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United Kingdom > Accommodation > Britain's gourmet gastropubs

Gourmet gastropubs in Britain

“Gastropub: a pub, bar or tavern that offers meals of high quality.” 

This dictionary definition covers the basics of the gastropub concept, but hundreds of such places in Britain this explanation sums up. These exciting establishments put the emphasis firmly on local, seasonal ingredients dished up in cosy, informal spaces. Innovative, gourmet twists take the food to restaurant level and, in many cases, way beyond; here, Visit Britain offers just a few suggestions. 

ENGLAND

1. The Sportsman, Kent, south-east England

Don’t be fooled by The Sportsman’s Twitter profile: “grotty rundown pub by the sea”. The Sportsman, on the north coast of south-east England, won the coveted top spot in The Publican’s Top 50 Gastropubs 2016. The Michelin-starred pub’s food is deceptively simple.  The hyper-local ingredients take a pride in provenance to a new level: vegetables are from the garden, pork and lamb from farms next door, and fish and seafood from the Thames estuary.  Chef Stephen Harris even churns his own butter and makes his own salt.  Web: thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk 

2. The Coach, Buckinghamshire, south-east England

It’s a tough choice between The Coach and The Hand and Flowers, both run by celebrity chef Tom Kerridge and both in the beautiful Georgian town of Marlow on the River Thames, west of London. The Coach has a brand new Bib Gourmand award from the 2016 Michelin Guide while The Hand and Flowers has two Michelin stars. The Coach doesn’t take bookings, whereas you need to plan ahead for the Hand and Flowers; there’s usually about a six month-long waiting list for a table. Web: thecoachmarlow.co.uk, thehandandflowers.co.uk.


3. The Anchor, Suffolk, east of England

The Anchor makes the most of the natural larder of produce available in this charming corner of coast: mussels from the north Norfolk coast, game from within five miles and vegetables from the pub and the village’s allotments. It’s easy to imagine such a bounty coming from this beautiful countryside, where the skies are as much of a feature as the land. The Anchor is popular with locals too, and locals here include a roll call of famous writers, directors and actors. Web: anchoratwalberswick.com

4. The Pony & Trap, Somerset, south-west England

You wouldn’t expect to find one of Britain’s foremost gastropubs tucked away in a tiny hamlet between Bristol and Bath, but that’s exactly what this 200-year-old pub is. Accolades collected by The Pony & Trap include a Michelin star, Chef of the Year, Front of House of the Year, and second place in The Publican’s Top 50 Gastropubs of 2016. The ‘field to fork’ menu is refreshed twice daily; expect innovations like scallop pops, grilled bone marrow and salted peanut mousse sandwich. Web: theponyandtrap.co.uk


5. The Butchers Arms, Gloucestershire, south-west England

This 16th-century “real drinking pub” was named Pub of the Year 2016 by the Michelin Guide. The menu evolves throughout the day as fresh produce arrives. Remarkably, coowner James Winter works alone in the kitchen and really knows how pack the flavour into his refined, classic British dishes. Only 25 diners can fit into the pub’s two cosy dining rooms, while friendly locals fill the bar. A roaring fire, wooden floors and low ceilings hung with tankards complete the picture. Web: thebutchersarms.net

  

6. St Tudy Inn, Cornwall, south-west England 

Chosen as ‘one to watch’ in The Publican’s Top 50 Gastropubs 2016, St Tudy Inn makes the most of its slightly inland location near Bodmin Moor. Chef-owner Emily Scott, who sold her last enterprise to celebrity chef Nathan Outlaw, showcases the finest seasonal produce from the nearby sea and fields, serving up the likes of monkfish with saffron, cream and rocket, and rare roast beef salad with green beans, new potatoes and horseradish cream. Web: sttudyinn.com


7. The Anchor & Hope, London

This stalwart on the central London gastropub scene operates a no-booking policy so expect a (worthwhile) wait. The descriptions on the menu are as no nonsense as the décor. Blunted explanations such as “a grilled Orkney kipper and tatties”, “suet crusted steak pie for two” and “duck hearts on toast” belie the gutsy, bold skill displayed by the kitchen – cooking worthy of a Bib Gourmand, no less. Artwork for sale decorates the walls. Web: anchorandhopepub.co.uk 

8. Smokehouse Islington, London

With BBQ guru Neil Rankin at the helm, you can expect some of the best meat in town at this north London joint. Fresh meat, fish and veg are cooked, roasted, grilled, smoked and barbequed over sustainably sourced English oak. Typical meaty offerings include beef  brisket hash, smoked bone marrow and fried egg; or opt for smoked lamb shoulder, polenta, raclette and sambal. Any place that serves Korean pulled pork as a side has got to be special! Web: smokehouseislington.co.uk


 

9. The Marksman, London

With original Victorian mahogany panels, beers on tap and locals propping up the bar, The Marksman in the east London borough of Hackney is a ‘proper pub’. And it serves up food that will make you very happy: simple, seasonal British food inspired by London’s rich culinary history, such as beef and barley bun with horseradish cream; mallard, butternut squash and medlar; and chocolate, blackberry and barley malt. Web: marksmanpublichouse.com 

10. The Cross, Warwickshire, central England

Head chef Adam Bennett has worked at London’s renowned Dorchester hotel and reached the finals of the Bocuse d’Or 2015 – the world’s most prestigious gastronomy competition so you can expect great things when you eat at The Cross, a 19th-century, Michelin starred pub. Mouth-watering dishes such as cod with mussel risotto, fennel fondant and espelette leap off the menu; the star awarded to it in the 2015 Michelin Guide came as no surprise to local foodies!  Web: thecrosskenilworth.co.uk 

  

