With lockdown restrictions easing from May 17 and many of us planning to book a table inside a pub after weeks of bundling up in blankets in their gardens, we must admit we can't wait to sit down and tuck into food from some of London's finest gastropubs.
Despite the fact we're edging ever closer to summer, the grey skies and rain we've had in recent weeks has us itching to swap picnics in the park with friends for roast dinners dripping in gravy and laden with potatoes over copious bottles of wine near an open fire. After all, we've got to make up for lost time in January when the closest we got to a gastropub roast dinner was a bag of carrots from Waitrose due to restrictions.
The legacy of the public house in Britain spans over 2,000 years, but the emergence of the gastropub is something of a more recent phenomenon. And so begs the question, what exactly is the difference between the humble pub and its vamped-up variant?
Well, as its prefix might suggest, the gastropub's main differentiating element is its focus on serving top-quality food, often with a seasonal menu determined by local ingredients. Gastropubs tend to bridge the gap between the homely comfort of a traditional pub and the more refined dining experience of a restaurant.
With everybody seeking something slightly different from their pub dinner - whether it be a substantial selection of ale or a meat-filled menu - we’ve narrowed it down to the very best that London has to offer.
Elasticated waistbands at the ready!
A pub and restaurant in Chelsea, just a short walk from the Kings Road, The Hollywood Arms is ready to welcome its diners back in through its doors and offer up some a Bloody Mary come Sunday morning and a roast come the afternoon.
For starters, we suggest choosing the chicken liver parfait and celeriac soup or sharing a baked Cornish camembert served with red and white chicory and sourdough. For the main course (served with Goose fat roast potatoes, honey glazed carrots, savoy cabbage, gravy and Yorkshire puddings, of course) it has to be the 28-day aged Angus Striploin and slow cooked beef blade or the butternut squash, spinach, fennel and chickpea bake.
Location: 45 Hollywood Road, Chelsea, SW10 9HX
2 - The Harwood Arms
Currently the only London pub awarded with a Michelin star, The Harwood Arms seamlessly pairs elegant food with a relaxed, comfortable setting. Directed by Brett Graham (of the double Michelin star Notting Hill-located restaurant The Ledbury), sustainability lies at the heart of this gastropub’s success, as they champion the very best of British produce.
The seasonal menu changes regularly, but returning favourites include whipped chicken liver with thyme hobnobs and onion jam and roast fallow deer with beetroot, blackcurrant and smoked bone marrow. With an extensive wine list featuring the finest Chablis, Riojas and Sauvignon Blancs, you will have no trouble at all finding a suitable accompaniment for your meal.
If you’re still unsure about the gastropub experience, this will be the place to convert you.
Location: Walham Grove, Fulham, SW6 1QP
3 - The Orange
With cosy, open fire places and rustic framed chalk boards, this sophisticated food hub has everything you could hope for in a Belgravia-based gastropub. Their menu ranges from grass-fed rib eye steak to wood fired pizza and all dishes are prepared using local ingredients.
Escape to the countryside (or at least pretend to) by staying the night in one of their beautiful boutique bedrooms upstairs, and extend your experience to breakfast the following morning with brioche French toast with blueberry compote or baked eggs in spinach, feta & chilli.
Location: 37-39 Pimlico Rd, Belgravia, SW1W 8NE
This south London gastropub is a meat eaters dream, with everything from slow roast rabbit leg and dry-aged pork to barbecued lamb breast and Hereford onglet on the menu. Owned by the team behind the renowned Anchor & Hope (keep reading for more about that), The Camberwell Arms offers a thoughtfully simple range of seasonally-determined dishes that are hearty and full of flavour.
With dark crimson walls, vintage chandeliers and a wood-panelled bar, this place instantly creates a comforting atmosphere that can only be achieved by a quintessentially British pub. The is the perfect setting for a catch up with friends, a family celebration or those times when you just can't be bothered to cook at home.
Location: 65 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell, SE5 8TR
This dog-friendly neighbourhood pub provides Londoners with a true taste of the countryside. The ever-changing menu offers a diverse range of seafood as well as the more traditional, meaty gastropub delights, not to mention the appealing (and often overlooked) veggie options like butternut squash gnocchi and wild mushroom wellington.
With only 14 indoor tables, make sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment, especially if you’re visiting on a Sunday for one of their rightfully famed roast dinners.
Location: 25 North Road, Highgate Village, N6 4BE
With a name that references Sir John Stuart, the Count of Maida who overcame Napoleonic forces in Italy in 1806 (who knew, right?), this age-old pub is a favourite among locals, serving an Anglo-French menu under the directorship of chef Henry Harris.
