One of the fastest growing trends today is the gastro-pub. This venue combines imaginative, upscale cooking techniques with the casual dining experience of a pub. The moniker is a fusion of gastronomy and pub, coined in the early 1990s to describe The Eagle, a pub that set trends on London that still send ripples throughout pubs everywhere to this day.
The atmosphere is always laid back and reminiscent of Cheers while the food is always something comfortable and soothing with a gourmet spin.
What Is Gastro Pub Food?
The basic menu items may be very similar to that of a pub but the ingredients used and the way they are prepared shoots the dishes from predictable to unbelievable. You may find that the menu has fries with truffle oil or sweet potato fries rather than the kind that you might expect. You certainly will be able to get a cheeseburger but it will more than likely include unique cheese, homemade sauce of some sort, and additions like bacon and onion jam. Sausages may be featured but made from things like smoked chicken and green apple, and served with a calvados reduction.
Plating should be imaginative with an individual flair that would allow someone looking at an untitled image of the dish to identify the source. Even with all of the care given to the ingredients and design the food should be kept affordable and down to earth.
Focus on Local, Artisan, and Seasonal Ingredients
Generally there is a focus on locally grown, fresh ingredients which change according to the season. It’s a nod to the increasing importance of sustainable, socially and ethically responsible foods.
Many gasto pubs will feature a changing array of craft beers from local sources depending on the season and what happens to be available. Cocktails may be available but the focus is generally not on mixed drinks.
Spend some time at your local farmer’s market and get an idea of what is available in your area. Talk to the vendors and build a relationship – they will be able to tell you what is good and when it is available. Seek out vegetables and fruit that you haven’t used before and think about where they might fit in your menu.
If you are thinking of opening this sort of eatery keep the word casual in mind. This is not the place to smooth white linen tablecloths over mahogany tables or use real silver for the utensils. Think of plenty of warm woods, comfortable seating, and an atmosphere that invites people to sit and visit. The whole point of the gastropub is to create a juxtaposition of fine dining and pub crawling that works on every level.
Examples of Successful American Gastro Pubs
It’s a good idea to study the menus and décor of some of the best locations to get a better idea of what is expected and what works. Keep in mind that although you don’t have to copy other businesses to be successful (and you shouldn’t!) these places are a good source of inspiration.
The cuisine of the gastro pub may well be to this decade what the tearoom was to the 1990s. It is a market that is growing but not yet saturated and so there is plenty of room for new, unique, and quality ideas.