"REMARKS ON REMARKABLE DINING PLACES.
By an Habitué of all of them.
No. IV.—THE CHESHIRE CHEESE, AND OTHER CHOP-HOUSES.
The class of chop-houses of which we are treating does not include coffee-houses where chops can be obtained, but such places as the "Cock," and, above all, the "Cheshire Cheese," which are chiefly characterized by a substitution on the floor of sawdust for carpet, and on the tables of steel forks for silver ones. Moreover, the waiters obstinately refuse to allow potatoes to be peeled previously to being served up, and altogether a regime is in force which would not be tolerated for one instant west of Temple Bar. When the writer of the present article comes forward as a candidate at the next general election, his cry will be "Reform for our chop-houses;" instead of "Repeal the Union," he will adopt for his motto, "Peel our potatoes;" and the Government, instead of being called upon to "redress our grievances," shall be invited to "dress our salads."
Of the "Cock "we shall say but little, as, although it is always crowing about its stout, which for the rest is very good, it has not yet attained a sufficient degree of civilization to admit pale ale on the premises. If the reader wishes to see a waiter horrified, let him go to the "Cock" and ask for a glass of pale ale. It would produce less effect were he to call for a bowl of prussic acid.
After a contest of some years, Mr. Dollamore, the worthy proprietor of the Cheshire Cheese, yielded to the popular clamour for bitter beer. One concession begets another, and the importation of sherry-cobblers was soon afterwards demanded and obtained. Encouraged by these successes, we have already commenced an agitation which shall not cease until the steel-forks are abolished; and we have made a solemn vow to "die on the floor of the house" unless the sawdust which covers it, to say nothing of other abuses, be speedily swept away."
"The Puppet-show, vol. 1" 1868, page 188.
It's easy to imagine that everywhere kept up with fashion in the past. But it clearly wasn't true. I still find it surprising that in the 1860's a pub would refuse to stock Pale Ale, like the Cock did. It must have been the equivalent of the type of pubs I used to like hanging around in. Deeply unfashionable establishments. The less impact they betrayed of the modern age, the more I liked them.
The Cheshire Cheese is, of course, still going strong. And still as reluctant as in the 19th century to keep pace with the times. I find something deeply satisfying about that.
The lesson? Pale Ale didn't immediately - or even after a couple of decades - conquer everyone's heart.