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Travel Food

17th Jan 2017

The Sad, Slow Death Of The Carvery Dinner


Irish pubs have been hit hard over the last 15 odd years. The smoking ban, more rigorous enforcing of the drink driving rules and a once in a lifetime recession have hit them hard. 

Add in a changing population demographic with more diverse cultural background, as well as a new focus on fitness among Irish people, and the pub just isn’t the centre of Irish society as it once was. 

While many of these factors have been beyond the control of publicans, they haven’t always helped themselves when it comes to winning new customers and building loyalty with existing punters. 

Take the carvery meal as a prime example. Once one of the great joys of Irish life and something I’d lick my lips just thinking about but it’s now about as appetising as sucking on a wet sock.

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Maybe I’m thinking about carvery dinners through rose tinted glasses but growing up, they were an absolute joy. Whether served with a few pints watching football matches on a Saturday, with work colleagues on a Friday as a special treat or as soakage after a big weekend session, there wasn’t an occasion that you couldn’t slip a carvery into and improve your day as a whole. 

Now though, the standards have slipped. 

The pre-peeled baton carrots that taste of water. The bleached pre-peeled potatoes that are thrown into the deep fryer and passed off as roasties. The packet bouillon gravy. Being a pub chef used to be a trade that was respected but it has been replaced by lower-level cooks taking things out of packets and generally looking for cost-cutting measures and short cuts.

There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule that are still doing a cracking feed for a tenner (like the one from Coppers in these pics) but in general, the carvery is sliding and slipping into oblivion.

That’s a real shame because when done well, it is one of the most rewarding and wholesome meals you’ll ever eat. 

What’s not to love about a big plate of ‘Irish Mammy’-style cooking, served on a tray and washed down with pints of blackcurrant or beer?

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In fairness, while the quality of carvery has been on the wane, we’ve been blessed by the rise of a vibrant, multi-cultural food scene in Ireland that wasn’t there previously. 

For every person like me lamenting the decline of the carvery, there are probably five who are much happier to be off eating Korean food or higher-end gastro pub fare.

Maybe somebody will try to resuscitate the carvery phenomenon in the years to come? Package it up better and bring it back into style like almost every foodie trend seems to do cyclically?

It’s a sad time but just like the rhinoceros in Africa, we are watching the slow death of the carvery in front of our very eyes. 

Our kids will probably never get to hear those magic sayings like ‘gravy all over?’ and ‘a bit of everything on this?’.

Sad times indeed.

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