Maybe I think about these things too much. Sometimes you see a sign above a restaurant or a pub and it gets you asking questions. What does it mean? Why that name?
Sometimes it is pretty easy. Sat Bains, Restaurant with rooms is owned by Michelin starred chef Sat Bains. It’s the guys name, so that makes good sense. Take Burton’s very own 99 Station Street. It was called a “superior address” by the Sunday Telegraph. Easy enough, that is where the place is. Even easier is Restaurant Gilmore at Strines Farm. This is a restaurant owned by Paul and Dee Gilmore at Strines Farm near Uttoxeter. Kentucky Fried Chicken? Originally from Kentucky and does Fried Chicken. Colonel Sanders was a Kentucky Colonel as is, probably the nicest chef in the UK, Alan Coxon. From these names we can see places that are about who they are, where they are and what they do.
Then there are a few places that just keep you guessing. Pub names are in a different league and very few of them tell you anything of who, where or what. Swansea has a pub called the “No Sign Wine Bar”. It does have a sign and is more of a pub than a wine bar. Some pub names make sense as they feature a trade, a local hero or just something related to the area. Burton has Lord Burton the legendary brewer. Stoke on Trent has The Reginald Mitchell. Mitchell was the man who designed the Spitfire and came from the Potteries. Stoke also has a pub called the 6 towns even though Anna from Arnold Bennett’s book came from the 5 towns. At a point in time some pub names made perfect sense but the years have passed and the history is the only relevant bit. A Plough in the middle of a modern city is out of place unless a couple of hundred years ago the area was covered by fields.
So what has all this to do with food? Before the advent of gastro pubs and restaurants there was not many places were you could eat outside of the home. Most villages had a pub and that was the only place you could possibly get something to eat. Pubs were resting and pick up places on the coaching routes. You stayed at pubs, sometimes court session were held at the inn and they were significant venues for trade. So in an old world pub you could drink, eat, sell produce, sleep, settle trade disputes or see a neighbour getting hung for sheep stealing. Without a name, how could you find your local pub?
Ross Boardman is author of “101 Restaurant Secrets” and an award winning restaurateur.