Foam Follows Function

Pass on the ribs, generic bones glazed with a generic sauce. "French fries, baked potato or rice with that?" asked the waitress. "How's the rice?" I responded. "Forget it," she said, "it's always left untouched on the plate." At least give Lagerfields' servers credit for honesty.

As you might expect, pub desserts aren't the high point of the meal. But why waste calories on the supplier-provided chocolate cake and white-chocolate mousse cake, anyway? Instead, I suggest you hole up with a McFarlane's, and don't come out until Columbus Day.

The Olde English Inn, 7111 East Thomas, Scottsdale, 941-4915. Hours: Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, noon to midnight.

Location Info

Map

Lagerfields

12601 N. Paradise Village Parkway W.
Phoenix, AZ 85032-7671

Category: Restaurant >

Region: North Phoenix

They say the sun never sets on the British Empire. These days, though, the Mother Country doesn't send redcoats to do its colonizing. It sends tavern keepers.

The Olde English Inn recently became the Valley's second outpost of English pub civilization, joining George & Dragon. The English proprietors, who ran a pub in the home country, have set up shop in a former Chinese restaurant. You'd never know to look at the place. They brought over lots of knickknacks: pewter, pitchers, plates and mugs. A vaulted, rock-lined ceiling, a stone fireplace, dark wood paneling and paintings that might have come from milord's manor make it hard to believe you're in Scottsdale. However, the music jerks you back to reality in a hurry. For some reason, management pipes in ye olde Motown.

If you're thirsty (and at this time of year, who isn't?), the Olde English Inn has a beer for you--75 of them, actually, including a dozen on tap. Among the latter are native brews full of character, like Fullers ESB, McEwans Pale India Ale, Whitbread and Newcastle Brown. Draft beers are available in both pints and half-pints, a budget-friendly touch. Bottled beers from around the world are also a lure. Check out Mamba from Africa, Kingfisher from India, Boags Lager from Tasmania and Xingu from Brazil.

English food is the Rodney Dangerfield of cuisines: It doesn't get any respect. The pub fare at the Olde English Inn illustrates both its charms and its limitations.

The appetizer nibbles do what they're supposed to: keep the beer flowing. The sausage rolls, encased in dry puff pastry, are vastly improved once you call for the condiments. Both the HP sauce, sweet, tart and fruity, and the fiery Colman's hot mustard are ideal dipping material. The English origins of the Olde English Beer Cheese Dip seem somewhat shaky, but there's no sense making a fetish of authenticity. It's fashioned from ale-doused melted Cheddar cheese, spiced up with hot red chile peppers and served in an edible tortilla cup. And while I don't believe the cook did anything more with the battered duck strips than pour them out of a freezer bag into a vat of oil, the end result turned out reasonably well. A spicy sweet-and-sour dipping sauce helped.

It helps to confront the main-dish fare without too many expectations. With the right attitude, they can be pleasant enough.

The soups that accompany all entrees are more than pleasant enough. Both the tomato bisque and cream of celery showed some flair. The basket of over-the-hill dinner rolls didn't.

The cottage pie looks great. It's a big crock filled with layers of ground beef, peas, corn and mashed potato all moistened in a rich gravy, topped with a bubbling layer of Cheddar. I'd love to come back and try it again when the cook hasn't emptied a salt shaker into it. Fish and chips feature a well-battered slab of cod and thoroughly undistinguished chips and coleslaw.

I guess the proprietors thought Americans couldn't handle English pub staples like steak-and-kidney pie. They're probably right. So the kitchen delivers an adequate steak-and-mushroom-pie substitute, served under a canopy of puff pastry. The heavy, filling bangers and mash are right on target, three hefty sausages heaped with sauteed onions and teamed with a pile of thick mashed potatoes. The best platter here, however, is the chicken curry: poultry and veggies infused with the scents of India and spread over saffron rice. A crisp pappadam supplies just the right complementary touch.

Some people say the English have no sense of humor. I guess they haven't tried English desserts. Years ago in London, I had a sherry trifle that knocked me out. The one here didn't. It's a sundae glass indifferently layered with angel-food cake, fruit, custard, Jell-O and whipped cream, laced with a bit of sherry. The heavy bread pudding, meanwhile, isn't exactly a hot-weather temptation.

Will there always be an England? Who knows? But as long as mankind thirsts for beers and bangers and mash, it seems there will always be English pubs.

Lagerfields Micropub:
Shrimp quesadilla
$7.25
Pastrami sandwich
6.50
Shrimp cappellini
8.50

Olde English Inn:
Cheese dip
$5.25
Bangers and mash
9.50
Chicken curry
10.25

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