The top British gastropubs
…and some of them happen to be in Wilts, with a whole lot more not too far away! Look, admire and – yeah, why not? – book the lot of 'em. Let's get lunching!
The annual Top 50 gastropubs list is out and guess what? Wilts has scooped three of ’em! Here’s our Muddy round-up.
The Longs Arms, Bradford on Avon
A beautiful country pub in South Wraxall, The Longs Arms serves fresh, seasonal food in a relaxed environment with friendly service. A real find, in our book. The pub has been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and won the Gastropub award in the Bath Life Awards 2016. Meat is sourced from Aubrey Allen – an ethical, welfare friendly supplier, so that’s another Muddy tick in our book.
The Beckford Arms, Gifford
Tradition and style run through the mortar that keeps the bricks of the Beckford Arms. A mere stiletto’s throw from Stonehenge and Salisbury, it’s worth the visit to witness the classic pub environment that comes alongside the seasonal menus. From whole suckling pigs to the pub’s own hams with piccalilli, dishes ooze with tradition but if you’re not looking for a pork pie and a pint, there are plenty of more refined dishes on offer. That’ll be us then, eh ladies?
The Pony and Trap, Chew Magna, Somerset
Is there such thing as the perfect country pub? If there is, then it’s likely to be the Pony and Trap. Brother and sister Josh and Holly Eggleton’s boozer has held a Michelin star since 2011, which is largely due to Josh’s devotion to British cooking and local produce. Josh has become something of a superstar recently, having appeared on BBC2’s Great British Menu alongside fellow Top 50 Gastropubs alumni Emily Watkins of the Kingham Plough, so it’s well worth a snoop.
OTHER WINNERS NEARBY
The Kingham Plough, Chipping Norton
The Oxfordshire Cotswolds is awash with classy rural pubs but this one takes the biccy. Owned by Emily Watkins and her husband and business partner Miles Lampson, the Kingham Plough in Oxfordshire combines gastronomic flare with regular crowd pleasers – I took the fam here a few years back for Sunday lunch and had a fantastic meal. The pub itself feels warm and inviting, and slightly quirky without upsetting the locals, and the lack of outdoor space doesn’t seem to put anyone off.
The Magdalen Arms, Oxford
Out of central Oxford and up the Iffley Road you’ll find students, trendy residents and the striking blue exterior of The Magdalen Arms. Mismatched tables, a locals pubby vibe and fantastic pub grub with, unusually, the menu changing twice a day and sometimes throughout the service. If you have teens or love dance, make sure you check out Pegasus Theatre around the corner. There’s a Supper Club between 5.30-6.30 Monday to Friday where you can pick up dinner and a drink for a tenner.
The Pointer, Brill
I’ve watched the quiet rise of this pub for some time, but 2017 was its breakthrough year, winning three AA Rosettes, The Muddy Award for Best Destination Pub 2017 and Michelin Pub of the Year 2018. The pub sits in the idyllic hilltop village of Brill, with its famous windmill. Choose a sunny day so you can make the most of the walking. There are now rooms where you can stay over.
The Beehive, nestled the tiny village of White Waltham. Having worked at The Royal Oak Paley Street and Heston’s Fat Duck and Hind’s Head, chef Dom is passionate about creating beautiful food in a real English pub.
The Crown at Burchetts Green debuted in the Top 50 in 2016 and went on to be awarded a Michelin star . Simon Bonwick previously worked at Albert Roux’s Waterside Inn in Bray and Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers so he’s quite handy in the kitchen. The Crown maintains its status as a pub – with a resident ghost!
The Hind’s Head in Bray is a Muddy fave and sitting pretty in 23rd place. This one Michelin starred gastropub is more than Heston’s posh pub. Having undergone an expensive refurb the decor is as elegant and eclectic as the menu – merging classic British style and food with Heston’s Willy Wonka thinking. If you haven’t eaten here yet – try the 3-course £25 lunch menu. it’s a freaking bargain.
The Crown at Bray – another gastro entry, another Heston and actually where I find the atmosphere more relaxed. Coming in at 43, it’s a pub serving proper pub grub with the Heston pizazz we all know and love.
The Royal Oak Paley Street (a non mover at 45), located in leafy Littlefield Green near Maidenhead, is famously known as ‘Parky’s pub’. Although if you’re a Masterchef fan, you’ll also know it’s where winner Craig Johnston works his magic in the kitchen. This foodie destination’s picked up loads of awards including a Michelin star and three AA rosettes since it opened in 2001. Unpretentious with little glimpses of TV glamour – catch the pics of Parky interviewing some of his most famous guests along the walls.
The Wellington Arms – sitting on the border of Hants and Berks with a rustic, down to earth offering.
The White Post – The only pub in the UK which straddles two borders, the White Post in Rimpton welcomes customers to dine in its award-winning restaurant while enjoying the far reaching views across the Dorset and Somerset countryside.