creativecommons.org/ Gisela Francisco
Good old fashioned British pubs aren’t just known for their brews – they’re now recognised as places where travellers can find simple, delicious and affordable food, along with a healthy side-dish of good company. Here are some of our favourites...
The Lion & Unicorn, London
This London pub is located below the Giant Olive Theatre, where those that visit on the right night can enjoy a meal and a drink in the pub and a fine show upstairs. The interior of the pub matches the expectations of those who come to the theatre for a show. It is both colourful and comfortable - a perfectly modern experience of a London pub that is designed for the fashionable sort. In fact, the interior seems more like a design suited for a hip cafe - but in the kitchen, the Lion & Unicorn is still very much a classic pub. They have a large and varied menu that isn't afraid to be daring with its classical pub fair. Visitors should take their time to enjoy the pub's smoked haddock with hake fishcake or the surprisingly flavourful three bean coconut chili. The loin of salmon with watermelon salsa is a welcomed treat, and if you find yourself visiting the Lion & Unicorn on a Sunday, their Sunday roast is a real pleasure.
The Oast House, Manchester
creativecommons.org/ Adam Bruderer
The Oast House started as a simple Kentish hops-roasting house. They served up wonderful English brews and continue to do so, but yet, there was no room for a kitchen in the building. A pub without food is incomplete. So the owners simply built a kitchen on the outside that is more of a barbeque than a proper pub kitchen. Visitors during the warmer months can dine on the outdoor terrace with a pint and smell the roasting meat in the air, while during the winter they can revel in a dining room that seems a bit more like a Viking mead hall than a pub. Take advantage of their well-received flattened rump steak and hanging kebabs. The Ploughman's boards are perfect for those that desire a simple, filling lunch on the cheap.
The Three Fishes, Lancashire
Among country pubs, The Three Fishes in Lancashire is the king. It is easily noticeable, sitting as a giant white corner beacon in the middle of the rural countryside. Inside, The Three Fishes is everything that you could want from a country pub. It houses luxurious seating and clean lacquered tables in a modern layout, but it does retain some welcome touches of the Old World with its brick walls and a giant crackling wood fire. The food is much like the interior; it pays tribute to the traditional English specialities but with an artisan flair all their own. It would a shame to not enjoy their signature Lancashire hotpot, but undoubtedly visitors will have a hard time choosing between that and their locally sourced, 21-day aged thick cuts of steak. Their local seafood platter consisting of beech and juniper smoked salmon, prawns, smoked mackerel pate and potted shrimp is an excellent choice as well.
The Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh
Creativecommons.org/ Edinburgh Blog
The Sheep Heid Inn definitely earns points for its extensive history. This Edinburgh pub has been feeding and watering the masses in the city for six generations. However, it does well not to show its age. The exterior of the building looks inviting with its large windows lit up by the warm atmosphere inside. The interior, however, is a little less modern looking. There are pictures, animal heads and all manner of paraphernalia on the walls detailing its storied history. With all the objects on the walls and the tables all crowded in, it looks a bit cluttered but it provides the quintessential pub experience.
They specialize in good, simple pub food but somewhere along the line they decided to step up their game and present it wonderfully. Most of the dishes use locally-sourced ingredients that were plucked at the pinnacle of freshness. Their beer-battered fish and chips is guaranteed to be freshly-caught, but it is their 28-day aged rib-eye that really fill the seats in this particular pub.
The Victoria, Birmingham
Unlike the other great pubs featured here, The Victoria in Birmingham has a unique theme in its cuisine. Most pubs go for the classical English pub cuisine, but The Victoria revels in its Deep South USA-themed food. While the food provides a genuine taste of Cajun cooking, the interior is still very much that of an English pub - comfortable, classic in its design and hosting all manner of odd accoutrements on the walls, including a suited man with a donkey head on the back of the door. Well-dressed mule aside, it is the food at The Victoria that impresses. They host nine different types of burgers, as well as Cajun rubbed beef and cola-glazed ham. On Sundays, their Deep South-style roast cannot be missed.
The Sportman, Kent
Located on the coast at Whitstable is what is generally agreed upon to be the best pub in Kent, The Sportsman. It is located on the rather interesting part of town at the terminus of tideline bungalows, oyster sheds and a seemingly-permanent settlement of caravaners. From the outside, the pub looks as unremarkable as its surroundings. Inside, The Sportsman hosts a luxury not often found in and English pub - well-spaced tables that assure visitors aren't rubbing elbows with those seated near them.
In the kitchen there is magic happening. Steven Harris has managed to net himself a Michelin star for his efforts there. He serves up simple meals but with flavours that have served to entertain his loyal pub visitors. Start off with the most basic pub snack of fried pork skin and try not to worry about what it does to the waistline as it melts in your mouth in its salty, crispy goodness. Afterwards, go for the milk-fed lamb that comes in one thick pale pink chop with crisped shoulder confit. However, as this is a seaside pub, the fish is not to be missed. The sole comes from the water each morning and the oysters are so fresh, visitors know they were just harvested right off the seashore.
The Anchor & Hope, London
From the outside, The Anchor & Hope doesn't look like much, perhaps deliberately, as they specialize in straightforward English fare that is gutsy and lacking any pretense. The Anchor & Hope has all the traditional English pub grub at affordable prices. Visitors should take the time to enjoy their rabbit braised with tomato and anchovy or their briny and sweet shrimp on crusty toast. Ham and figs seem to be a universal favourite among its patrons as well. The only real problem with the Anchor & Hope is that favourite dishes often run out as the night goes on, so visitors will want to head down early to avoid heartbreak.
The Salisbury Arms, Edinburgh
This establishment feels a bit like a massive living room, perhaps by design or by some happy accident. The modern, cozy space provides the perfect ambiance for work and play. Visitors can lounge on small couches and enjoy a drink with a snack of Cornish sardines on toast, or get a table for a stunning meal.
They have an extensive menu to fit the needs of any diner and their large menu is only matched by large portions. Feast on slow-cooked pork belly, pan-fried Barbary duck or stick to the classic favourites of beef or venison burgers, both served with a side of crispy sea-salted chips. The Salisbury Arms offers fine dining presentation with simple pub fare, and it is this that makes this pub an Edinburgh institution.