The Best Pubs in the UK

(In my humble opinion of course but these are all worth a look!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR to my reader. What plans have you made for 2019? Well if you like a staycation (in the UK) and you find yourself anywhere near the establishments below, then you could do a lot worse than visit them!

What makes a great pub? Well, it can be obvious things like great service, good beer, good food, lovely location etc. But there are also other things that I think sway your judgement, it could be who you are with, or the vibe of the evening for example.

I do like a good pub and I’ve visited a few in my time. But there a small number which always stand out in my memory as places that are a cut above the rest. Here they are, in no particular order (except the first is THE best pub in the world):

The Barrels, Hereford, Herefordshire

Now, among my friends this pub is a place of legend. We only went there once, it was one of those nights where the stars seemed to align and everything was magic. Three of us were on a weekend away kayaking down the river Wye. We started the day from Hereford, spent hours kayaking downstream only to discover that our campsite for the night was actually still only a few miles from town!

Off we walked to the nearest pub, which was quiet to say the least. But we were starving so we stopped there for food. And, how’s this for service, the landlord offered to drive us into Hereford where we might find a more lively evening…….Things are different in the country you know.

The Barrels was the second pub we visited and we knew we had struck gold. The pub was the original location for local brewery, Wye Valley. The beers Wye Valley produce are among the best in the country. Plus they were cheap. It was Saturday night and the place was lively, add to that an eclectic mix of locals and to top it off Bez was in the bar!!!

(c) Kevin Cummins/ Getty Images

He was appearing at a local nightclub that night. For a group of blokes who were teenagers in the 80s and fans of the “baggy” Manchester scene, this was a big deal. We offered to buy him a drink which he politely declined, but we did end up in the nightclub and got our pictures taken with him.

To this day we all think The Barrels is the best pub in the world. If you don’t believe me, years later I met a friend’s girlfriend who is from Hereford and said to her;

“Oh, you’re from Hereford, you must know the best pub in the world?”

She replied “Oh The Barrels, yes, love that place”.

’nuff said.

The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset

This pub is unique, it is one of those places that feels like it’s not changed in centuries. Flagged floors, low beams, roaring fire, excellent local beers, the menu is solely pies and pasties, oh and it also boasts a fossil museum!!!

I visited the pub as part of a coastal walk on a weekend away with some of my old uni friends. It was the definite highlight of the weekend, high quality and very welcome beers at the end of an afternoon’s walk. Being an ex-geologist the fossil museum was definitely the icing on the cake!

Worth Matravers is situated on the “Jurassic coast” of Dorset, an area famous for fossils. The village itself is tiny and at the end of a road not far from the coast. It’s not somewhere on the south coast tourist trail like the more popular nearby spots of Swanage and Corfe Castle. But if you’re ever in the area then I highly recommend a detour to visit this unusual and super little pub.

The Britannia Inn, Elterwater, Cumbria

(c) Tripadvisor

Elterwater sits in the stunning Langdale valley in the Lake District. An area that I love and have visited on numerous occasions. Elterwater is a gorgeous tiny village and sits at the start/end of a number of lovely walks. Hence why this pub is so well liked.

I love this place as, for me, it has so many memories of beers with friends after a day hiking in the fells. I think it must be a prerequisite to do some sort of physical exercise prior to visiting otherwise you don’t fully appreciate the excellent beer, hot food and roaring fire. Indeed on other trips to the Lakes I’ve visited this pub without the required hike beforehand and somehow it just doesn’t feel right.

The Golden Rule, Ambleside, Cumbria

(c) Alamy

Another pub in the Lake District, this time in Ambleside. The town is one of the busier ones in the area but I still love staying here. There’s a great mix of pubs and restaurants (Ambleside is the foodie capital of the Lakes) and every other shop here appears to be an outdoor shop, my favourite.

This pub is oft noted as a “hidden gem”. Indeed, it is away from the bustle of the centre of town but is well worth looking out. In my opinion, I’ve not had a proper visit to the Lakes unless I’ve had a beer here. You wouldn’t go here for a meal as the food is limited to excellent pork pies/scotch eggs and the like. But the beer from local brewery Robinsons, is excellent. There is a roaring fire and the atmosphere is friendly and cosy.

