Pubbiness of gastro sites is a winning recipe

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Greene king pub Beer Public house Michelin

Paul Charity: 'Gastropubs are the future'
Paul Charity: 'Gastropubs are the future'
It’s a decade since the first pub in the UK won a Michelin star for the quality of its food. Now there are 13 pubs — three new ones this year — that hold a prestigious star.

And last week the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the Greene King pub that Tom and Beth Kerridge have run for six years, achieved a new landmark in the history of pub food by becoming the first to be awarded two Michelin stars.

Aside from the 13 pubs with stars, there are now dozens that hold Bib Gourmands, the halfway mark to a full-blown Michelin star.
It still surprises me that some folk claim that the rise of pubs offering top quality food is a negative. Our own columnist Roger Protz argued in this magazine only recently that “gastropubs bring out the worst in people”.

I prefer to think that gastropubs simply bring out the worst in Roger — his very traditional and somewhat narrow belief that pubs should be preserved in a beer-infused aspic.

The hoary chestnut that invariably gets served up here is that these places have stopped being “proper” pubs and transferred into a category commonly known as — and here’s where your voice should drop down an octave and take on a gravelly tone of near-disgust — a restaurant.

I heard a useful definition of the difference between a pub and a restaurant recently. It’s a pub if you feel able to strike up a conversation with a stranger; it’s a restaurant if you feel you have to conform to the social norms around only talking to your companions and the staff.

Pubs serving great food — or gastropubs as they’re reluctantly tagged for want of a better term — are popular because there are vast swathes of people who don’t really enjoy the rigmarole of starchy restaurants.

You know the feeling you get in these places — that you are forever teetering on the precipice of making some outrageous social blunder around ordering the wrong wine, not leaving the right tip, wearing the wrong clothing, or appearing like a cheapskate by not consuming enough of the food at the upper end of the price scale.

Gastropubs hold enormous appeal because they hold fast, broadly, to the powerful democratic credentials of the pub. Tom and Beth Kerridge’s pub is typical. It might serve really exceptional food, but it also offers the appeal of a very traditional setting, with low ceilings, wooden beams and local beer on the pumps. And customers do not feel the need to dig out their best togs to get through the door.

Head chef Aaron Mullis says: “ It’s somewhere you can have the best food in the country, but sit in your T-shirt and flip-flops.” The price points are pretty sensible too — there’s a set price menu of £12.50 for two courses and £16.50 for three during the week to keep the place nice and full.

Tom himself knows that the pubbiness of the Hand & Flowers is at the heart of its appeal: “I love beer, I love pubs, I love being in pubs. Just to have a pub makes me very proud.”

What’s the problem, Rog?

Related topics Food trends

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