These are Britain’s best gastropubs

From a quayside tavern in Newcastle to an inn at the foothills of Dartmoor, these six pubs offer the best gourmet grub around the country…

These days, there’s more to pubs than pint-pulling. And there’s more to pub grub than pork scratchings (although The Kings Head in Ongar will do you a bowl of puffed, peppery scratchings — served with a spiced apple sauce — that could knock even the best boozer’s socks off). Because today, the ‘gastropub’ pulls in the punters.

Since The Eagle, in London’s Farringdon, kicked off this culinary craze in 1991, we’ve seen unassuming taverns and taprooms across the country fire up their kitchens and get creating plates worthy of first-rate restaurants.

Today, with over three decades of gastropubbing under our fast-tightening belts, there’s more choice than ever. And yet, certain inns have ingrained themselves in our minds and stomachs over the years — so here’s half a dozen of our favourites…

The Unruly Pig, Woodbridge

Tucked away tastily in Suffolk’s sweetest market town, The Unruly Pig is a 16th century inn with warming log burners, original oak beams and bold blue walls. But, despite its homegrown heritage feel, there are pops of modern decor throughout the place — including frames filled with quirky art hanging from the walls.

The food is equally eclectic; dishes that bring together classic British plates with the meaty, hearty passion of Italian cooking. And, last year, it was awarded the title of the Best Gastropub in the UK.

What’s the best starter? The Hand-dived Orkney Scallop Crudo. It means ‘raw’ in Italian, and this fiercely fresh first plate adds blood orange and grapefruit into the citrus-seasoned mix, along with fennel and chilli.

For your main, order the 40-Day Aged Sirloin Steak Tagliata. It’s as unctuous and rich as it sounds, served with decadent parmesan chips, bits of piquant burnt onion and a truly transporting bone marrow sauce.

And the most delicious dessert? It’s a slim selection, but we’d skirt past the Salted Caramel Tart and Chocolate ‘Tiramisu’ for the Poached Yorkshire Rhubarb — a more obscure option, plated up with sorbet and pistachio nuts.

The Bull & Last, London

Towering high over Highgate — and perfectly placed by Hampstead Heath for a post-wander pint — The Bull & Last is one of the capital’s finest gastropubs. Like The Unruly Pig above, it has thoughtfully stirred together elements from pubs past and present to create a modern-day dining experience peppered with antique touches.

The food, similarly, blends both traditional pub grub with highfalutin haute cuisine. And, if you do happen to overindulge, there are half a dozen recently renovated bedrooms on site perfect for sleeping off your supper.

What’s the best starter? It’s got to be the Terrine of Guinea Fowl, Hare, Heritage Pork, Chestnut and Bacon. It’s as gamey and moreish as it sounds, and comes served with a red onion chutney you’ll want to wolf by the spoonful.

For your main, order the Hare Ragu. And no, that’s not too much hare. Not when the dishes are this tastebud-tuggingly flavourful. Stirred through pappardelle, it’s garnished with sage, parmesan and chestnut fragments.

And the most delicious dessert? Possibly the Peanut Chocolate Sundae. But we’d opt for the made-to-order Bourbon Sticky Toffee Pudding; lovingly assembled and served with pecans and golden sultana ice cream.

The Broad Chare, Newcastle

The northern city is no stranger to fantastic food and drink. Whether it’s ‘Panackelty’ (a local lamb casserole), the stalwart ‘Stottie’ or the globally-quaffed Newcastle Brown Ale, this is a region renowned for wholesome, generous grub. The Broad Chare, on Newcastle’s burgeoning Quayside, is a red-bricks-and-mortar embodiment of this well-fed reputation.

Holder of the Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ award — bestowed upon eateries that offer three-course meals at reasonable prices — it’s the perfect place to sample some fine food before retiring to the pub’s plush ‘snug’.

What’s the best starter? Though Newcastle still sits 50 miles shy of Scotland, the Haggis on Toast is a Caledonian-inspired triumph. Pictured above, it comes served with a fried hens egg and lashings of HP Sauce.

