The Charcoal Burner: I visited a Crawley pub with a poor hygiene rating and came out unscathed
Food hygiene is more than ever considered a major problem, especially as we are recovering from a global pandemic.
So some may be surprised that there are still pubs and restaurants with food hygiene ratings that leave a lot to be desired.
This distinction is also found in Crawley, with five establishments posting a hygiene score of one in five.
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One of them is The Charcoal Burner pub – luckily there isn’t one in Crawley with a zero rating.
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The Food Standards Agency (FSA) performs the checks, assigning a rating on their Food Hygiene Assessment System (FHRS) in the process.
A rating of zero indicates that an “improvement is urgently needed” while a five indicates that the hygiene is “very good”, the one star rating found in some Crawley restaurants indicates “a major improvement needed ”.
The Charcoal Burner is the only pub in Crawley to achieve a one star food hygiene rating, so I went to give it a try.
One area the FSA inspected was to ensure that there were “systems or controls in place to ensure that the food sold or served is safe to eat, evidence that staff know about food safety and that the responsible for food safety is convinced that the standards will be maintained in the future “.
This category turned out to be in great need of improvement.
I couldn’t wait to eat their food without knowing if it was safe for human consumption.
Who knew I would be playing the culinary equivalent of Russian Roulette on a Wednesday afternoon?
During my visit I was hoping to find out what it looked like and if there were any visible signs that it was dirty, run down, or deserved a low rating.
The pub’s website says the burner “personifies the term local” – something I noticed when I walked in.
The people seemed friendly and seemed to be regulars in pubs after work.
Some of them looked and sounded like they had been in the pub for awhile and showed no signs of leaving anytime soon – I could only look at them longingly.
I didn’t notice any signs of poor hygiene on first impression – all tables and surfaces appeared to have been cleaned and free of dirt.
My first test was to visit the bar, order a drink and try to fit in.
The quality of a pint of Guinness differs from pub to pub.
In some pubs it will taste sweet and delicious, in others it will taste like it has been left open for a fortnight.
I even have a friend who considers his worst pint of Guinness to be the one he endured in the Guinness factory.
I put The Charcoal Burner to the test to see how the Guinness on offer compared – with the hygiene rating they had, I wasn’t too confident.
I enjoyed it much, much more than I expected and almost felt like I had been transported to the Emerald Isle where it came from.
It tasted beautiful, smooth but dark and didn’t have an overly sharp or bitter aftertaste that sometimes came with a bad pint of black. Arthur Guinness would have been proud.
Then I ordered some food to see if I could notice any signs of poor hygiene.
Ordering a cheeseburger, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
£ 7 for a hamburger in a pub looks pretty cheap, unless you go to ‘Spoons, so I had a feeling it would just be a thin sheet of thin meat that you often get served in vans on your way to football or garage sales.
I certainly didn’t expect it to have a distinct quality and thought maybe this was where poor hygiene was involved – cheap meat.
I couldn’t have been more wrong as a thick beast, which looked freshly made, was topped with a trio of onion rings, acting as the crowning of the burger.
It was delicious, incredibly juicy and full of flavor and had clearly been cooked fresh for me.
The chips were also more than up to par – thick and chewy and, as usual, boiling hot.
After eating I went to the bathroom and took a look around to see what the rest of the place looked like.
The pub wasn’t limited to one main room either, as there was a sports bar.
This subsection contained pool tables and a dart board to keep people entertained if their friends’ conversation wasn’t quite up to par.
It adds to the appeal of any pub to me and certainly tempted me to challenge a local to a game of pool.
However, having come during working hours this was not possible and so I saved my fuss for a future visit.
I sat down to put my things away and noticed something I had never seen before in a pub – a selection of antique brass taps – certainly the correct tone for this self-described “local” .
It is a pity that the pub is disappointed with the hygiene score, as it has a lot to offer.
With the pub’s goals partly stated on their website, it’s fair to say that they achieve what they set out to do, even if their hygiene rating doesn’t reflect the feel.