A taste of things to come

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Related tags: Gastro pub, English cuisine, Public house, Michelin

Pub food is in the hands of innovative operators but what makes a good gastro pub? We ask the top industry experts The operator Nigel Haworth and...

Pub food is in the hands of innovative operators but what makes a good gastro pub? We ask the top industry experts

The operator

Nigel Haworth and his business partner, Craig Bancroft, own the award-winning Northcote Manor and launched their first gastro pub, the Three Fishes in Mitton, Lancashire, last September. The pair already have plans for several more pubs in the north

What is the future for gastro pubs?

The future is very bright because pubs with good food will always be successful. Pubs with a locally-generated food offering are very much the way forward.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to set up a gastro pub?

Think about the area in which your pub is located and then try to develop a food and beverage operation that has a natural synergy to the site.

What do you think of the term gastro pub?

I think the public perceive gastro pubs as a term that indicates a trendy pub doing interesting food. But gastronomy (gastro pub is the wrong term) is, in my opinion, a pub with good food reflecting the provenance and the region.

What do you think a good gastro pub should be about?

Definitely the local region and its produce.

What are your favourite gastro pubs?

My favourite three are the Angel Inn, Hetton, North Yorkshire, the Inn at Whitewell, Lancashire and the Star Inn, Harome, North Yorkshire. All three reflect what their region is all about and make a real effort to reflect a true local flavour.

What are your favourite gastro pub dishes?

Fish Pie at the Inn at Whitewell, Slow Cooked Lamb at the Angel and Braised Oxtail in Chump at the Star Inn.

Tony Halstead

The Michelin Guide editor

Derek Bulmer worked as a Michelin inspector before joining the editorial team. He is editor of Michelin's Eating Out in Pubs guide, as well as the GB & Ireland Michelin Guide to Hotels & Restaurants. We agreed not to publish his picture to preserve his anonymity

What impact do you think gastro pubs have had on the pub industry?

A general raising of standards and increased profitability resulting from a more even balance between wet and dry sales.

What do you enjoy about eating in gastro pubs?

More or less the same things our readers tell us they enjoy: the informality and flexibility plus the atmosphere and rustic charm ­ and the opportunity to drink real ale.

What do you think of the term gastro pub?

It's not a term we use particularly, but it is generally understood by people and does correctly describe pubs that put an emphasis on the food.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to set up a gastro pub?

Check first that there is a market for it in that particular area and be sure to provide the type of food that the locals would want. Small portions of highly elaborate food, however good, might not be a recipe for success in a rural community. Employ a good chef who understands and agrees with your aspirations.

What is the key to running a successful gastro pub?

Knowing your local market and providing consistently good food.

What are your favourite gastro pub dishes?

Homemade, freshly cooked traditional pub dishes such as steak and kidney pie, and sausage and mash.

What is the future for gastro pubs?

The future looks bright because gastro pubs provide an excellent vehicle for aspiring young chefs to become their boss and enjoy a better quality of life.

Jo Bruce

The pioneering chef

Heston Blumenthal, who has three Michelin stars ­ for his restaurant the Fat Duck in Bray ­ opened a gastro pub, the Hind's Head in Bray, Oxfordshire, last year

How do you define gastro pubs?

When I think of gastro pubs, I think of them less as places where you go to have a pint, and more as somewhere you go for a meal.

What is the secret to running a good gastro pub?

It's the little things, like making sure the glasses are cleaned and polished, that the butter on the table is actually spreadable, that the beer is in good condition and the wine isn't oxidised, that the corners of the windows are polished properly.

What are your favourite gastro pub dishes?

The sort of traditional English dishes on the Hind's Head menu, such as potted shrimps, Lancashire hotpot, oxtail and kidney pudding, and treacle tart.

What is your favourite gastro pub?

I went to quite a few in London when I was about to buy the Hind's Head but can't remember all their names. I enjoyed the Anchor and Hope in Waterloo very much. I liked the idea of sharing main courses between two, three, or four people. That's one of the things I'd like to try in time at the Hind's Head. Our trade is becoming eclectic and cosmopolitan enough to go for it.

Would you think of opening more gastro pubs?

We've still got a lot to achieve here, so it's too early to say really, but I think informal dining is certainly the future in this country.

What is the future for gastro pubs?

I still think that because of the cost of everything in London, chefs from gastronomic restaurants with Michelin stars and good press will take leases on pubs or go in with breweries somewhere in a rural area. It offers them a nice alternative, a much nicer way of life, and also a more affordable way to start their first business.

Mark Taylor

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