Carter, talking to the Publican’s Morning Advertiser following the publishing of the 2015 edition of the guide on Monday (8 September), said that the UK eating-out environment was as vibrant as ever, and that pubs were at the “forefront” of the latest food trends.
“Pubs are a central part of a very strong movement, and the UK’s top chefs really take pubs seriously now – you only have to look at Dominic Chapman taking on the Beehive [in White Waltham, Berkshire] and Nathan Outlaw, who has recently teamed up with Sharp’s to open the Mariners Rock [in Rock, Cornwall],” explained Carter.
“However, I would just like to see more pubs research and bring out updated versions of old local dishes in the same way that Heston Blumenthal has done. It keeps them rooted to their area,” she added.
With vegetarian options, Carter believed too many pubs were offering a “token” dish rather than fully embracing the rise of vegetable-only dishes.
“You look at places like the Grain Store [in Kings Cross, London] that puts vegetables at the heart of a meal, and the vegetable-only dishes being served up by Simon Rogan at L’Enclume [in Cartmel, Cumbria], and you would hope that such ideas start to trickle down to pubs,” suggested Carter.
“It’s not just vegetarians who are ordering these dishes – they are a great option for people who want a light option. I think pubs need to think harder about that single vegetarian dish.”
More positively, Carter said kimchi – a Korean side dish made of vegetables – was starting to prove popular in pubs.
However, she added: “I don’t want to see beetroot and goat’s cheese ever again – it’s everywhere and I’m tired of it!”
She urged pub caterers to capitalise on the popularity of game. “There seems to be a lot of grouse in particular on menus at the moment. I just can’t think of anything better than going to a country pub and having game – it’s the perfect combination,” Carter explained.
Top 50 Pubs
Her views come on the back a Top 50 Pubs list being published in the guide for the first time, complementing the returning Top 50 Restaurants List.
The Freemasons at Wiswell, in Lancashire tops the list, followed by the Hand & Flowers, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire in second and the Red Lion, in East Chisenbury, Wiltshire third.
Carter said: “It was in our minds to compile a pub top 50 for a couple of years now, and we thought our first year with Waitrose was a perfect time to start it.
“The scoring system was exactly the same as with restaurants. We announced the Freemasons had received a seven (out of 10) because it was the first pub to have achieved that score. I’ve no reason to believe pubs won’t one day score even higher.”
L’Enclume, number one in the Top 50 restaurant list, received 10 out of 10, along with the Fat Duck, and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London.
When it came to fine-dining, Carter said the market had become more “democratised”, in that more ‘ordinary’ people were now “saving up to visit high-end restaurants a few times a year”.