Kent pub takes the top spot again at Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

First place: the Sportsman has now been crowned the number one gastropub four times
First place: the Sportsman has now been crowned the number one gastropub four times
Michelin-starred Kent seaside pub the Sportsman has been awarded the coveted number one spot at the prestigious Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs.

The UK’s best pub chefs, many of whom hold Michelin stars, gathered today (28 January) at Lillibrooke Manor, Maidenhead, Berkshire, to celebrate their positions on the ultimate list of food pubs and to recognise 10 years of Top 50 Gastropubs.

Many of the pubs on the list have been firm features since Top 50 Gastropubs’ inception 10 years ago. This includes Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred the Star Inn at Harome, on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors, which ranked number one in 2017.

Kerridge has two pubs on this year’s list including the two Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers and the Coach, both in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

But the pub with the biggest gong was Stephen Harris’s Michelin-starred Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent, which topped the list for a fourth time, having graced the number one spot in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Harris is a self-taught chef who abandoned a high-flying career in the City to open his self-proclaimed “grotty boozer by the sea”.

The Sportsman sous chef Joe McMahan said: "[It was a] pleasure to win the award, we were hoping for top ten, really, but winning again is amazing. Gastropubs are really something that we need to keep going – so many pubs are closing down these days, we just want to keep people happy with food and drink at the same time.

“We’re a bit more of a laid back kitchen – we don’t have a head chef shouting all the time. I think a relaxed kitchen is a happy kitchen and when you’re happy you work better. It works for us.”

Awards received

The one Michelin-starred pub gives even the best restaurants (including those with more than one star) a run for their money.

Lancashire pub the Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe, headed by Steven Smith, rose one spot into the top three for the first time, having maintained a position among the top five for several years.

Awards for Front of House Team of the Year and Newcomer of the Year were awarded to the Punch Bowl Inn, Kendal, Cumbri,a and the Boat Inn, Lichfield, Staffordshire, respectively.

Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs editor Nicholas Robinson said: “Gastropubs are an example of everything that is great about the UK food and drink scene.

“It is something no one else in the world can do as well as we do in Britain. As a result, the pubs on the list are envied by so many because of the innovation and skill within them.

“Real gastropubs offer unique experiences while remaining focal points within communities. They are very special places to be.

“Gastropubs are unique for many reasons, mainly because they blur the lines between pubs and restaurants, yet maintain the charm and atmosphere of a traditional pub.”

Something phenomenal

Robinson added: “There’s something phenomenal happening in gastropubs up and down the country, they are growing and maintaining that growth where chains and other restaurants are failing.

“We see this every year on the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs, which provides hundreds of thousands of consumers with an idea of where to dine out wherever they are in the country.”

Publisher Chris Lowe outlined how the event has expanded over the years and how the evolution of the brand is represented digitally is helping consumers across the nation.

He said: “The list’s popularity has grown among consumers looking for great food in a relaxed environment.

“Last year, we added a feature on​ to help people find a gastropub near them and this year we are adding a booking engine from Quandoo to make the process to find and check availability even easier.

“This helps drive more people to experience the incredible cuisine those on the list create. We now have a tradition that one of the chefs from the list creates the awards menu and cooks on the day, making the event something really special to attend.

“We are delighted Tom Kerridge and his team are doing it this year on Top 50 Gastropubs’ 10th​ birthday.”

  1. The Sportsman, Seasalter, Kent
  2. The Coach, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
  3. Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe, Lancashire

Visit​ to see the full Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs 2019 list

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