11. The Angel Inn at Hetton, Yorkshire, north England

Owner Denis Watkins was nicknamed “the Godfather of the Gastropub” when he died in 2004. Thankfully, The Angel Inn’s prominent place in the history of the gastropub is safe in the hands of his family and a close team. The Angel has won just about every regional and national foodie award going. The food is a quirky blend of “modern British with French Yorkshire nuances”, which translates local ingredients into delightful morsels like wild mushroom and truffle suet pudding, and Earl Grey crème patisserie. Web: angelhetton.co.uk

12. The Rat Inn, Northumberland, north-east England

If it weren’t for the food, the views across the Tyne Valley from The Rat Inn’s terraced beer garden would steal the show. The Rat has been at the heart of village life in Anick for over200 years, and is now drawing in foodies from much further afield. Almost as hard as choosing what to eat is deciding where to sit: by the log fire in the lounge bar, or in the conservatory with those tremendous views. Web: theratinn.com 

13. Parkers Arms, Lancashire, north-west England

Another highly decorated gastropub, Parkers Arms features in The Publican’s Top 50 gastropubs 2016, was Lancashire Life’s Dining Pub of the Year 2015 and has won over numerous critics. Bread, pastries, ice creams, chutneys and biscuits are made on site, and menus are changed twice daily, but the hand-raised pies remain legendary! Incidentally, Parkers Arms claims to be the closest hostelry to the centre of the UK. Web: parkersarms.co.uk

SCOTLAND


14. The Finnieston, Glasgow, Scotland 

In a cracking little pocket of Glasgow that’s packed with fabulous restaurants, bars and pubs, The Finnieston stands out for all the right reasons. The foodie emphasis is firmly on sustainable and ethically-sourced Scottish seafood think oysters, house cherry-smoked trout, and hand-dived scallops but the fabulous gin cocktail bar, maritime touches, glass panelling, low ceilings and buzzing crowd all help add up to what many consider to be Glasgow’s best gastropub. Web: thefinniestonbar.com

15. Clachaig Inn, Scottish Highlands

Nestled in the heart of Glencoe, this place is the saviour of hungry hikers of a foodie disposition. Food is proudly sourced from Scottish suppliers wherever possible: venison from Highland estates, black pudding from a renowned family butcher on the Isle of Lewis and haggis from Macsween of Edinburgh. The Clachaig’s three bars are worth the trip too, with a 300-strong selection of whiskies and live music. Web: clachaig.com

16. The Scran & Scallie, Edinburgh, Scotland

One of Edinburgh’s leading gastropubs, The Scran & Scallie is the more relaxed offering from the Michelin-starred chefs behind two of the city’s top restaurants. The menu is a tryst of modern dishes, much-loved traditional mains like cottage pie and forgotten classics such as sheep’s heid Scotch broth, all in keeping with the pub’s ‘from nature to plate’ ethos. The cosy interior is a characterful mix of tartan, tweed and Scandi-chic that works brilliantly with the pub’s original rustic interior. Web: scranandscallie.com

WALES

17. Y Talbot, west Wales

History permeates the ancient beams and inglenook fireplaces of this 17th-century drover's pub. Apparently there’s an elephant buried in the garden and President Jimmy Carter has stayed here twice. But it’s the food that draws people today. Chef Dafydd Watkin trained with Marco Pierre White and was premier sous chef at luxury London hotel The Ritz, and his outstanding menu walks the line between pub classics and haute cuisine with dishes like slow-cooked Tregaron ox tail bourguignon, crushed carrot and swede. Web: ytalbot.com


18. The Felin Fach Griffin, mid Wales

If the endless awards (including a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide), praise from critics and guests, and recognition from the best independent guides are anything to go by, The Felin Fach Griffin’s philosophy is a winning one: “The simple things in life done well. Fresher-than-fresh ingredients from the pub’s own Kitchen Garden complement seasonal produce from the Welsh Borders. Even better, once you’ve eaten, you can sleep it off in one of its cosy bedrooms. Web: felinfachgriffin.co.uk


19 The Penycae Inn, south Wales

As well as its impressive foodie offering, the winner of The Food Awards Wales Gastropub of the Year 2015 has some other rather quirky strings to its bow: it sells an eclectic selection of artwork, and it’s also a micro zoo! Feast on the likes of Penycae lemonade batter fish and hand-cut chips, or golden syrup-roasted ham with leek & cider sauce, then roam the grounds with rescued meerkats, wallabies, pygmy goats, ornamental waterfowl and Japanese cranes. Web: penycaeinn.com 


NORTHERN IRELAND

20. The Morning Star, Belfast, Northern Ireland 

A long-standing Belfast favourite, The Morning Star has its original mahogany counter, old terrazzo floor and an exuberant Victorian sign hanging outside; the building’s history as a pub goes back to at least 1810. Behind the scenes, fresh local ingredients and sustainably sourced local fish are delivered daily, and the in-house butcher makes the sausages and burgers and cuts the steak. Just like the locals, you’ll want to keep coming back. Web: themorningstarbar.com

 

21. The Poacher’s Pocket, Northern Ireland 

This nook of Northern Ireland to the south-east of Belfast is experiencing something of aculinary revolution, and the team behind The Poacher’s Pocket is largely responsible. (Sister establishments The Parson’s Nose and Balloo House are just as deserving of places in thislist.) This is fine-dining food dished up in a casual, relaxed pub environment, with a well-stocked farm shop on site; thoroughly deserving of its Best Gastro Pub in Ireland 2015 title. Web: ballooinns.com.

Author: Visit Britain 2016


See also

United Kingdom > Accommodation > Britain's most historic restaurants.
United Kingdom > Accommodation > Iconic countryside pubs

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Hundreds of gastropubs in Britain are doing so much more with their food than meals of high quality. They put the emphasis firmly on local, seasonal ingredients dished up in cosy, informal spaces.