaxed to just call it a hotel, although that is also what it is.
**apart from the reportedly £1.2m refurbishment of the old pub.