Look, I know it's not a fashionable opinion, but I like Jamie Oliver's media persona. I think he's a good cook, genuinely curious about food, and has his heart in the right place. So bear with me, there is a beery theme to this post, but it comes a bit further on.
We went out for lunch today, to Jamie's Italian in Leeds, and with a 20 month old nipper in tow, you get used to eating a bit early - say, midday. He likes to have a nap early afternoon, and so we can either (a) eat while he's asleep or (b) lounge around reading the papers while he's asleep. Needless to say, (b) usually wins, and being of Spanish descent, I'm quite militant about taking well-behaved kids to restaurants. We got there just after midday, and we were about the fifth young-childed family into the place. Hey, they have high chairs, so that means they welcome families. Just for the record, a few weeks ago, we went to North Bar while he was asleep in his pushchair. As parents, we know what's appropriate.
Overall, the food was pretty good. There were a few minor blips, and service was a tad slow, but I'd happily go back. The main surprise came when the starters were cleared and we were asked if we wanted more drinks with our main course. I asked what beers they had, and was told "We have Stella and mwahmwahmwah". Not recognising the second, I asked the waitress to repeat what they had. "We have Stella and mwahmwahmwah. Oh, and we also have a bottled real ale". Ignoring what mwahmwahmwah might actually be (I saw it being carried around, but didn't recognise it), I said "Great, I'll have a real ale". I didn't even ask what it was - I was just so delighted that they had some real ale in a bottle that I plumped for it. Well, you have to send the right message, don't you?
I had plenty of time to speculate about what it might be - there was a slightly-too-long fifteen minute gap between starter and main, which with a toddler may as well have been a week. Might it be a celebrity beer brand? A local classic? A modern icon? Surely it wouldn't actually be, like, proper bottle-conditioned beer? But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is our waitress, and our beer is.... Cropton Yorkshire Warrior.
I hadn't tried this previously, and to be honest, I don't mind it. It's an ordinary brown beer par excellence. In fact, an OBB deluxe - it had a lovely full-bodied nutty character that I really enjoyed. But crucially, it didn't do anything for the food we were eating. And I'm not sure it would have done anything for any of the dishes on the menu. And I'm not sure which part of the restaurant's demographic it was aimed at. In short, it was a great gesture at putting a locally-sourced quality product on the menu, but one that fell a bit short of actually delivering. For my money, a better bet might have been one of the low %abv golden ales from Ilkley Brewery - beers that are both accessible to the real ale fans, and would also compliment almost any food you care to name.
But still, it was great to find someone in a chain restaurant saying the words "bottled real ale". File under: "the revolution continues"