There’s nothing more satisfying, when it comes to eating out, than finding somewhere cosy and welcoming, and being served exciting, beautifully executed food. Don’t get me wrong – a cosy pub with average food can still make a great afternoon, and an enviably twee Instagram, but when there are so many fantastic places in the UK that can offer both, why not aim higher? The word ‘gastropub’ doesn’t do these meals justice. Read on for our pick of Britain’s greatest restaurants in a delightful pub setting… Expect relaxed and warm surroundings, stellar cuisine and cracking wine lists: the ultimate trifecta, as far as we’re concerned at Winerist, and a hard feat to achieve.
The Black Swan
Oldstead, York, North Yorkshire, YO61 4BL
We’ve spoken about this place before (here and here if you’re curious). It’s safe to say we love it, so let us rave again. Tommy Banks is Britain’s youngest Michelin-starred chef and is head chef at this rustic pub on the edge of the North Moors. His food is exceptional and the restaurant was voted the best in Britain on TripAdvisor. Granted, this is not often a useful tool for restaurant guidance, but we’re pretty convinced all the same. If you’ve still not been then make finding out for yourself an excuse to get up to God’s Own Country. You can thank us later.
The Treby Arms
Sparkwell, Plympton, PL7 5DD
This is fine dining meets South West hospitality, and the results are vibrantly fantastic. The Treby Arms is an inviting local in a small Devon village, but the real excitement comes in its culinary offering. The menu’s focus is on the best fresh and seasonable produce (not hard to source here), served in a rustic environment. The wine list is handily broken down into styles and there’s a lot to choose from, with most at modest prices (and a few big hitters in there for anyone wanting to make a real occasion of it). If gin’s more your thing then cast a glance towards their extensive garnish-matched list. There’s even a nicely priced set-lunch menu, for anyone who is planning on making their way through our whole selection…
The Hand and Flowers
126 West Street, Marlow, SL72BP
To not feature this landmark pub would have been at best unfair to them, and at worst unfair to you. Tom Kerridge’s Buckinghamshire restaurant earnt its first Michelin star in 2005 and snapped up another in 2012. This place is perfect: the atmosphere is convivial and welcoming, and the food excels in taking comfort and tradition to the extraordinary heights of precision. For a truly palate-stretching experience in a space that allows you to relax and enjoy yourself, make your way to Buckinghamshire. You’ll find out what the perfect chip tastes like. It’s also probably the only pub we know to feature any orange wine, let alone ten.
The Royal Oak
Paley Street, Littlefield Green, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 3JN
This pub is famous for several reasons – firstly, it’s part-owned by Michael Parkinson, secondly, his son Nick is the head chef, and won the restaurant a Michelin star. What’s more, just last year their sous-chef Craig Johnston won MasterChef the Professionals. Hopefully at least one of these facts should entice you to make the trip, but rest assured it will be well worth your trouble. They try to change the wine list as frequently as the chef’s menu here, which really excites us, so expect a lot of variation through the year! Oh, and Theresa May recently brought along French President, Emmanuel Macron, to show off the best of British dining. Who knows exactly what they discussed, but we know at least the food would’ve said enough.
Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 4BP
Stephen Harris’s seaside restaurant has held a Michelin star since 2008, and has plenty to boast about. Harris, however, keeps things relaxed, describing his vision as serving ‘good food in a relaxed and informal atmosphere’. Tick, tick, tick from us – but don’t let good undersell what are truly exceptionally turned out plates of food. Even the bread and butter is famously delicious – the team at the Sportsman make salt from nearby seawater and hand-churn the butter to serve alongside sumptuous soda bread. When this much effort goes into something so simple, you can be confident that the rest of the locally sourced ingredients will sing a fine tune. The wine list is classic and manageably extensive, with something for every taste.
Old Raglan Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP7 9AA
The exterior of The Hardwick is somewhat misleading: on approaching this pub in Abergavenny, you could be tempted to dismiss it as unassuming and average. Don’t let yourself be fooled. Food is high end and service is, naturally for Wales, affable. The Hardwick has been much lauded as the top restaurant in Wales, praise that is honestly and justifiably earnt. Local produce is again at the forefront of this menu, and is reasonably priced – a choice reflected in the wine list, too. I only wish I’d spent my year 9 geography field trip to Abergavenny here rather than outside in the rain.
The Lord Poulett Arms
Hinton-St-George, Somerset, TA17 8SE
This idyllic award-winning West Country pub is the perfect place to while away the hours settled next to a roaring open fire in winter or in its picturesque gardens during the summer. Charming is an understatement: the brick walls and 17th-century beams must have contained many cheerful afternoons and raucous evenings! Food is comforting but finely made, and the wine list extensive. Not to be missed.
Freemasons at Wiswell
Freemasons is situated in a beautiful village in the stunning Ribble Valley. Let the spectacular views and beautiful scenery be part of your reasons for going, but stay for the generously made and honestly refined dishes – a meal here is food for the soul as well as the stomach. This philosophy is replicated in the wine list, too, where the emphasis is on value at all price points. They have worked with MW, Miles Corish, for nearly two decades, and focus on smaller, quality producers. Prepare to be stunned.
Feeling inspired to try a little piece of England? Why not start with the wines? here are 16 top English sparkling wines that you need to be tasting right now…