Food & Culture

Best of Britain: the UK’s top 10 pubs

Where to find the best pub fare.

Whether you're after a great gastropub meal in the beer garden, or hearty Sunday roast next to the crackling fire, GT has rounded up the very best of Britain's vibrant pub scene. With Etihad Airways now offering more weekly flights between Australia and Britain than ever before, planning the perfect trip has never been easier.

1. The Half Moon, London

Following a four-year closure due to flood damage, Herne Hill treasure The Half Moon is back in business. The refit signalled a new chapter for the pub, a former Victorian boozer known for its live music scene. The addition of 12 boutique guestrooms, a contemporary dining room and spruced-up beer garden has resulted in a more sophisticated feel for the venue, making it the perfect place to recharge over a pint after a long-haul flight.
Head chef Mike Blizzard's menu is an elevated take on classic pub fodder, and includes takes on original Half Moon favourites. Keep an eye on the chef's specials – Blizzard's most daring dishes. 10 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, London, halfmoonhernehill.co.uk

2. Three Tuns Freehouse, Wiltshire

Comfort food doesn't get much better than the menu offerings at this Great Bedwyn favourite. Returning to his hometown after a successful stint on the London restaurant circuit, chef James Wilsey and wife Ashley took over the country pub in 2012, fine-tuning the inn's old-world charm with a design upgrade and menu refresh.
Make sure you come with room for the house-smoked barbecue goat mac 'n' cheese or Lincolnshire sausage Scotch egg with celeriac remoulade and pork crackling. Buzzing with locals come Friday and Saturday nights; go for the dog-friendly beer garden in summer and the roaring fireplace throughout winter. 1 High St Great Bedwyn, Marlborough, Wiltshire, tunsfreehouse.com

3. The Mayflower, Lymington

If you're seeking a sea change, head through the back gate of The Mayflower and take a seat at one of its wooden picnic tables. Soak in south-coast views while snacking on fish goujons and tomato tagliatelle paired with a crisp Viognier from the bar's generous wine list. Naturally there's a gin menu, too.
If you're after something a little more substantial, make your way inside to the recently reworked main bar which extends out to a swanky new terrace. Here, a separate menu ups the ante, showing off house-made starters and fresh fish dishes.
Why not call it a night and book into one of the pub's six nautically themed rooms? Each space is beautifully realised – coated in soft blues and whites – and is rich in small-town charm: rooms come with a batch of homemade shortbread and fresh milk is delivered every morning. King's Saltern Rd, Lymington, Hampshire, themayflowerlymington.co.uk

4. The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall

Along one of the UK's most dramatic coastlines sits The Gurnard's Head. Located halfway along South West Coastal Path between St Ives and St Just, its sunshine yellow facade makes it hard to miss. While a sleepy house dog and crackling fireplace make you feel at home, there's no overlooking the inn's appreciation for the finer things. Original artworks hang on granite walls, brightly painted bedrooms feature jam jars of fresh flowers and its seasonal menu is clever, to-the-point and perfectly executed. Don't miss head chef Max Wilson's speciality of crab macaroni or Gurnard's well-valued wine list. The Gurnards Head, Nr Zennor, St. Ives, Cornwall, gurnardshead.co.uk

5. Stackpole Inn

Only a couple kilometres back from the sea along the Pembrokeshire coast, Stockpole Inn makes for a peaceful seaside weekender or lunch destination. With snug interiors (the inn was converted from the village post office in the 1980s) and picnic benches on the front lawn, diners can enjoy Stackpole's fresh seafood offerings year-round. While the menu is ever-changing, chef favourites include deep-fried whitebait, traditional lamb cawl with Welsh cheddar and bread, and elderflower sorbet.
Those checking in will be shown to impressive bedrooms in coastal palettes with stripped floors and elegant bathrooms. Stop by on a Sunday for a traditional roast lunch and be sure to try the inn's guest Welsh ale of the week. Jasons Corner, Stackpole Nr Pembroke, stackpoleinn.co.uk

6. Cawdor Tavern, Nairn

Literature fans have long been visiting Cawdor Tavern for its historic connection to nearby Cawdor Castle of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The tavern's bar walls are lined with oak panelling from the Cawdor Castle dining room — a gift from the former Laird. Original finishes and traditional decor give the tavern an authentic Scottish feel, that's further celebrated through Cawdor's focus on fresh produce, well-kept Orkney ales and a fine collection of malt whiskies. Cawdor, Nairn, cawdortavern.co.uk

7. The Three Oaks, Gerrards Cross

Just a 25-minute drive west from London, The Three Oaks is a Sunday lunch favourite. Meats come from the Queen's butcher Aubrey Allen and are modestly priced, while the wine list includes unfussy, old-school gems such as Delamotte Champagne and new-found local ales—sample one, or many (and catch an Uber back to the hotel); the choice is yours. That's the beauty of being on holiday and flying with an airline like Etihad Airways that allows you to tailor your trip from the get-go.
The menu features seasonal spins on traditional pub fare; think cheesy cauliflower soup with pear caramel and parmesan croutons, and guinea fowl Kiev with roast garlic mash and wild mushrooms. Austenwood Ln, Chalfont St Peter, Gerrards Cross, thethreeoaksgx.co.uk

8. Galvin Green Man, Essex

The brothers behind London's Galvin Bistrot de Luxe and Galvin La Chapelle have returned home to Essex to take over one of the country's oldest pubs — 1481-built The Green Man. Chris and Jeff Galvin have built their reputations on award-winning French cuisine in London and Edinburgh. Now the duo are offering Essex locals classic pub dishes which a French twist and a focus on locally sourced ingredients. Menu highlights include venison "French Pie" with parsnip puree and tender-stem broccoli, and beef and bacon burger with smoked cheddar and roast-onion mayo.
The food isn't the only thing that's new; the venue itself has received a $6m update and features a bright glass-roofed dining room that feels modern but that doesn't take away from Green Man's historic charm. Main Road, Howe Street, Great Waltham, Essex, galvingreenman.com

9. The Harwood Arms, London

Despite being awarded a Michelin star in 2010, The Harwood Arms has maintained its cosy feel. Hidden away in the back streets of Fulham, the neighbourhood pub is known for its Scotch eggs, lemon curd doughnuts and seasonal game-heavy menu. Under the direction of Australian chef Brett Graham (The Ledbury) since its opening in 2009, The Harwood Arms is constantly humming with both out-of-towners and locals alike. Book ahead to avoid any disappointment. Walham Grove, London, harwoodarms.com

10. The Shakespeare, Canterbury

Canterbury's The Shakespeare does classic British pub fare highlighting local ingredients. Originally home to a Tudor playhouse, the building's quirky interiors hint at its theatrical past. Stop by for a lunch of chargrilled dry-aged Picanha steak, or a light pre-dinner snack of shredded pork and mustard croquettes. Spend a summer afternoon in the courtyard sipping on locally brewed ales, or head to the wine bar at the far end of the yard for a post-dinner tipple. Butchery Lane, Canterbury, Kent, shakespearecanterbury.com
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