Five of the best gastropubs…
And they're all in Berkshire! The Top 50 Gastropubs have been revealed – and our triple cooked chips stacked up very nicely.
We’re racking and stacking gastronomic greatness in Berkshire. Let’s be honest, we’re spoilt for choice – and probably a bit biased. But it would seem the pub pros totally agree. This week the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub Awards took place – celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of the great British pub that serves awesome grub. Organised by the Publican’s Morning Advertiser this is the shortlist that really matters in the gastropub world.
Berkshire has FIVE fantastic pubs in the Top 50 – The Beehive, White Waltham; The Crown, Burchetts Green, The Royal Oak Paley Street; and Heston enjoys double bubble with the The Hind’s Head and The Crown at Bray popping up this year. They all have quite a lot in common, each taking advantage of local, seasonal ingredients, offering outstanding plates of food in a relaxed, rural setting. And three of them have a shiny Michelin stars too. Have you tried them yet?
The Beehive, White Waltham
The Beehive, having retained its position in 7th place, is a real labour of love for Head chef and owner Dom Chapman whose mantra is ‘to feed you and make you happy’. Nestled in the tiny village of White Waltham, this is still very much a pub where as much attention has been lavished on the well-stocked bar as the sensational menu. The kitchen sources locally, but it also aims to represent what the UK’s larder. This means food from the country’s uplands and pastures, its meadows, woods, hedgerows, rivers and seas are all important parts of the menu. Having worked at The Royal Oak Paley Street and Heston’s Fat Duck and Hind’s Head, Dom is passionate about creating beautiful food in a real English pub. Whether you are popping in for a pint or hitting three course, you’ll always get a warm welcome and leave with a smile on your face.
Crown Burchetts Green, Maidenhead
Believe the hype! The Crown at Burchetts Green debuted in the Top 50 in 2016 and went on to be awarded a Michelin star . It has since gone from strength to strength, and is now ranked 11 in the list, Simon Bonwick’s French bourgeoisie cooking is certainly getting the attention of foodie pilgrims. While the small bar is filled with local drinkers, the two relaxed dining rooms is where the magic happens – showcasing seasonal dishes made with top notch UK and French ingredients. Having previously worked at Albert Roux’s Waterside Inn in Bray and Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers, the service is outstanding. Despite all well-deserved fuss about Simon’s food, The Crown maintains its status as a pub – with a resident ghost. The bar area is haunted by a small bearded man with a pony, who also enjoys pottering about in the gastropub’s cellars…
The Hind’s Head, Bray
The Hind’s Head in Bray is a Muddy fave and is sitting pretty in 23rd place. This one Michelin starred gastropub is more than Heston’s posh pub. Having undergone an expensive refurb the decor is as elegant and eclectic as the menu – merging classic British style and food with Heston’s Willy Wonka thinking, executed to perfection by new head chef Peter Gray. Pull up a chair for a cocktail in the cool Royal Lounge (venue for Prince Philip’s stag do), eat in the stylish, unpretentious restaurant (Princess Diana would eat here with Princes Williams and Harry) or throw your own private party in the dramatic Vicar’s Room. It’s very much a team effort and restaurant manager Nick Broderick – he worked with Rick Stein – is the man who brings it altogether. If you haven’t eaten here yet – try the 3-course £25 lunch menu. it’s a freaking bargain.
The Crown at Bray
Not one but two entries in the Top 50 Gastropubs, this time the down to earth Crown at Bray comes in at 43. It’s very much a pub serving proper pub grub with the Heston pizazz we all know and love. It was taken under Heston’s wing in 2010. and rumour has it, Charles II stopped off for a few beers when visiting his mistress Nell Gwyn .So much royal naughtiness happened in Bray. It’s pretty much always been a boozer apart from a brief hiatus as a bike shop. Now it has all the old world charm of an historic pub, with all the flare of a stylish gastropub, thanks to Head Chef Matt Larcombe’s fantastic, family-friendly food.
The Royal Oak Paley Street, Maidenhead
The Royal Oak Paley Street (a non mover at 45), located in leafy Littlefield Green near Maidenhead, is famously known as ‘Parky’s pub’. Although if you’re a Masterchef fan, you’ll also know it’s where winner Craig Johnston works his magic in the kitchen. This foodie destination’s picked up loads of awards including a Michelin star and three AA rosettes since it opened in 2001. So what makes it special? Well, punters love it for its unpretentious menu with old favourites cooked to perfection whether it be a classic steak or roast lamb. There’s a real emphasis on using seasonal, local ingredients wherever possible. Although pics of Parky interviewing some of his most famous guests line the walls, the Royal Oak is starting to step out rom his showbiz shadow. But don’t expect anyone to roll out the red carpet, it’s a place to relax and enjoy great food in good company.
And the good news doesn’t end there. Craig Johnston (the youngest Masterchef The Professionals winner in the show’s history) was named Gastropub Chef Of The Year and new kids on the butchers block, The Oxford Blue in Old Windsor, picked up Best Newcomer and One To Watch. Congratulations to Chef Stephen Ellis and his cracking team. Expect to them in the Top 50 Gastropubs next year.
See the full list of Top 50 Gastropubs here