Influential, inspirational and now completely indispensable the gastro pub has transformed the British boozer. Rosie Davenport leads off a special edition looking at one of the most important trends to have hit the pub scene in recent years
Marks & Spencer, Michelin and even Manhattan are tapping into the success of the British gastro pub. The standard bearers for good food in pubs across the UK (and now, too, in New York, thanks to the arrival of the Spotted Pig), gastros have fused the bestelements of a restaurant with all that a great pub has to offer.
The late Denis Watkins was responsible for one significant milestone on the road to better pub food when he started a revival in quality pub food at the Angel in Hetton in the mid '80s. A second leap came 14 years ago when the Eagle landed in London's Farringdon Road.
Although the Eagle wasn't the first pub to take food seriously, it was the first boozer to be spruced up and turned into a top-class dining experience. And it's still one of the country's best (as our poll of more than 150 gastro operators and food experts reveals on p37).
It's not just the face of pubs that have changed since the arrival of gastro pubs. The restaurant scene has also borrowed some of the gastro pubs' simple, no-nonsense approach to food. And many top London chefs have been bitten so hard by the gastro bug that they've quit running restaurants all together to open a pub.
Whether you're a licensee wanting to capitalise on a phenomenon that the ubiquitous Michelin decided to hone in on with its first dedicated guide last year, or an operator already achieving acclaim, the buzz and excitement beinggenerated around gastro pubs offers benefits to everyone in the trade.
With shoppers now able to buy gastro pub-inspired ready-meals in their local Marks & Spencer, it's time to celebrate part of the trade that's giving pubs a new benchmark of quality.
The coming pages are dedicated to a movement that has sparked a renaissance in pub culture and bought many consumers back to the bar.