For your main, order the Glazed Bacon Chop. It’s about as salty and succulent as you’re likely imagining — and even more tasty. Served with a slightly sweet prune and mustard sauce that tempers every briny bite, it’s humble, honest — and endlessly eatable.

And the most delicious dessert? The Blood Orange Posset. It’s a hot drink made of milk curdled with wine that’ll warm the cockles of even the coldest heart — poured alongside suitably Scottish-adjacent shortbread and blackberries.

Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe

Owned by Steven Smith, one of Britain’s most expectation-subverting chefs and a North West native, this elegant Lancashire gastropub is just a stottie’s throw from The Broad Chare above. But it’s well worth the 100-mile pilgrimage, if only for the chance to kneel at the altar of Smith’s eccentric, experimental kitchen.

The whole menu orbits around one key idea; take locally sourced ingredients, and throw them together in worldly ways — borrowing cooking techniques, seasonings and taste pairings from every inch of the globe.

What’s the best starter? The self-styled ‘Manx Lobster’, which consists of a butter-poached lobster tail, tempura-battered claw and roll — served with spiced bisque, burnt orange and a zesty carrot pureé.

For your main, order the Creedy Carver Duck. While the French Swab Pigeon is another punchy poultry-based choice, this duck dish flies even higher; plated up with XO Cognac sauce, hispi cabbage and yakitori liver on toast.

And the most delicious dessert? Without a doubt, the Valrhona Chocolate. It’s a moreish modern take on traditional banana and custard, with a bitter chocolate kick and flavours of yuzu and black sesame infused through every spoonful.

The Cornish Arms, Tavistock

It’s down to Devon for our next gourmet-delighting gastropub. Another recipient of the Michelin Bib Gourmand prize, this pub is to be discovered in the foothills of Dartmoor, and serves pub grub reinvented not through the use of odd or obscure ingredients — but rather with playful plating. Each dish is a work of edible art; as fetching as it is flavourful.

Run by a husband and wife team, it’s also a tenancy of the local St Austell Brewery — which means you can wash down any dish you choose with ales including the complex ‘Mena Dhu’ stout or new breezy ‘Korev’ lager.

What’s the best starter? It should be the BBQ Fillet of Line-Caught Mackerel — but we can’t seem to shake the rich Egg Yolk Ravioli, a sunshine-yellow bite buoyed with cep pureé, pickled shimeji and a wood mushroom velouté.

For your main, order the Poached and Roasted Lamb Belly, plated up handsomely alongside roasted lamb saddle, lamb fat onion, spiced onion and a boat brimming with unconventional broad bean gravy. It’s a treat.

And the most delicious dessert? It’s another left-field option, but test your tastebuds with the Cashel Blue Cheese, Treacle Tart, Walnut and Apple — a pungent plateful that somehow sweetly harmonises into one coherent dish.

Scran and Scallie, Edinburgh

Finally, we flit back northwards — finally braving the border and settling down for dinner in Scotland. In Edinburgh, the award-winning Scran & Scallie (on the capital’s Comely Bank Road) is the creation of Scottish chefs Dominic Jack and Michelin-starred Tom Kitchin (it, too, has a Bib Gourmand award from the French guide).

Opened in 2013, the pub this year celebrates a decade of delicious, sustainable food — with ‘from nature to plate’ having been a consistently key philosophy of its enduring success. Also look out for the ‘Malt of the Month’ behind the bar.

What’s the best starter? Something fishy. Either the 6 Islay Oysters, if you want to keep your starter simple. Alternatively, try the Seared Orkney Scallops, served up with complementary cauliflower pureé and apple spears.

For your main, order the Scran & Scallie Steak Pie. It can’t be beaten. Scored and seared with pastry-based patterns, its lid is punched through with a pillar of marrow-melting bone — and conceals chunks of rich Scottish steak beneath.

And the most delicious dessert? Another rhubarb-infused invention. Yet, unlike The Unruly Pig’s straightforward plate, this one’s a Rhubarb and Yoghurt Meringue, served with syrupy poached rhubarb and a sharp rhubarb sorbet.

Want more drinking den recommendations? These are London’s poshest pubs…

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