The Royal Oak, Ambleside, Cumbria

(c) Tripadvisor

Another Lake District institution, can you tell I love it up there? Despite the pub being tied to brewery giant Greene King, the beer and atmosphere is good. The pub is located centrally in Ambleside so is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Indeed if you find yourself in the public bar you might get a number of frowns from the locals who frequent there almost exclusively.

For me though, this is a favourite not necessarily for the beer but for the memories. It is the first pub I ever visited when I came to the Lakes with friends for the first time. Prior to that my only experience of the area was family holidays when I was a little kid. It is also the pub where I first told my now wife that I loved here.

Special memories. So whatever you do with your free time in 2019, sitting in a pub having a yarn with friends is not a bad place to be. I hope you make many special memories yourself, and if you manage to visit any of the above, do let me know.

Cooking for kids

Image result for dad cooking

Dad in the kitchen!

It’s still one of the most daunting tasks I find with looking after the girls – cooking for them! We’re fortunate as both the girls are good little eaters (thanks to my amazing wife and all the hard work she put in weaning them) so I don’t often have to deal with any unreasonable toddler/threenager food demands. I put pressure on myself to create different dishes for them to try when all they really want is pasta or chips….or preferably, pasta AND chips.

Fortunately I’m not a bad cook but tend to stick to a few tried and tested classics; my chicken risotto is always a big hit as is my pasta with beef ragu sauce, but I do like to stick to a recipe and don’t feel that comfortable going off piste and being creative with food. My wife on the other hand is a fab cook and likes nothing better than creating something from scratch and playing fast and loose with any recipes. During her maternity leave I had an easy time of it in the kitchen I can tell you…but I digress.

A long time ago….

Way back when I was at work and we had just Big M, we had a nanny, she kept a food diary for us. So I looked at that for inspiration. My wife ensured the nanny try to cook at least one new dish a week while maintaining Big M’s favourites; pasta, fish pie, pasta, risotto, pasta etc. I checked some of the recipe books we had and decided one day to try to make fish cakes from scratch. Fortunately we live in an area where there are excellent butchers and also a great fishmonger. No supermarket vac-packed fish for my little darling, oh no, straight to the fishmonger for the freshest bounty from our shores.

Back home and an afternoon (yes a whole afternoon) spent meticulously preparing and molding four exquisite fish cakes for her….you’re way ahead of me aren’t you…all the while trying to keep half an eye on her as she plays in the playroom and trying to meet various demands for books to be read and mega bloks to be played with. Dinner was finally ready and of course “I want pasta”…..tears and tantrums followed…Big M looked at me bemused as I picked myself off the floor. Fortunately she did eat all her greens and did try a little bit of fish cake.

Don’t sweat it

That incident made me think and realise that at weekends for example, she eats perfectly well with us, so why can’t I just cook what I would for myself or what I know she likes and take it from there. Over a number of weeks I relaxed more into the routine of catering for her. Nowadays I’m putting less pressure on myself, after all why do that when you have the bigger task of looking after two little girls and running the house as well. Having said that as my wife has returned to work this week there is the added pressure of cooking for us as well, fortunately she’s very easy to please as long as it’s not beans on toast. (p.s. baked beans, always a hit with the little ones!)

Here a couple of my tried and tested favourites that are a hit with my girls, toddler and wife alike and still use decent quality ingredients.

Pizza Wraps

Tortilla wraps (we use the good quality seeded ones)

Tomato paste

Cream cheese

Half an onion (red or brown)

Couple of mushrooms

Tomatoes

Ham

Cheese (lots of it)

Take a wrap, smear on some tomato paste mixed with cream cheese, thinly slice some onion and mushroom and scatter over the wrap. Rip up the ham and sprinkle over, slice up a tomato or two then add generous amounts of cheese.

Grill under a medium grill until the cheese has melted. Easy as.

Omelettes

Ok I’m not going to give you a recipe on how to make an omelette but I will add that the girls love it when I fry up some chopped onion, mushrooms, broccoli, courgette and peas in olive oil before adding the eggs. Finished under the grill with lots of cheese on top. It’s a real hit.

 

I still think beans on toast should be a staple though….don’t tell the wife….