Britain's best gastropubs of 2020, revealed – and the top spot is in London...

Pip Sloan
Which pub has nabbed the coveted top spot?  - © Ian Hubball / Alamy Stock Photo

The UK pub scene may finally be on the up again; figures released last week revealed the overall number of pubs and bars rose by 315 last year, the first increase since 2007, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Britain’s thriving pub scene was celebrated by the Estrella Damm 50 Best Gastropubs list, published today. 

The list, compiled using hundreds of votes from food writers, critics and gastropub chefs, honours the very best eating and drinking establishments across the country.

In at the top spot, is London’s only Michelin-starred gastropub, The Harwood Arms in London, one of just seven London pubs to make it into the top 50. As well as attaining the highest position in the list, head chef Sally Abé also retained the 10-year-old  pub’s Michelin star last year. 

“In the past couple of years there’s been a shift away from super fine dining. People want to come in big groups and have a beer, to relax and not worry about the rules. For that reason, I think the gastropub has a bright future,” commented Abé prior to winning.

Telegraph columnist Stephen Harris’s Michelin-starred The Sportsman was pushed only one place down into second, after winning the accolade last year, for the third time. 

This year’s Highest Climber award went to The Angel at Hetton in Skipton, which rose 39 places from 50 to 11. Chef and owner Michael Wignall and his wife, Joanna, took over the pub in 2018, securing a Michelin star last year. 

From Cornwall to Cumbria via all manner of places in between, here is the Estrella Damm top 50 Gastropubs in full; take a look and see if your local features. 

20. The Boat Inn, Lichfield

A chic spot situated in historic Lichfield, this pub offers both an a la carte and tasting menu of modern British dishes; for example, Dorset crab with apple and kohlrabi, venison loin with beetroot and celeriac, and panna cotta with rhubarb ice cream.

 theboatinnlichfield.com

19. The Hardwick, Abergavenny 

Credit:  James Lewis

Slick decor and come-hither food... you'll want to make a return trip to the Hardwick. It's run by owner and chef Stephen Terry. There's an abundance of choice on his menus (terrines of pedigree Welsh pork, duck hash with fried egg) and a wine list to match.

 thehardwick.co.uk

18. The Crown at Burchetts Green, Berkshire

A family-run restaurant headed up by chef Simon Bonwick. Expect Loch Morar salmon tartare, venison “braised for ages and popped in a pie”, and an array of classic English desserts – treacle sponge “hot like when you were little”. 

thecrownburchettsgreen.com

17. The Fordwich Arms, Canterbury, Kent

Credit: Jeff Gilbert

A 'pukka, bells-and-whistles, ambitious modern British', according to Telegraph food critic Kathryn Flett. Run by 26-year-old chef Dan Smith, The Fordwich Arms received a Michelin-star in October, just 10 months after opening, and was named England's AA Restaurant of the Year in 2019. 

Read Kathryn Flett's full review here.

fordwicharms.co.uk

16. The Cornish Arms, Tavistock, Devon

 The Cornish Arms

A charming gastropub with real ales and a locally sourced Modern British menu, plus terrace garden. Classic menu options include Olde Cornish sausages with mash and onion gravy, slow-braised ox cheek, and plenty of fresh line-caught fish from the Devon coastline. 

thecornisharmstavistock.co.uk

15. The Rat Inn, Hexham

The rat inn

A former drovers’ inn, The Rat has the feel of a place where pork pie and pickled onions should be on the menu. The interior is all dark beams, flagstone floors, pine tables and classic pub knick-knacks: shelves lined with tankards and chamber pots hanging from the ceiling.

But for all its olde-worlde trappings, it is, in fact, a thoroughly modern beast, a gastropub from nose to tail. 

theratinn.com

14. The Marksman, London

The Marksman Hackney

The Marksman is first and foremost a pub for drinking, serving draught lagers, ales and spirits. The food is hearty and relaxed, with dishes including curried mutton, sourdough roti and tomato chutney and shoulder of ham, pickles and beer mustard. 

marksmanpublichouse.com

13. The Staith House, North Shields, Tyne and Wear

Staith House pub 

Food is where The Staith House has built its pub reputation. “Meat from the farm and fish from the sea” translates into a menu that alters daily – and often by the hour – depending on availability. 

thestaithhouse.co.uk

12. The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

The Hand and Flowers

Tom Kerridge’s pub The Hand & Flowers, which opened in 2005, is the only pub in the UK to hold two Michelin stars. On the menu at the moment, you'll find glazed omelette of smoked haddock and parmesan, bacon braised mushrooms on toast, loin of Cotswold venison, and a glorious-sounding milk toffee tart with ‘Old English Spice’. 

thehandandflowers.co.uk

11. The Angel at Hetton, Hetton

Another Michelin-starred affair, the 15th-century inn set in the heart of Yorkshire is helmed by chef Michael Wignall, who, along with his wife, ensures the gastropub remains known for its welcoming service and deep connection to the surrounding land, as well as the outstanding food. 

The pub offers a tempting a la carte or tasting menu, with dishes such as torched trout with purple radish and fennel, and aged fillet of beef with smoked potato.

 angelhetton.co.uk

10. The Guinea Grill, London

The Guinea is a Mayfair institution; there’s been an inn on the site since 1423. The Guinea Grill opened in 1952, and specialises in serving dry aged, grass-fed English and Scotch beef from an open grill. You’ll find a selection of Young’s Ales at the bar and a private dining room for up to 28 people. 

theguinea.co.uk

9. The White Swan at Fence, Lancashire

The White Swan at Fence, just outside Burnley in Lancashire, has picked up a Michelin star and two AA rosettes, though part of its charm is its relatively humble location, far from big city glitz.

