It has been a tough winter for pubs. But landlords are resilient. The best continue to innovate in food, drink and the very nature of pub culture, to create thriving spaces that offer, not just a good pint, but community and joy. As spring approaches, meet our pub heroes who, in their different ways, are charting a bright future for the great British boozer – and find out where they like to have a pint when not behind their own bar. Find more information about our Love Your Local campaign here.


Some of our favourite local pubs

Parkers Arms, Near Clitheroe, Lancashire

Whether it is sticking to sausage and chips on the children’s menu or refusing to give this charming rural inn a designer makeover, chef Stosie Madi’s no-nonsense approach has, over 15 years, turned Parkers into a beacon of good sense and good food.

Located in gorgeous Ribble Valley countryside, on sunny days the pub and its beer garden fill with cyclists, dog walkers and hikers, enjoying pints of Bowland Brewery beer and black pudding sausage rolls. But, for foodies, Parkers is an attraction whatever the weather.

Ingredients are commonly sourced within 30 miles and Stosie talks of “using French techniques to reinvigorate classic, country-style Lancashire cooking” in dishes of game, pork and pistachio pâté or wild rabbit – the leg and butter-roasted loin served with mustard sauce and mash. Handmade with business partner Kathy Smith, Parkers’ pies are a big part of its appeal, from its legendary cheese pie to seasonal variations such as pheasant, bacon and mushroom. This is a Lancashire pub, says Stosie: “The pie should be a special dish.” Three courses, £45;

Stosie's fave pub: “The Rat Inn in Northumberland. Family-run independent where you can have a drink by a roaring fire, champagne with fish ’n’ chips or a great seasonal three-course meal. A brilliant rural pub.”

The interior at Parkers Arms in Clitheroe, Lancashire, featuring deer-themed wallpaper, large white candles, a fireplace and an ornate gold mirror

The Pack Horse, Hayfield, Derbyshire

In seasonal, ingredient-led dishes of ember-roasted kohlrabi, charred leek purée and pine nut dressing or pork, Puy lentils, salsa verde and crispy pig skin, The Pack Horse is one of the Peak District’s most exciting places to eat. But it is still very much a pub.

The front bar is retained for drinkers and snacks, dogs are welcome throughout, as are walkers in muddy boots. Wednesday is curry ’n’ quiz night. “The pub’s been there a lot longer than we’ve been here,” says chef Luke Payne, who runs this handsome, historic inn with his partner, Emma Daniels. “We respect its place in the community.”

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With the locals in mind, Luke’s bar menu includes his version of the Manchester egg (pickled egg in breaded black pudding) and plates such as lamb ragu pappardelle, from £10. Regulars stand at the bar downing oysters with pints of local Distant Hills ale or wines from a 90-bottle list that includes 12 by the glass. Optional feasting menus of merguez-spiced lamb shoulder or beef wellington enhance the homely vibe: “We don’t want to come across as too stuffy, too pretentious, too far from what a pub is.” Main menu, two courses, £38;

Luke's fave pub: “Twice yearly, we do a collaborative tasting menu event with Little Hucklow’s The Blind Bull, a tastefully refurbed pub in a beautiful setting. Their summer cod and tomato broth is amazing.

An asparagus starter at the Pack Horse in Hayfield

Prince of Peckham, London

“Growing up, I thought pubs were for white men” says Clement Ogbonnaya. In contrast, his Peckham pub, the Prince, is the “craziest melting pot, with Caribbean-inspired food made by white men, in a pub owned by a black guy”. Latin American cultural associations and LGBTQ+ dating events, share space across multiple rooms.

In everything from its DJs to its menu from kitchen team, White Men Can’t Jerk (think: curry goat fries or jerk-spiced roasts), the Prince celebrates modern London’s diversity. Its events programme ranges from voguing classes or Algerian wine tastings to kids’ craft sessions inspired by African history, while free space and support is offered to community groups that often lack both. This outreach will include grants of up to £500 as Clement opens his second pub this spring, Tulse Hill’s Queen of the South.

