Top 50 gastropubs 2021 revealed
What better week for the reveal of the country's best gastropubs than the start of lockdown easing? Here are the 15 West Country winners - phones at the ready to bag your table.
With the timing perfection of an expertly cooked fillet steak, along comes the list of the country’s finest gastropubs just when we’re itching to get some pub lunches, dinners and drinkies in the diary.
Oh, gastropubs, how we’ve missed you. We’re salivating over the thought of that pan-fried trout/crispy pork belly/stick toffee pudding, washed down with some fabulous vintage from the perfectly selected wine list.
In the spirit of the gift that keeps on giving, Estrella Damm has this year decided to name 100 pubs instead of the usual 50.
We’re delighted to find that there are seven West Country pubs in the top 50 and a further nine in the next best 50. After what has been the toughest year for many of the nation’s pubs, forced to shut their doors or reinvent themselves as farm shops and takeaways, we feel it’s ourduty to work our way around the cream of the local crop. The top spot was taken by The Sportsman in Kent, btw, with the other spots in the top five in Yorkshire, Lancashire and London.
So here they are, the wonderful West Country winners. Race you to the table…
The Mariners, Rock, Cornwall (no.5)
An astronomical rise of 18 places for husband-and-wife team Paul and Emma Ainsworth. The Mariners is the pair’s fifth site in North Cornwall with one of the best views in North Cornwall on the Camel Estuary. Go for eight tasty menu options, including À la Carte, Children, Collection, Cornish Cream Tea, Gluten-Free, Sunday Lunch, Vegan, and Vegetarian. Check out our Muddy review here and book in from 17 May.
The Cornish Arms, Tavistock, Devon (18)
A thriving gastro pub in the heart of town, so called as it was the last Coaching Inn before Cornwall. Dishes are unpretentious and great value (it also has a Bib Gourmand), and this is their well-deserved eighth consecutive year in the top 50.
The Longs Arms, South Wraxall, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts (no. 24)
Groaning under awards and numerous times a Michelin Bib Gourmand, this beautiful country pub serves up trad British grub, all homemade and home-smoked. Meat is sourced from Aubrey Allen – an ethical, welfare friendly supplier – so that’s another big fat Muddy tick. Looking to re-open Mon 17 May.
Pyne Arms, near Barnstaple, Devon (no.32)
A new one on the list and straight in at an impressive number 32 for this family-run destination pub in the foothills of Exmoor. Owners Ellis and Amie Pannell been getting a lotta gongs for the last few years, including Trencherman’s, Gold in Taste of the West and the Devon Life Food & Drink Awards. Expect locally sourced food with a modern twist, including everything from Sunday roast to speciality fish. Currently open for takeaway, back open on Tues 18 May.
Cadeleigh Arms, Cadeleigh near Tiverton, Devon (no.37)
It’s all go for Nick and Tina who in true ‘keep calm and carry on’ fashion have leapt up 10 points in the gastropub ranks since 2020. Ever aiming to showcase the best of the South West, the regularly changing local and sustainable menu includes old school favourites lovingly prepared, including Newlyn caught fish, Devon pork, Sunday roasts, and afternoon tea, along with options choice for littlies and vegans. Pop in for drinks and light bites from mid-April and the full nosh-up from Weds 19 May onwards.
The Masons Arms, Knowstone, Devon (no.44)
A Michelin-star holder for a whopping 15 years, The Masons Arms nabbed its place in the top 50 thanks to owners’ Mark and Sarah Dodson’s laser-eyed focus on local ingredients and creative presentation. And what a pretty spot it’s in – a thatched 13th century inn on the edge of Exmoor but with easy access from the Atlantic Highway too. Doors open from Weds 19 May with new opening times, Tuesday – Saturday.
The Swan Inn, Bampton, Devon (no.50)
A pretty, whitewashed pub in a historic town on the Somerset/Devon border, with a cabinet groaning under the weight of awards, run by husband-and-wife team Paul and Donna Berry (they also own Spelt just up the road). The pair more than make the most of their bucolic Exmoor location, promising – and delivering on – seasonal, regional ingredients, and top-notch customer service. Open for bookings from Mon 17 May.
The Kensington Arms, Redland, Bristol (no. 51)
The Kenny is a proper neighbourhood pub (searching property in Redland on Rightmove, right now), serving up a menu of no frills, new era pub grub, designed by head chef Oscar Davies and Josh Eggleton (Pony & Trap et al). Open from Weds 14 April on the terrace and from Weds 19 May inside.
The White Post, Rimpton, Somerset/Dorset borders (no. 52)
Equidistant between Yeovil and Sherborne, it’s more of a restaurant than a pub (though there is a bar and some leather club chairs and sofas for loafing). Straddling two counties, you can go with a friend and one of you can sit in Dorset and the other in Somerset. Try the 10-course tasting menu or Sunday roasts with five or six different roasts and revel in the far-reaching views across the countryside. A big Muddy thumbs up. Open from Mon 17 May.
The Five Bells Inn, Clyst Hydon, near Exeter, Devon (no. 59)
Award-winning fine dining as well as trad pub classics in a sleepy Devon village a few miles outside the throbbing metropolis that is Exeter. Run by husband and wife team James and Charlie Garnham, with head chef Charlotte Vincent serving up a fine dining/trad pub classics menu. Go girl! Read our review. Takeway service only until Mon 17 May.
The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor, Cornwall (no.66)
A real Muddy favourite on the West Penwith peninsula, about as far away from anywhere as it feels you can possibly be, with excellent food for both lunch and dinner, with plenty of outdoor space for a quiet drink while you watch the cows march past the front door on their way to be milked. Seafood and locally foraged ingredients are on the ever-changing seasonal menu. Read our review here. Open from Mon 12 April.
The Stargazy Inn, Port Isaac, Cornwall (no.71)
You’ll find the Stargazy Inn perched on the cliffs in Port Isaac looking out over the bay towards Tintagel, pretty much opposite Nathan Outlaw’s New Road. Seafood dishes on the lunch menu include a Cornish crab roll with gem lettuce, crispy leeks, radish salad and skinny fries, as well Fowey mussels, served with saffron, coconut, chilli, lemongrass and coriander. Open from Mon 12 April.
The Farmer’s Arms, Woolsery, near Bideford, Devon (no. 75)
Beautifully renovated village pub with a menu to match – pub classics and creative modern cookery, using produce from their 70-acre farm – and ace fish and chips to go. Side order of sticky, spicy chicken wings for me, please. Open from Mon 17 May.
The St Kew Inn, St Kew, Cornwall (no.78)
The address might say Bodmin, but it really isn’t – St Kew is a charming old village tucked into the beautiful countryside between the coast and the A39 and the pub is really just a village pub. The already good pub food has been lifted to the next level by woodfired chef, Andi Tuck. Dish highlights include ember-baked beetroot with whipped goats curd, wild chervil and burnt orange to start, followed by a cull Yaw ragu with lamb fat pagritta smoked old Winchester or Porthilly mussels with brown butter, sea greens, fries and sourdough. Open from Mon 12 April.
The White Lion Inn, Bourton, near Gillingham, Dorset (no 82)
Super friendly, rustic local pub – roaring fires, beams, stone floors – with a pretty, large beer garden, and a varied and imaginative menu utilising the best local produce. Combine with a trip to Stourhead gardens (it’s just two miles up the road). Open from Mon 12 April.