After outlasting the Roman Empire and surviving the Medieval Ages, the English Pub maybe seeing its last days. Statistics show that 39 of these establishments have been closing down each week since 2009. The challenges to the pubs appear to be plenty: government regulation against binge drinking, the recession, the ban on smoking in public places and the sale of alcohol in supermarkets at lower prices.
But count on the English and the pub owners to keep these establishments open. The pubs are currently adjusting to the situation by transforming how they do business. Some pubs are their own brewers so customers have to keep on coming to taste what is on tap. Other pubs are hundreds of years old and thus they offer their old traditional English atmosphere.
Out of the lot, however, the incarnation of the pub as dining place is gaining the most ground. Englishmen call it the gastropub. Since most of the old pubs are drinking places, their markets are mainly adult males. The gastropub, however, is increasingly becoming popular as a place for the family. Here are some of the best gastronomic pubs in England.
The Hand & Flowers is another one of those pubs who have moved from merely serving alcohol to offering a full-course menu like a restaurant. This gastropub owes its present life to Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Beth Kerridge. Tom Kerridge is an accomplished chef while Beth keeps the customer service at top notch. After the gastropub upgraded its kitchen, Tom Kerridge has been dishing out dishes with much aplomb without changing the fare he’s been serving so far. The food is still at its best as Tom continues with his practice of using ingredients found in England and a down-to-earth approach towards the art of cooking. Customers can enjoy seasonal dishes at the Hand & Flowers like potted crab with cream, chutney with cucumber, slow-poached rabbit, cauliflower risotto and a sauce made of herbs for their caraway pastry. Desserts are also a fantastic fare as customers get treated to a layered mango and strawberry lasagne topped by a violet colored sherbet. For customers wishing to stay the night, there is four room cottage nearby for lodgings.
Anchor & Hope
One of the constantly highly rated gastropubs, Anchor & Hope has continually raised the bar among gastropubs in London. Most of the food found in the pub’s menu change according to the seasons as the kitchen uses mostly ingredients found in England. Its famous dishes include lamb shoulder and boulangerie potatoes , basil soup with bread, haster served in crab soup with aioli and aster. The servings are generous for two people and just right for four. For dessert, customers recommend their Beaujolais peaches. Like a normal pub, the Anchor & Hope serves the best drinks. Again customers have to check what brews are in season like damson gin and cask ales or wine. The establishment retained its furnishings from its days as a traditional pub so guests can expect that familiar pub atmosphere when they come dining.
Harwood Arms is a food critic’s darling. The restaurant serves traditional English dishes with a flourish so much so that a prolific food writer Jay Rayner mentioned that pub food never tasted this good. The star of this pub, Mike Robinson was a veteran of the Brett Graham & Berkshire pub before starting Harwood Arms in Fulham. His boldness and skill gave him the first ever gastropub that gained a Michelin star in London. Despite its newfound status, the Harwood Arms maintains its roots as a pub by maintaining the interiors of one. Chef Robinson’s Ledbury background has provided the rustic overtones of his cuisine without sacrificing inventiveness. Customers bent on dining there need to look out if their pheasant Kiev or their smoked trout garnished with leeks and wild sorrel and topped with salad cream are available. After a full course meal, diners can round out their taste buds with desserts like treacle tart with cream or rhubarb doughnuts topped with orange curd. Being a gastropub, Harwood Arms also has an extensive list of wines plus ale on tap.
The Fox & Anchor could be a curry shop right now if the Malmaison group had not stepped in. This pub has its historical significance in the neighborhood of the Smithfield Meat Market as the establishment had been serving the vendors in the area for more than a century. It’s classic Victorian style street front and its tiled interior had been saved in the process. The hotel group who took over promptly overhauled its operation by breathing life to its menu. Diners can enjoy casseroles made of lamb liver or mash potatoes and haddock as well as terrine made with potatoes and quail. Come Sunday time, the pub serves English comfort food with a lot of eggs in tow. The roast served on this particular day is a hit with customers in the area.
After a trip to the countryside of Rutland, travelers complete the experience with a visit to Olive Branch. Despite its unassuming appearance as a country pub, Olive Branch has a Michelin star under its name. And there’s nothing shabby about the local food being served here either. There are Lincolnshire sausages as well as spring greens coupled with servings of English mash. The small number of patrons come for the banoffee pudding and the grilled stuffed sea bass as well as for the chocolate roulade filled with black chocolate and topped with white choco ice cream. For a more full gustatory experience, people can stay over at their lodgings on a Saturday and stay over for the Sunday courses which include roasted beef ribs and Yorkshire pudding.
Brits wanting more of the old pubs they grew up with or the establishments that their grandfathers have memories are likely to check out traditional pubs like the Hinds Head Inn. Heston Blumenthal, proprietor of the Hinds Head, maintains the landmark structure for the benefit of the locals. This restaurant serves the food taverns used to serve. People who want a little more authenticity and ruddy rustic tones in their pub food can tray dishes like the oxtail pudding, or the steak served with bone-marrow sauce. This as far a throwback as a gastropub can get. The tab is reasonable and the staff are friendly. Any gaps that might be missing in visitor’s impression of the Hinds is best filled with ale and the wine selection.
This gastropub is worth every glimmer the images of its name inspires. The structure housing the pub and the bed & breakfast has been there since the 14th century hence its classic appeal. Service comes with the staff’s sunny dispositions. The kitchen serves seasonal local food and the menu for the day is always changing. It is best to check the blackboards to see the fare. Their servings are big and though the cuisine is modest, there is a layer of inventiveness in each dish. Diners can expect to eat black pudding, pigeon’s breast with salted beef hash and fish pie. There is a good wine list and a shady outdoor dining area where customers can dine under their fruit trees.
There is nothing quite like going to a tavern that feels like its on the far end of the world. This is exactly the appeal of the Sportsman, a pub located near the marsh at the edge of Seasalter. At first approach the pub looks weather-beaten and saltwashed. However those who forgive the exteriors are soon rewarded by an airy dining place lit up by coastal light as tables come to life through the wild flowers adorning them. Customers must try the the soda bread first, followed by pork scratchings and the lamb chop which came from a purely milk fed animal. Oysters are also part of the menu and one of the constant favorites. Since the menu is seasonal expect some surprises.
Chef Nigel Hayworth has created a niche for himself in Three Fishes, a gastropub which gets customers coming back for more of the Lancastrian dishes. Seats in this 40-seater restaurant are always in demand and the blackboard listing the people who are waiting to eat can get depressing. If there are any quibbles, the food erases them all. Customers love the dishes done in the locavore fashion. Their specialties include marrowfat peas, Gloucester Old Spot sausages made out of free-range animals. Deep-fried haddock, chips and tartar sauce are also served at this gastropub as well as desserts like tart and blackcurrants covered in a sauce made out of lemons and honey.
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