Rejoice Brits! Your Pubs are Out-Classing the French!

When British author Virginia Woolf wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” she probably wasn’t referring to her home country. At the time, England was infamous for its boiled meat, cold toast and soggy peas – its recipes were ostracized from cookbooks and avoided by gourmets while, across the Channel, the French were revered for their culinary skills. But that was a century ago. What if we told you in 2010 Britain made 700 different kinds of cheeses – 100 more than France? Or that England is now on the global foodie radar – and not just for it’s gourmet restaurants (of which there are many).

No, it’s the iconic British pub (specifically gastropub) that’s helping English fare find it’s way into the hearts and stomachs of gastronomes everywhere. Gastropubs are essentially pubs on steroids: In addition to booze, these beloved locales serve dressed-up pub grub, and they’re taking London by storm. Chat with Nico, the guide of the Shoreditch Pub Crawl, and he’ll give you the lowdown – a revolution is happening. Gone are the days when your beer came accompanied by a suspect sausage and powdery potatoes. Nowadays you’ll find “killer mac ‘n’ cheese made with sublime English Cheddar” (at Bumpkin) and treacle cured smoked salmon with pickled apple, whisky and watercress (at The Harwood Arms). The following top 10 gastropubs in London have retained the charm of traditional taverns, but added a modern twist to classic dishes. Simply put, these spots are where the revolution is happening. And once you’re finished with the places mentioned here, we recommend Jennifer Earle’s Chelsea Chocolate Ecstasy Tour for dessert.

The Anchor & Hope
The Anchor & Hope
The Anchor & Hope: Specialties at this hot spot, where many tables are shared (cozy-style, wink wink) between parties, include English asparagus with sauce mousseline and buttered almonds, slow cooked lamb shoulder and gratin dauphinois, and buttermilk pudding with Bramley apple and salted caramel sauce. Two words: holy yum.

The Harwood Arms: With the goal of bringing a little countryside rusticity to busy Londoners, The Harwood Arms serves up the finest British produce in the form of, to name just a few delicacies, crispy duck egg with wild mushrooms, truffle and duck ham, Cornish halibut with potato dumplings, brown shrimp, carrots and stem ginger, and treacle ice cream with stout, chocolate malt and pear. At The Harwood Arms, you can rest assured the meat is of superior quality; it is sourced from various estates in the neighboring Berkshire.

The Fox & Anchor
The Fox & Anchor
Fox & Anchor: Their ham hock with parsley sauce is enough to make even the most parched mouth water, while the locally sourced sausages served at breakfast simply leave one craving, well, breakfast again. The Fox & Anchor is part country-inn-in-the-heart-of-London and part gastropub that lures in guests with its period charm: original Victorian wood paneling, mirrors and tiles create a unique and welcoming atmosphere that nobody should miss.

The Holly Bush: Untouched by the trials and tribulations of the modern world, The Holly Bush is the place to go for a meal with equal parts top-notch ambiance and delicious food. An emphasis on seasonal cooking means the menu changes rhythmically, but highlights have included sausage roll with jalapeno ketchup (a dish that demonstrates just how The Holly Bush enlivens traditional cuisine) and hot smoked salmon nicoise salad topped with crispy quail’s eggs.

Crabtree: Set on the bank of the river Thames, the Crabtree boasts a large garden (equipped with a beautiful weeping willow), pub, and a killer BBQ. Here you can enjoy classics like bratwurst with caramelized onions, curry mayo, and fries, or grilled salmon with potato salad and salsa rossa. On a sunny day, this is the place to be.

The Narrow is one of Gordon Ramsay’s venues, and, as such, it is home to some of the best British dining. Fresh cuts, fish of the day, and dressed-up classics like grilled Dingley Dell pork cutlet with crushed peas and red pepper relish, as well as Eton Mess with English raspberries and strawberries are chalked up daily on a blackboard in the dining room, bringing a sense of incredible freshness.

The Grazing Goat – This gastropub’s name refers to what the land it rests on was once used for: goat rearing. On offer are plates of house-cured charcuterie and outdoor-reared Hampshire pork chop with apple sauce and crackling. Food aside, the ambiance is notable, too: in keeping with its fresh-is-best theme, The Grazing Goat is painted a sort of ice-blue, and decorated with faded wooden furniture, antler chandeliers, and scattered homely paintings. Nestled by the large roaring fire with a bowl of their broccoli and stilton soup in hand, one is sure to feel relaxed and rejuvenated in no time.

The Garrison – Several aspects of The Garrison make it a must-visit. First, one table – table 16, to be exact – has drawers that, over the years, diners have been filling with doodles, confessions, and full-on narratives. Second, a man delivers potatoes twice a week, and its with these that the gastropub makes its trusty chips. Third, there’s a hidden cinema room that looks like a garden-shed-cum-country-cottage, and it can be rented out privately for any occasion, be it a knitting class, work meeting, or good ol’ catch-up-with-friends time. Menu highlights include, but are most definitely not limited to, sausage-stuffed chicken breast with tarragon butter carrots and brown bread sauce, and caramelized onion tart with a soft poached egg and wild mushroom ragu.

The Gun
The Gun

The Gun
 gained popularity 250 years ago when it first opened its doors and sailors frequented looking for drinks. Today the venue attracts, well, anybody who enjoys a good drink. But it also entices those looking for anything but run-of-the-mill food. Be sure to try the herb-crusted Peterhead cod with peas, broad beans, smoked bacon and pearl onions. Also be sure to check out the spy-hole in the secret circular staircase that smugglers used to watch out for “The Revenue Men.” Great food, and great history alike.

Bumpkin prides itself on scouring all corners of England to bring its patrons the finest of the fine in produce, and once that ethically sourced fodder is in hand, chefs take to slicing and dicing it in the renowned gastropub’s open-plan kitchens. Clearly, honesty is paramount here. From Cow Pie “made with the best British beef” to fish and (skin-on) chips, Bumpkin will guarantee you a meal well done.

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