The Gastropubs Developing Tantalising Twists on Much-Loved Staples

A country walk is never complete without a visit to a welcoming gastropub along the way. As the perfect escape from the brisk Autumnal weather, an inviting pub fit with open fires, squashy sofas, and cosy corners is the perfect staging post to rest and refuel.

Across the UK, most gastropubs will serve much-loved pub staples that are comforting and gratifying in equal measure. However, an increasing number are experimenting with new recipes to develop tantalising twists on classic pub food. And increasingly, many are choosing white fish such as cod, haddock, and Alaska pollock as their focal ingredient.

One such gastropub is The Star Inn in England. Located in the bucolic farming-village of Hemsley on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors,  The Star Inn, with its chocolate-box looks and thatched roof, offers a menu that is robust yet skilfully balanced.

Delights on offer include smoked haddock and chicken ravioli, served with wholegrain mustard, garden leeks, and herring ‘caviar’. Another tantalising choice is The Star Inn’s Douglas fir-cured mackerel, served with poached village plums, coastal vegetables, and orchard pear sorbet. To bring out the depth of flavours in either dish, a chilled glass of white wine, such as a South African Vondeling Babiana, is recommended.

Other gastropubs attracting serious attention for their culinary creations include The Ship Inn in Fife, Scotland. Known for their rendition of Cullen skink – a traditional Scottish creamy fish soup – The Ship Inn uses smoked haddock, potatoes, leeks, and celery to create a beautifully hearty, comforting treat. Also on the menu are fish burgers, served with red cabbage sauerkraut, baby gem, tartare sauce and deliciously crispy chips. Wines and beers are carefully selected to complement the dining menu.

Others, such as The Walnut Tree Inn in Monmouthshire, Wales, offer a highly experimental menu. Shying away from classic staples, the head chef Shaun Hill has his own unique cooking style that is not limited to one cuisine but relies on excellent ingredients, seasonality, and culinary know-how.

From Kerala fish curry to mackerel with potato rasam, a visit to The Walnut Tree Inn never disappoints. Yet the dish most will travel for is Shaun Hill’s cod with a rich romesco sauce, served with octopus and gordal olives. As a milder-tasting fish, cod is particularly delicious prepared in this way, transforming this classic ingredient to rarefied heights.

To ensure these dishes hit the mark every time, high quality ingredients are essential. For this reason, gastropubs turn to only the most trusted suppliers, such as one of the industry-leaders Norebo Dedicated to supplying fish just as nature intended – with nothing taken away, and nothing added – Norebo fillet and freeze their fish at sea only hours after it has been caught to preserve the natural quality and freshness of their MSC-certified haddock, Alaska pollock, and Atlantic and Pacific cod.

Gastropubs across the country, from the easterly corners of Scotland to the southern tip of Wales, are experimenting with new and innovative recipes to change Britain’s food landscape. And increasingly, white fish is the star of the show, with the likes of smoked haddock ravioli or Cullen skink on offer to cater to everybody’s tastes.

However, if you are in the mood for old favourites, The Tuckers Arms in Dalwood, Devon will deliver pub classics like no other. Step inside, and you’ll find low-beamed ceilings, flagstone floors, and inglenook fireplaces. Pouring over the menu, each option is delectable, from cod loin with crab sauce to smoked haddock Florentine.

But by far the most popular dish on the menu is beer battered fish & chips, served with a side of mushy peas and tartare sauce. The Tuckers Arms have a talent for ensuring the fish is deliciously tender and juicy, while the batter remains so crisp, an audible crunch can be heard when taking a bite. Finished with a generous squeeze of lemon, this much-loved dish will never disappoint.

Gone are the days of second-rate pizzas, bland pies, and dry burgers. The gastropubs of today offer exquisite twists on classic staples, as well as our old favourites done exceptionally well. As lockdowns ease and frequenting the local becomes a normal feature of daily life again, it is clear expertly prepared MSC-certified fish is the perfect accompaniment for any evening.