Top 50 gastropubs 2020 revealed
Whose tripled-cooked chips have got them into the gastropub hall of fame? Roomy pants on, let’s tuck in because FOUR of Bucks & Oxon's foodie pubs made the grade.
This year’s competition for gastropub greatness has been hotter than a freshly fried, triple-cooked chip. After much scoffing, quaffing and deliberating the UK’s top foodies and pub pros have agreed on the best of the best – and we’re over the moon that four Bucks and Oxon names appear on Estrella Damm’s Top 50 Gastropubs 2020.
The top spot was taken by The Harwood Arms in Fulham, but the Bucks & Oxon fab four are below, all taking advantage of local, seasonal ingredients, offering outstanding plates of food in a relaxed, rural setting.
The Coach, Marlow (No. 5)
What they say: Tom Kerridge’s second site, The Coach, was 2016’s Highest New Entry on the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list and has maintained its position in the top five for a second year. Its food rivals high-end restaurants and was awarded a Bib Gourmand for exceptional cuisine at an affordable price by the Michelin Guide last year.
What we say: The fact that you can’t book at The Coach makes it an absolute gem for the locals who would otherwise have to battle it out with foodie tourists at The Hand and Flowers down the road. The vibe in this small 40 cover restaurant is buzzy, the room open-plan, and the menu a groovy mix of tapas-style plates that you can scoff with friends.
Try this: Crispy Pig’s Head with Rhubarb and Black Pudding, £9.50
The Hand and Flowers, Marlow (No. 12)
What they say: Tom Kerridge’s two Michelin-starred pub The Hand and Flowers has gone from strength to strength and remains a spectacle in the culinary world, visited by eager foodies from across the country. Long are the days when I ate the fixed lunch menu here for £15! Making every customer feel special as they walk through the pub’s door is the top agenda for the gastropub, along with giving friendly service and exceptional food and drink.
What we say: Book well in advance – it may well be months but it will be worth it. It’s not pub fare here it’s fine dining (you may guess that from the £50 mains) but the relaxed vibe and laid-back interiors stop The Hand and Flowers from feeling stuffy. Ideal for a special occasion.
Try this: Loin of Cotswold Venison with Caraway Glazed Beetroot, Pickled Quince Purée and Ragù Braised Chard, £43.50
The Wild Rabbit, Chipping Norton (No. 42)
What they say: This elegant Kingham inn, near Chipping Norton, is owned by Lady Bamford, who is also behind the Daylesford organic café, deli, cookery school and spa complex near the pub (no not literally, can you imagine Lady B serving your flat white?). The restaurant combines the traditional British country-dining scene with more modern, urban touches.
What we say: You can tell that the Daylesford touch is all over this restaurant-with-rooms – The Wild Rabbit is cozy Cotswold chic at its finest – you’ll love the sympathetic restoration of this handsome stone building, and the stylishly pared back interiors. If you can’t get a spot in the dining room, then the pub menu is equally brilliant.
Try this: Market garden squash risotto with sheep Rustler cheese, oyster mushroom, radish and parsley, £22.50
The Bell Inn, Langford (No. 47)
What they say: Peter Creed and Tom Noest brought the Bell back to life in 2017, imbuing the pub with a warm welcome and hearty, classic dishes. Critics, including Giles Coren, Tom Parker Bowles and Marina O’Loghlin have lauded the pub, with Coren saying (hopefully not with his mouth full): ‘Best mouthful of the year? Best mouthful of my life more like.’
What we say: The Bell Inn has an unfussy vibe and an elevated pub-grub menu. The mantra is local and seasonal, the dishes are inventive and the game is often shot by Peter himself. Plus, the location and eight bedrooms make it a great base for stomping about The Cotswolds.
Try this: Duck & prune pie, mash and greens for 2, £32
Headed over the border? Better make a reservation at one of these then!
The Crown, Burchetts Green
The Beehive, White Waltham
The Oxford Blue, Old Windsor
The Royal Oak Paley Street, Maidenhead
The Longs Arms, Bradford-on-Avon
See the full list of Top 50 gastropubs here