The emergence of gastro pubs is something that has been happening over an extended period of time. As early as the start of the 20th century publicans started to realize that in order to increase their trade they needed to attract a wider customer base from just working men, who would view the pub as a bawdy watering hole. Making a pub attractive to the whole family was now a priority, and one of the most obvious ways to do this was by incorporating a food menu. First of all, food was served over the bar, but in time this was replaced by separate dining areas for the paying customers.
This trend continued in the 20th and early 21st centuries and was helped by Government legislation. Firstly, the banning of smoking in public places has made it a more enjoyable experience eating in a bar, and secondly tighter drink driving laws meant that people needed to be attracted into pubs who were not going to consume alcohol.
The Sportsman bar located just outside of Whitstable in Kent is a great example of a modern gastro pub. The pub has been owned since 1999 by owner Stephen Harris and is situated on a site which has been occupied by an Inn since 1642. It was the first intention of the new owner to produce dishes from the local produce in the area. The area used to be farmed by the local monks and they were blessed with rich soils, plentiful game, a good climate plus an abundant supply of fish from the Thames estuary meeting the North Sea.
This has resulted in the pub producing simple but delicious dishes that earned the pub a Michelin Star in 2008. It has also won the Gastro pub of the Year award in both 2015 and 2016. This is quite remarkable as it is not an attractive pub and it has an awkward location to get to proving that people will travel to pubs if the food is worthy enough.
Another gastro pub with a growing reputation is the Glass and Pipe Inn in Beverley and Yorkshire. This pub is at the other end of the scale to the Sportsman bar, in terms of attractiveness. It has been superbly decorated by local interior designer David Bird with the original features in its beautiful natural surroundings give it a wow factor.
Real Yorkshire ales compliment the simple but tasty dishes that include both a vegetarian and children’s menu. The food is good enough to have earned the pub a Michelin Star and the local area is well represented with the produce that is cooked. In Britain’s multi-cultural society there is always great examples of ethnic food being available in and this is the case with gastro pubs. Eating at Hawkyns at the Crown Inn in Amersham, gives diners the opportunity to taste Michelin Stared Indian Cuisine.
The old coach house has now been refurbished and the chef in charge is the 32-year-old Ross Bott who learned his trade under the guidance of Atul Kochar the award winning Indian Chef. The setup is a little different with table top barbecues where diners can cook mini burgers. There are scallops, wood pigeon and even fish and chips on the menu but no of course presented in the traditional way.
There is no coincidence that the examples that have been used have been used have all been awarded a Michelin Star. Pub food has made tremendous strides over the last 25 years. Publicans have identified the need to diversify into the food market, and the most adventurous are reaping the rewards from customers whose tastes have modified in time.