The Problem with Brit Bars Abroad

Posted: May 25, 2011 in Food, Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Apart from watching football in one here on Tenerife I tend to avoid British bars and restaurants outside of Britain.

That might come across sounding like a bit of travel snob; the sort of person who only frequents watering holes and eateries owned by the indigenous people of the country I’m visiting. But nope I don’t subscribe to that either. In Britain I ate at restaurants serving food from all over the globe and I had no idea usually who owned the bars so why restrict myself when I travel? I normally choose to eat mainly at restaurants serving local cuisine, but variety is the spice of life and every so often it’s nice to have a change – even over a two week holiday period – especially if the local cuisine isn’t great (just because it’s abroad doesn’t always make it good).

There’s one reason and one reason mainly that I avoid Brit bars and restaurants and that’s because so far, most of the ones I’ve experienced abroad are not the sort of places I would frequent in Britain, so they’re certainly not going to do it for me in another country.

Last week we were on Lanzarote in Costa Teguise. I like Costa Teguise. It has a nice mix of different nationalities which is reflected in the resort’s bars and restaurants. In some ways it reminds me a bit of El Médano on Tenerife.

However, because of flight times, on our last day there we found ourselves needing to grab something to eat at around 6pm. The hotel’s snack bar was closed so the only option was a British bar opposite.

There was nothing particularly offensive with the place, the people were friendly enough, except that it fit a model that seems to be a blueprint for nearly every Brit bar in Spain.

First of all there was the ubiquitous ex-pat client bitching about everybody and everything (do you get one of these with the deeds I wonder?). The décor was mock Tudor and there were blackboards all over the place advertising football, Corrie and the oh so passé pub grub on offer. Then there was the music. It was circa 1980…it’s always circa 1980 (with a heavy dash of 1960s thrown in). As well as the bitchin’ ex-pat, Brit bars abroad seem to be only able to pick up music from decades long gone.

The menu was from the same era – fish and chips (of course), steak and kidney pie (frozen), burger and chips (frozen), chilli con carne and, best (or worst) of all, saveloys – does anyone apart from Brit bars abroad really use that term these days?

And there’s my problem with Brit bars abroad. Before I left Britain nearly eight years ago the bars I went to were modern and stylish, played the same contemporary music I listened to driving to work and at home and had imaginative menus where not everything was fried or microwaved.

That’s not the case with Brit bars abroad. Most times when I go to a Brit bar abroad I feel as though I’m an extra in an episode of Ashes to Ashes. They seem to have been stuck in a groove for quarter of a century and for the life of me I can’t get my head around why they are all following almost exactly the same outdated format.

Do people still actually believe that a frozen burger in a bready bap and Billy Ocean belting out When the Going Gets Tough on the radio is really good enough in this day and age?

But hey, maybe it’s me that’s out of step… but if that’s the case who were all those people that packed out the bars I used to go to?
By the way if anyone does actually know of a quality British bar that strays from the norm, then I’d love to know about it.

P.S. If it includes even one of the qualities (an ironic use of the word) I’ve mentioned then don’t bother.

  1. you’re not wrong but in a lot of places like Tenerife for starters, the clientelle are hardly the sofisticated 35-50 age bracket who want to sip cocktails with a side of sushi, unfortunately most of thevisitors are 60 to 80 and seem to want to sit in “The Olde Englishe Tea Roome” all day drinking tea and demandiing a free cake to go with it.

    Most of the Brit cafes and bars over here could easily have been teleported from Blackpool pier, complete with fat proprietor.

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks…that made me laugh a lot, especially the last line. I can never decide if it’s a chicken and egg situation. Are the bars like that because that’s what people want? Or do people (Brits) go to these bars because they wan’t to be in the company of other Brits (nothing wrong with that – every nationality does it) and that’s pretty much the only choice the’ve got?

      Either way it’s a sad and sorry state of affairs.

  2. Richard says:

    “Last week we were on Lanzarote in Costa Teguise. I like Costa Teguise. It has a nice mix of different nationalities which is reflected in the resort’s bars and restaurants. In some ways it reminds me a bit of El Médano on Tenerife.”
    Well, yes and no … there are some similarities for sure. It’s a similar sized windsurf resort (but not as reliably windy or good as Médano), but unless it’s changed for the better since we used to go to CT in the 1990’s, it doesn’t have the soul of Médano (or say Tarifa).

    There’s only one Brit bar in Médano*, so it almost has a bit of exotic rarity appeal – offering a rare glimpse of a strange foreign lifeform only available twenty minutes up the TF1 🙂

    You can identify the bar by the pink (got off the plane a couple of days ago) or orange (the ex pat’s version of a tan) people sitting outside drinking their pints in the midday sun. It is quite handy though when I’m banned from watching something like the World Cup final on our TV 😦

    * but plenty of wonderful tapas bars … which is what sprung to mind when I read: “on our last day there we found ourselves needing to grab something to eat at around 6pm. The hotel’s snack bar was closed so the only option was a British bar opposite.” In Medano you’d head down to Playa Chica (the little harbour where the fishing boats are moored) for some fantastic grilled sardines, squid, peppers, mmm, I’m getting hungry. Let’s go !

    • dragojac says:

      LOL – thought you might have something to say about that comment.

      I can’t say I was bowled over by Lanzarote in the 90s but I think there’s been quite major changes in some places. Nowadays, although there’s still a strong mainstream tourist aspect, Costa Teguise is popular with a lot of sports people who go to the resort to train. I reckon that might have added a different vibe. The Pueblo Marinero area has got that attractive César Manrique style of architecture and has a good selection of nice bars & restaurants, health shops and even a veggie restaurant. There are also some excellent tapas bars; we ate at a great little place run by guys from Pais Vasco that served tapas that was quite different from the dishes you normally get on the islands.

      Unfortunately we only had 30 minutes to grab something to eat before heading to the airport so were limited as to how far we could wander. The only feasible option was the Brit bar otherwise we’d have headed back to Pueblo Marinero. Still, sometimes you have to go over to the dark side to remind yourself how bad it is 🙂

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