Chef Tom Parker offers up sublime three-course a la carte, or a five-course taster menu; think simple but perfectly executed dishes like jacket potato stuffed with Lancashire cheese, chives and herring roe, and roast English quail. 

whiteswanatfence.co.uk

8. The Pony & Trap, Bristol

The Pony and Trap

Michelin-starred, with a field-to-fork ethos. The pub itself is 200 years old and is a hub for local drinkers as well as foodies who travel from all over for the tasting menu.

The pub is run by brother and sister Josh and Holly Eggleton, who source locally from the south west. There are Sunday roasts, but each dinner menu is designed shortly before service to utilise ingredients delivered fresh each day: expect delicacies such as house-cured goose ham, ewe's curd, venison and hazelnut choux buns to feature on the menu. 

Read a full review here.

theponyandtrap.co.uk

7. The Parkers Arms, Lancashire

The menus are based on seasonal and local ingredients. Hearty regional and global fare is cooked and served with flair. 

Lancashire venues have been amassing trophies of late. Two rural inns near the town of Clitheroe scooped the two top Pub of the Year awards in the Good Pub Guide, and Moor Hall was named National Restaurant of the Year in 2019 by Restaurant magazine's Estrella Damm awards.

parkersarms.co.uk

6. The Compasses Inn, Kent

Credit:  Christopher Pledger

The owners describe it as a "muddy wellies and fine food kind of place."

The pub was built in the 14th century, and retains many of its original features; an old flagstone floor, open inglenook fireplace and wooden beams. 

There's a mean Bloody Mary, and a focus on local breweries: expect dishes such as Chicksgrove beef and red wine macaronade with gremolata and buttered greens, and finish off with olive oil cake and marsala cream. thecompassescrundale.co.uk

5. The Coach, Buckinghamshire

Tom Kerridge's second Marlow outlet has a first-come-first-served policy so you can't book ahead, but it's more than worth chancing a visit for chicken kiev with cauliflower cheese, whole stuffed quail and chocolate and orange pudding. thecoachmarlow.co.uk

4. The Star at Harome, North Yorkshire

Credit:  Bailey Cooper Photography

A Telegraph writer described the menus as “punchy, robust yet skilfully balanced and as much about texture as taste.” 

Dishes on the tasting menu include dressed wild crab ‘stick’, grilled black pudding and pan-fried foie gras, North Sea monkfish with bonfire carrots, and a dark chocolate and white cherry ‘Magnum’. thestaratharome.co.uk

3. The Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire

Freemasons at Wiswell

A Ribble Valley pub listed as the number one pub in last year’s Good Food Guide. It serves fabulous food in cosy surroundings.

It's both country pub and shooting lodge. You can opt for a simple, nostalgic Sunday lunches of woodland mushroom soup and shepherd's pie, or seek out the indulgence of native lobster, duck pie baked in brioche and 100-day-aged beef on the a la carte menu. freemasonsatwiswell.com

2. The Sportsman, Kent

Stephen Harris and his wife, Emma at The Sportsman Credit:  Andrew Crowley

Telegraph columnist Stephen Harris's pub The Sportsman has retained a position in the top 10, achieving second place this year. 

The Sportsman was named gastropub of the year in 2015, 2016 and 2019. Described by its owner Harris as a "grotty rundown pub by the sea" the establishment was also crowned restaurant and gastropub of the year at the National Restaurant Awards in 2016 and 2017 and holds one Michelin star. thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk

1. The Harwood Arms, London

The harwood arms

Climbing from 5th place in 2019, Fulham's Michelin-starred pub is a collaboration between The Pot Kiln's chef and hunter Mike Robinson and The Ledbury's Brett Graham - their head chef Alex Harper turns out an exquisite set menu with specials chalked up on the blackboard. harwoodarms.com

Here are the top 50 gastropubs from 21-50

21. The Red Lion & Sun, London

22. The Drapers Arms, London

23. The Mariners by Paul Ainsworth, Cornwall 

24. The Pipe and Glass Inn, East Yorkshire

25. The Beehive, Berkshire

26. The Black Bull, Cumbria

27. The Olive Branch, Rutland

28. The Kentish Hare, Kent

29. The Unruly Pig, Suffolk

30. The Broad Chare, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

31. The Swan, Devon

32. Tim Allen’s Flitch of Bacon, Essex

33. St Tudy Inn, Cornwall

34. The White Horse, London

35. The Canton Arms, London

36. The Oxford Blue, Old Windsor

37. The Scran & Scallie, Edinburgh

38. The Anchor & Hope, London

39. The French House, London

40. The Longs Arms, Wiltshire

41. The Shibden Mill, Halifax

42. The Wild Rabbit, Chipping Norton

43. The Charlton Arms, Ludlow

44. The White Post, Dorset/Somerset

45. The Gunton Arms, Norfolk

46. The Royal Oak Paley Street, Berkshire

47. The Bell, Oxfordshire

48. The Cadeleigh Arms, Devon

49. The Dog at Wingham, Kent

50. The Five Bells Inn, Devon