Tankards and tasting menus: Britain's best gastropubs

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The much-loved Parkers Arms in Clitheroe

Good news for everyone who gets irritated by London and cities getting all the attention for their restaurants. The announcement of the 50 best gastropubs in Britain was announced last night and just six are in the capital.

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Gastropubs are for many the best way to eat out – more relaxed, family-friendly and with drinks beyond a heftily-marked up wine list (although some on the the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs 2022 stretch the definition, it must be said, such as Tom Kerridge’s two-Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers).

But the winner is very firmly a pub with food rather than a restaurant that happens to be in a pub. The Unruly Pig near Woodbridge in Suffolk topped the list in an awards ceremony in Manchester, a year after finishing 10th and picking up the highest climber award. The gastropub was praised for its “seriously good, unfussy food” by the Telegraph’s restaurant critic William Sitwell in his review last year.

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Unruly Pig Chefs Dave Wall and Karl Green

The Unruly Pig’s win marks an impressive year for East Anglia, which saw five pubs reach the top 50. The top five was rounded off by stalwarts of the scene, all in either Lancashire or Yorkshire, marking continued success for the north of England. In August, for example, Lancashire’s Moor Hall picked up the Estrella Damm National Restaurant award, with four of the top five also in the north.

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The much-loved Parkers Arms in Clitheroe, Lancashire, a hotbed of the fancy pub scene, came second, while The Star Inn at Harome in Yorkshire finished third. Late last year, the Star Inn, run by Andrew Pern for the past 25 years, burnt down in dramatic scenes. On the pub’s website, Pern states that the pub is looking to reopen “in due course”.

The Unruly Pig, like many modern gastropubs, focuses on locally sourced seasonal menus, with a blend of pub classics and more restaurant-style dishes. At the awards, which left London this year and was held in Manchester (perhaps to reflect the growing influence of the north of England), the winning gastropub’s owner Brendan Padfield was delighted with the award. “For any UK gastropub this list is the gold standard. It’s the business. To be part of such a prestigious group is a huge honour and a very real privilege.

“There are some very famous chefs and talented operators here,” he continued. “For us to be a small part of this amazing list means so very much to all our team. They can rightly hold their heads up proud yet again as our listing is because of their dedication, loyalty and sheer graft.” Indeed, Sitwell’s review was particularly effusive in its praise of the Suffolk pub’s service, describing how “warm professionalism simmers at every turn.”

The Sportsman in Kent, a multiple former winner praised for owner Stephen Harris’s refined tasting menus – Alamy

Also in the top 10 were The Sportsman in Kent, a multiple former winner praised for owner Stephen Harris’s refined tasting menus and London’s highest placed gastropub was Mayfair’s The Guinea Grill – a huge favourite for its mixed grills and retro pies. Also a critic’s favourite is Canterbury’s The Fordwich Arms, which came in eighth, while Paul Ainsworth’s Cornish pub The Mariners, which the celebrity chef added to his portfolio quite recently, at nine.

The Top 50 Gastropubs list is in its 13th year, and uses a panel of more than 400 experts, including pub operators and critics, to establish its list. This year’s highest new entry was Adam Handling’s The Loch and The Tyne in Windsor, at 27. Other notable awards were London’s The Blue Boar winning one to watch, Dylans at The Kings Arms in St Albans picking up front of house team of the year, and The Princess of Shoreditch earning newcomer of the year.

“After a tough two years for the hospitality industry, we are thrilled to see such a strong list of contenders this year, including a new number on and several new entrants,” said Top 50 Gastropubs publisher Chris Lower. “I’m incredibly delighted for Brendan and everyone at The Unruly Pig to get the number one spot.”

The top 50

  1. The Unruly Pig, Woodbridge, Suffolk

  2. Parkers Arms, Clitheroe, Lancashire

  3. The Star Inn at Harome, Harome, North Yorkshire

  4. The Angel at Hetton, Hetton, North Yorkshire

  5. Freemasons at Wisell, Clitheroe, Lancashire

  6. The Sportsman, Whitstable, Kent

  7. The Guinea Grill, London

  8. The Fordwich Arms, Canterbury, Kent

  9. The Mariners, Rock, Cornwall

  10. The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

  11. The Beehive, White Waltham, Berkshire

  12. The Kentish Hare, Bidborough, Kent

  13. The Coach, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

  14. The Cornish Arms, Tavistock, Devon

  15. The Harwood Arms, London

  16. The Red Lion and Sun, London

  17. The Pyne Arms, Barnstaple, Devon

  18. The Rat Inn, Anick, Northumberland

  19. The Broad Chare, Newcastle Upon Tyne

  20. The Hardwick, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

  21. The Bull & Last, London

  22. The Masons Arms, Knowstone, Devon

  23. The Pipe and Glass, South Dalton, East Yorkshire

  24. The Longs Arms, South Wraxall, Wiltshire

  25. The Swan, Bampton, Devon

  26. The White Swan at Fence, Fence, Lancashire

  27. The Loch and The Tyne, Old Winsor, Berkshire

  28. The Duncombe Arms, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

  29. The French House, London

  30. The Moorcock, Norland Moor, West Yorkshire

  31. The Shibden Mill Inn, Shibden, West Yorkshire

  32. The Pack Horse, Hayfield, Derbyshire

  33. Heft, High Newton, Cumbria

  34. The Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon, Powys

  35. The Five Bells Inn, Cullompton, Devon

  36. St Kew Inn, Bodmin, Cornwall

  37. The Castle Inn, Castle Combe, Wiltshire

  38. The Canton Arms, London

  39. The Higher Buck, Waddington, Lancashire

  40. The Duck Inn, Pett Bottom, Kent

  41. The Hovingham Inn, Hovingham, North Yorkshire

  42. The Plough, Coton, Cambridgeshire

  43. The Three Hills, Bartlow, Cambridgeshire

  44. The Hind’s Head, Bray, Berkshire

  45. The Dog at Wingham, Wingham, Kent

  46. The Bell Inn, Langford, Oxfordshire

  47. The Black Bear Inn, Usk, Monmouthshire

  48. The Cadeleigh Arms, Tiverton, Devon

  49. The Bailiwick Free House, Egham, Surrey

  50. The Cross, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

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