Fine food down at the local...

Source CC -

Ever since David Eyre and Mike Belben bought a run down pub called the Eagle on London's Farringdon Road in 1991 and started serving their robust, unpretentious home-cooking, the gastropub has developed into a fully fledged British dining institution. As a result you get all the cosy warmth and neighbourliness of a local pub with some great food, too.

Where once pubs had a limited range of food, if any, now most have a tasty menu on offer at reasonable prices, but gastropubs are the thoroughbreds of the genre. They offer an array of delicious, seasonal, fairly priced food, usually sourced from local suppliers and growers. The gastropub has created a new platform for some of the country's most talented and energetic chefs, determined to show that food doesn't have to be formal to be fabulous.

In 2001, the Stagg Inn in Titley became the first pub in Britain to win a coveted Michelin star, previously the domain of fine dining restaurants. Since then, several other pubs have also won Michelin acclaim. Food writer Diana Henry refers to the burgeoning gastropub movement as “the quiet revolution.”

The British pub has never looked so good, and British cooking has never tasted so good. Gastropubs, take a bow. Here is a small selection.

The Eagle
159 Farringdon Road, London EC1. Tel: 020 7837 1353
Think of gastropubs and you immediately think of comfortable sofas, mismatched tables and chairs, blackboard menus, assorted crockery, an on-view kitchen and simple, honest food at basic prices. All these things owe their origins to London's very first gastropub. Thirteen years on, the Eagle is still flying high, serving up its usual mix of peasant-based Italian-Spanish cooking including wild boar casserole with polenta, octopus stew, and grilled sardines. No bookings.

Anchor and Hope
36 The Cut, London SE1. Tel: 020 7928 9898
Salted finnan haddock with poached egg and mash; warm snail and bacon salad; mutton and barley stew; Bakewell tart…the Anchor & Hope is a joy to behold. Run by four partners who have served their time at the Eagle and St. John restaurant in Clerkenwell, the A & H brings integrity to the gastropub idiom with its schoolroom style tables, open kitchen, fair prices and excellent wines. There are no bookings, and a swag of glowing reviews means there is no shortage of people, so come early if you don't want to eat late.

Anglesea Arms
35 Wingate Road London W6. Tel: 020 8749 1291
If you want to savour the charms of a real neighbourhood pub, yet need to eat something a little stimulating, you've come to the right ‘local'. Tucked away in a leafy Shepherd's Bush side street, the Anglesea is a treasure. Chattering locals sit on soft couches around an open fire in the front bar, while hungrier types head for the back dining room for a warm salad of chicken livers or roast saddle of lamb with white beans from the big blackboard menu.

Duke of Cambridge
30 St. Peter's Street, London N1. Tel: 020 7395 3066
This Islington favourite was London's first organic gastropub. Along with is sister pub, the Crown in Victoria Park, it proudly carries the endorsement of the Soil Association. So along with all the usual gastropub trappings – the bare floorboards, the worn furniture, the relaxed clientele -- it also features an organic wine list, organic draught beers, organic meat and vegetables, and fish from environmentally friendly fisheries. Food runs from simple chicken liver bruschetta to home smoked lamb fillet with potato, aubergine and feta gratin.

Stagg Inn
Titley, near Kington, Herefordshire. Tel: 01544 230221.
Nicola and Steve Reynolds' popular village local was the first British pub to be awarded a Michelin star. While the regulars still call in for a pint of Town Crier or Old Henry beer, it's the restaurant that is the real star. Steve, who trained with Michel Roux at Le Gavroche makes the most of the mainly locally sourced ingredients, such as Herefordshire beef fillet with red wine sauce, Springfield chicken breast with potato fondant and Gressingham duck breast with rhubarb.

Walpole Arms
The Common, Itteringham, Norfolk. Tel 01263 587258.
With an ex-producer of a culinary TV programme and a respected wine merchant as owners, you would expect the emphasis to be of good eating and good drinking at this delightful pub in Norfolk's Bure Valley. Enjoy a plate of ale-braised faggots and a pint of local beer in the oak beamed 18th century bar, or try chef Andy Parles' Norfolk game terrine, bacon wrapped rabbit or duck confit in the 40-seat restaurant.

Lough Pool Inn
Sellack, Herefordshire. Tel: 01989 730236
This pub's pastoral location, the cosy log fire, the wooden bar, the ‘mind-your-head' oak beams make this the kind of place that makes you want to pack your bags and move to the English countryside. This explains the presence of one of London's best known chefs, Stephen Bull. These days, most of the cooking is done by Chris Leeton, but long time favourites such as his delicious haggis fritters still find their way onto the menu.

The Crooked Billet
Newlands Lane, Stoke Row, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Tel: 01491 681048.
Chosen as Best Sunday Lunch in the Observer newspaper's Food Monthly Awards, this character-laden, seventeenth century pub was a hugely popular choice, drawing its share of both locals and celebrities (Kate Winslet held her wedding reception here). Situated near the pretty Thames Valley, visitors can sample owner chef Paul Clerehugh's venison with haggis and roast figs and rump of lamb with parmesan polenta.

The Bell at Skenfrith
Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, Wales. Tel: 01600 750235.
Run by William and Janet Hutchings, this lovingly restored coaching inn has won a clutch of awards including the Wales Tourist Board's best place to stay (the rooms are gorgeous). It's an equally enjoyable place to eat, with food that is seasonal and locally sourced. Depending on the season, you might find pheasant daube, bramley apple tart, and halibut with crab and spring onion risotto. The wine list is extensive and offers good value.

Angel Inn
Hetton, North Yorkshire. Tel 01756 730263.
Located in a secluded Yorkshire Dales village, but that doesn't stop it getting busy most nights. The food has a lot to do with this, whether taken in the bar or the restaurant proper. Dishes run from sausages and mash to tomato and basil risotto, home-made black puddings and local farmhouse cheeses. Studio, cottage and suite accommodation is available in the Angel Barn lodgings.

Old Passage Inn
Passage Road, Arlingham, Gloucestershire. Tel 01452 740547.
This Victorian pub takes its name from its delightful position beside the lowest point where the Severn Estuary could be easily crossed. Its claim to fame is its seafood restaurant, overseen by Roux-trained Patrick Le Mesurier. Favourite dishes include the generous seafood platters, the assiette of home smoked salmon and salt-crusted line-caught sea bass. Non-fishy types can always order char-grilled Severn Vale Angus beef. Smartly appointed rooms with views over the Severn are a bonus.

Crinan Hotel
Crinan by Lochgilphead, Argyll, Scotland. Tel: 01546 830261.
Even if the Scottish seafood - including local lobster, wild salmon, mussels from Loch Craignish, clams from Loch Fyne and prawns from Corryvrecken - wasn't special, you'd still be drawn to this picturesque 20-bedroom waterside hotel situated on the Crinan Canal. The food from chef Ben Tish is very special, however, served up in two different restaurants, the Westward and Loch 16.

This article was kindly donated by Visit Britain.