In many a foodie conversation, the g-word is an absolute no-no. They’ve ruined our boozers, people will cry, while others will claim they can no longer afford a pint of Pride and a sausage & mash down their local. Why are they even serving sausages in the first place?, someone else might chip in. And don’t get us started on the chips – does anywhere cook them just the once anymore? Still, there are some good gastropubs out there.
Love them or loathe them, gastropubs are here to stay. They are the British version of Parisian bistros, American diners or the tapas bars of Barcelona. They’re where we can indulge in some decent hearty food, but know that it's conversation not coulis we have to focus on. They’re generally not too pricey compared with restaurants, and even with the more creative of chefs you still know more-or-less what to expect.
Well, at least you thought you did. Sure, chefs might use sous-vide machines, blow torches and dehydrators to achieve effects previously managed in an oven, but at the end of the day it’s proper British meat-and-two-veg-style grub with a few fancy extras, right?
Not any more. Gastropubs serving international cuisines is something we’re hearing more and more about, and we’re putting our necks out early and saying that in 2014 they’ll be all the rage.
Already planned is Kurobuta, set to open before the end of the year near Marble Arch (we reviewed the preview pop-up in Chelsea). The owners dub the new opening a Japanese gastropub in all the publicity, and it will serve sushi, tempura, pork buns and more in a casual environment, with beers playing a leading role.
Most high-profile of all is a new opening planned from Alan Yau, who has previously brought us Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Busaba Eathai and Wagamama – among other restaurant groups. He has bought and closed The Endurance pub on Berwick Street and will re-open it early next year as Duck & Rice, which he is billing as a Chinese gastropub.
Asian gastropubs are already gaining popularity in America, with Octobachi in South Carolina a particularly prominent example, but we wouldn’t be surprised if we see more European versions also crop up in London over the coming months. We reckon The Fat of the Land in Marylebone is already ticking the Spanish box, and Italy can’t be too far off.
As if it wasn’t hard enough to draw the lines between pub, gastropub and restaurant, it seems things are going to get even more confusing. It might mean a few more great, affordable and exciting eateries along the way, though. Just be careful who you use that g-word in front of...