This gastropub gem offer an impressive selection of keg beers and ales as well as a menu boasting everything from steak tartare to Cornish hake. Interior designer Liana Braune has mastered the balance of elegance and tradition with dusty blue half-panelled walls, antique mirrors and a charming retro picture wall.
And whatever you do, make sure to save space for the mouth-watering desserts such as the Maida Mess and crème caramel. *Mops up drool*.
Location: 55 Shirland Rd, Maida Vale, W9 2JD
7 – Marksman
This gastropub subverts all expectations, serving up experimental dishes that blur the line between pub grub and fine dining. Co-owned by Jon Rotherham and Tom Harris, Marksman celebrates locally brewed beer and seasonal ingredients, with dishes like pressed pig’s head (yes, that's a thing) and devilled cuttlefish on offer.
While the upstairs dining room is decorated in a slick Scandinavian-inspired style, the varnished-wood bar downstairs is much more in line with traditional pub interiors.
If you’re a foodie looking for a contemporary take on traditional British dining, this is the place for you.
Location: 254 Hackney Road, Shoreditch, E2 7SJ
8 – The Guinea Grill
When The Guinea Grill first opened in 1952, it was probably one of a dozen similar establishments in the area. Now it has become a unique London heirloom, preserving the spirit of vintage Mayfair. Specialising in beef and award-winning pies, this old-school pub will fail to disappoint those craving authentic, good-quality British produce.
The staff are experienced and friendly in this charmingly compact pub which has received the stamp of approval from the likes of Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby and Graham Norton (their autographs quirkily adorn the bathroom walls).
Cosy Sunday afternoons indoors never sounded so good.
Location: 30 Bruton Place, Mayfair, W1J 6NL
Arguably the most famous gastropub in the capital, this relaxed yet lively destination is a long-tanding favourite among locals and tourists alike. Seasonal ingredients dominate the Mediterranean-inspired menu, which changes on a daily basis. For starters, expect anything from snail and bacon kebabs to steamed razor clams and for main course, the roast wood pigeon and seven-hour lamb neck are particularly popular.
The only downside to this place is the no reservations policy, so make sure to get there early to guarantee a table!
Location: 36 The Cut, Waterloo, SE1 8LP
10 - Three Cranes
Tucked around the corner from St. Paul's, this independent gastropub can be found inside a Georgian townhouse fitted with oak-panelled interiors that might as well be an unspoken requirement for any truly authentic British tavern.
The menu is pared-back yet balanced, with options ranging from chicken and avocado salad to steak and ale pie. Perfect for long work lunches or evening drinks, Three Cranes offers a selection of ales and draught beers as well as an internationally-sourced wine list that is sure to cater to all tastebuds.
Location: 28 Garlick Hill, The City, EC4V 2BA
11 - The Bolingbroke
Striped canopy exteriors and airy, foliage-adorned interiors, this elegant gastropub is picture perfect and the same can be said for its food. Popular for its sharing plates - think scotch eggs, halloumi fries and cured beef carpaccio - the menu here is suitable for everyone in the family (and yes, even those picky eaters).
Although part of the Three Cheers pub group, The Bolingbroke retains its unique and irresistibly laid-back ambience that returning guests have come to know all too well. Whether it's a quick bite to eat or a casual Sunday lunch you're after, this Wandsworth offering is not to be missed.
Location: 174 Northcote Road, Battersea, SW11 6RE
12 - Marquess Tavern
This hidden Islington gem is a foodie’s dream, with a varied menu that features gastropub classics alongside international dishes such as chickpea dahl, seafood linguini and tofu pad thai.
Mismatched furniture, low-hanging light furnishings and a horseshoe bar characterise this quirky yet unassuming establishment. This is a straightforward and fuss free option, perfect for those wanting to enjoy delicious, multicultural food in a comfortable setting.
Location: 32 Canonbury Street, Islington, N1 2TB
13 - The Thomas Cubitt
Positioned in the heart of Belgravia, this picturesque gastropub is known across the capital for its vibrant atmosphere and friendly staff. With a Coravin wine system, (which enables its owners to offer wine from any bottle and save the rest for years without worrying it’ll go off), this gastropub prioritises offering remarkable vinos by the glass, as well as a broad selection of cocktails, beers, ales and lagers.
Meanwhile the food menu champions the very best of what Britain has to offer, with sustainable and locally sourced ingredients that are fundamental to the company's success. Dry-aged beef burgers and pan-fried hake are listed alongside more experimental offerings like nettle gnocchi with pickled lemon.
This is the ideal location for post-work drinks with friends or a lively evening meal.
Location: 44 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, SW1W 9PA
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