Leading article: A victory to savour

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No wonder then that the recent accolade bestowed on Britain's gastropubs by the doyen of critics Egon Ronay has been received here with almost hysterical gratitude. It's a wonder we haven't rung bells across London or fired a round of canon shot from Windsor Castle .

That Mr Ronay has also plunged his sword on behalf of British pub cooks into the side of President Jacques Chirac, who - fie! - recently said we had the worst food in Europe after Finland - is icing on the cake. Mr Chirac's savage blow was, Mr Ronay opined chivalrously, "hasty and ill-informed".

Without wanting to halt the crowing, a tiny, nagging suspicion lingers that many people may not identify the food that Mr Ronay describes in his guide with what they last remember consuming at the local hostelry. Lobster ravioli with gossamer-thin pasta. Crunchy, tender young fennel. Really?

All right, he says this sort of thing of is only emerging from the very best pubs. But one fears Mr Ronay might have been less kind about British food had his delicate palate confronted the "spag bol", chicken a-la battery (with oven chips), or the strange, glutinous shop-bought "desserts" that is the fare in many of our pubs.

However good it is to hear our gastropubs are beating the French bistros, further down the culinary range, one fears the French are still beating us hands down - or to keep the analogy going, making mincemeat of us.

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