What's an English pub doing in the heart of Redmond?
Apparently, whatever it wants. And owner Paul Mercer, recently of Camp Sherman's Kokanee Cafe and Sunriver's Trout House, said he hasn't had so much fun at a restaurant in 10 years.
The Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes hang side by side inside the front door of the intimate Pig & Pound Public House, a pretty good indication that both Brits and Yanks are welcome to enjoy craft beers and a tasty selection of traditional foods that might bring a smile to the face of even the Queen of England.
“I'm home again," said Mercer, who had gone to work as director of sales and marketing for Phat Matt's Brewing Co. after leaving the restaurant business in 2010. “I missed the restaurant business. Once I got back into it, I realized that this is what I need to be doing. Life is fun again."
A native of Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in the heart of Shakespeare country, Mercer said he is pleased to offer a simple menu — a big change from the fine-dining options typical of his two prior restaurants.
“We've just taken comfort food from 'across the pond' and made it Americanized and good," he said.
Bangers to chips
Certainly, the Pig & Pound is at its best when chef Franklin Jeffers — who trained under the late chef Greg Unruh at Cork — is preparing British-style pub food.
In my two recent visits to the Pig & Pound, I was most impressed by the fish-and-chips entree and by the bangers and mash, both dishes typical of ale dispensaries in the United Kingdom.
No doubt, the presentation of the lightly beer-battered cod in the fish and chips was a highlight. Three generous pieces of fish were served side-by-side with herb-sprinkled, hand-cut fries in a pair of aluminum cones, almost like matching candelabra. With moist flakiness locked in, they tasted as good as they looked.
Accompanying coleslaw — a mix of white and red cabbage with shreds of carrot — wasn't quite of the same standard. Its honey-and-poppy-seed dressing was wonderfully creamy but too sweet; I like a bit of vinegar tartness in my slaw.
Bangers, for the uninitiated, are sausages. Bangers and mash, therefore, is a dish that pairs sausages with mashed potatoes. Jeffers makes his own bangers from Carlton Farms (Willamette Valley) pork, fennel and apples, and they are very good. The thick, 5-inch sausages are grilled, sliced lengthwise, laid on a bed of coarsely blended potatoes with a side of sauteed spinach, and covered with a generous ladle of thick brown demi-glace gravy. They are delicious.
Although on my return I intend to try the classic Scotch egg, the chicken pot pie and the “oink and boink" beef-and-pork burger, I wasn't quite as impressed by everything on the pub menu.
The macaroni and cheese, for instance, was far too salty for my taste. Made with small spiral pasta blended with Gruyere cheese and big chunks of bacon, it had the peppery flavor that I enjoy, but made me beg for another beer.
The spinach salad was unimaginative compared to other menu items. Leaves of baby spinach were tossed with rings of pickled red onion, thickly sliced cucumber and crumbled goat cheese, then finished with a light vinaigrette. It wasn't bad, but I craved more, perhaps something as simple as pear tomatoes and croutons — or, better yet, dried cranberries and hazelnuts. This salad was too basic.
And then there were the desserts, including an apple-bread pudding and a type of cinnamon roll labeled, with wry British humor, the “spotted dick." I passed on those, instead ordering a “chocolate pig."
Although I'm not a big sweets lover, I thought this chocolate cake, awash in molten chocolate sauce with a side of caramel, was pretty good.
However, my dining companion — who happens to be a chocolate aficionado — was turned off by the pumpkin spice in an accompanying cream sauce. I'm convinced it was simply a matter of taste.
Mercer is delighted with the initial response to the Pig & Pound, which opened in early October. “I've given Redmond what Redmond wants," he said.
I'll have to agree. Although I miss the wine bar and bistro that was formerly in this location — the 750 Wine Bar succeeded Avery's, and I truly enjoyed the eclectic international fare offered by its mother-daughter owners — the Pig & Pound seems to have struck a chord with the downtown Redmond neighborhood where it is located, between City Hall and the public library.
Eight taps offer an ever-changing selection of Oregon and international beers and hard ciders. At least one usually draws a selection from Redmond's own Phat Matt's.
The staff is low-key but friendly and knowledgeable about food and beverages. The menu is posted on a pair of blackboards.
Eight bar stools have a ringside seat for sports presented on a television behind the bar, while a half-dozen tables easily accommodate another 20 patrons in this low-lit establishment. When warmer weather arrives, there will be more seating options on a spacious deck.
Classic rock, featuring British rockers from Sting to the Rolling Stones, provides a soundtrack to ongoing conversation. When I last departed, David Bowie was singing about “Ch-ch-ch-changes." But I think the Pig & Pound is pretty good just the way it is.
A new restaurant combining upscale diner fare with that of a French brasserie has been announced for the downtown Bend space formerly held by El Jimador. The restaurant, which plans a spring opening, is not yet named. Bend Diner Company partner Ted Swigert, formerly food-and-beverage director at Portland's Heathman Hotel, said it will offer a menu ranging from burgers and shakes to mussels and fries. It will open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunches. 801 Wall St. (at Franklin Avenue), Bend.