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Pub’s noodles offer to deal with ‘substantial meal’ rule

Landlord invests in a kettle to offer cheap dish with beer order

03 December, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

Peter Holt gets ready to dish up some noodles

BAR staff are pulling pints and putting the kettle on for a bowl of noodles at a Kentish Town pub to meet new coronavirus re-opening rules.

Drinkers were allowed back in after the second national lockdown yesterday (Wednesday) but government restrictions say beers can only be served alongside a “substantial meal”.

Peter Holt at the award-winning Southampton Arms in Highgate Road said the new offer – a temporary sign rebrands the pub “the Noodle Arms” – was a way of getting around a “silly box-ticking” exercise.

It follows a debate over whether a Scotch egg should qualify as a permissible order, after farming minister George Eustice said it would on Monday.

Mr Holt will carry on serving pork pies and the pub’s usual fare but has invested in a kettle from Argos to help serve up the £2 Tom Yum noodles.

“The good thing is that if people want to just come for a drink, we don’t burden them with something heavy and costing a lot of money like pork baps or pork pies,” he said.

“If they are coming out after a meal they don’t want to be burdened with that. It would be a shame to be wasting £4 rather than £2 if you’re not hungry.”

The landlord said the idea was prompted by seeing noodle bars open elsewhere in London.

As a predominantly “wet” pub focusing on its ales and cider, the Southampton Arms is one of the bars that has had to think of a way to meet the regulations for reopening.

The 44-year-old said this year has been “disastrous”, and like other pub owners, he’s hoping for a good trading month and sympathy from the building’s landlord when it comes to paying next year’s rent in January.

Mr Holt added that proposed government support for wet pubs would be unlikely to cover his rent. “When we can open we are taking half of what we should be taking,” he said.

“We’ve been getting a bit through takeaway beer but it’s not enough to pay the rent. It has been a nightmare, it can’t get much worse – it’s very frustrating.”

The Southampton Arms [Ewan Munro]

Mr Holt added: “We’ve been losing money since March, but we have got our rent to pay. We have been paying wages, so it’s really just the rent that has been building up. It depends on how much the landlord is willing to let go, but they’re in the same position. I know a couple of pubs have shut because the landlord has said they will not get any leeway at all.”

Mr Eustice said during an LBC radio interview on Monday: “I think a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal. “Often that might be as a starter but yes I think it would.”

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