“We’re in the business of selling alcohol and having a blast,” says Clement. But equally he wants his Village People pub group to create hubs that positively impact their localities: “We can do so much with these incredible buildings.” Mains from £12.50;

Clement's fave pub: “In its design, Islington’s The Old Queens Head is beautiful. Great cocktails and Lucky Chip burgers, too. I also love Nunhead’s The Golden Anchor, a pub harnessing its Caribbean roots to serve modern Peckham.”;

White Men Can't Jerk dishes served at Prince of Peckham

The Dodo, Ealing

The seating at Lucy Do’s micropub is arranged so “naturally you’re facing somebody. Even if you come in on your own you’ll strike up a conversation”. When Lucy first encountered micropubs in Kent, that friendliness struck her as much-needed in Ealing. “People say they’ve lived here 12 years but didn’t know anybody until the Dodo. We crave the human connection micropubs allow.” Dubbed the ‘Hanwell massive’, Dodo regulars also cherish the micropub movement’s focus on artisan drinks. In this case, cask and keg ales, from breweries such as Elusive and Jawbone, real cider and interesting wines – 30% of them organic. The Dodo stocks Mr Barrick’s pies but drinkers can bring meals in from the Golden Chip and the Dodo runs pop-ups with local independents such as Heart and Soul Caribbean Food. Snacks from £4;

Lucy's fave pub: “Clerkenwell’s Sutton Arms – a proper unpretentious pub serving Mypie pies and incredible craft beers.”

Lucy Do writing the pub specials on a blackboard

The Queen o't'wod Thatch, South Milford, North Yorkshire

“As meeting places, pubs are part of the fabric of British society,” says chef Kirsty Cheetham. The welcome is as warm for foodies attending cheese, cocktail or wine events, as it is for South Milford locals supping pints of Landlord after work on Fridays. On Sundays, the characterful pub (dog-friendly, neat beer garden) draws a crowd for its award-winning roasts. This four-day endeavour starts with roasting bones to make stocks for gravies tailored to pork loin, lamb shoulder, turkey and 40-day-aged beef dinners. Roasties and huge yorkshire puds are cooked in fat retained from the bones. “It’s about putting love into it”, says Kirsty, to create that satisfying buzz of a full pub revelling in its Sunday. Mains from £13.50;

Kirsty's fave pub: “The always on-point Pipe and Glass in Beverley. Beautiful setting, great ingredients. Has a Michelin star, but you can have a sandwich and pint in the bar.”

A pretty dessert dish with ice cream served at The Queen o’t’wod Thatch, South Milford, North Yorkhsire

Sup-up to support your local in '23

The pandemic is over but the pressure on hospitality businesses remains. Staff shortages and high energy costs are the latest challenges for the sector, with many pubs feeling the squeeze. Want to help these essential social spaces? Here’s how.


• From co-working space to operating as de facto coffee shops earlier in the day, pubs are diversifying in various ways. Explore the options.
• Having a party? Run a book club? Chairing a community association? Save yourself the hassle of hosting at home and book a room at your local – often big buildings that need to fill space at competitive rates (if not, free).
• From take-out coffee and cake, to beers and box meals, many pubs were already doing takeaway prior to the pandemic or have continued it – a useful utility it is easy to overlook.
• Never drunk real ale? Now is the time to try a magical drink unique to pubs. You simply cannot replicate cask ale at home.
• Say no to no-shows. Independently run pubs are less likely to take deposits than big-name restaurants. Turn up.
• We all have friends who talk a lot about meeting up more often (forming a quiz team, hitting the karaoke, playing pool regularly) but do little about it. Now is the time to get them down the pub.
• Be it shorter opening hours, reduced menus or raising prices, no pub wants to do these things. But currently, needs must. Insomuch as you can afford to, please support your local without complaining to staff about such changes.
• Take a chance on your local. Whether it is comedy gigs, fitness classes or collaborations with local street food vendors, where your neighbourhood pub is making an effort to broaden its appeal, give it a go.
• Many pubs now make an impressive effort with mocktails and low- and no-alcohol drink options. For many people, whether on a ‘dry’ day or entirely teetotal, pubs can still function as great social hubs.
• Many indie pubs cannot afford intense marketing. Talk up your local on social media and IRL. Spread the word. Take a snap and share it with #OliveLoveYourLocal and we’ll repost the best.

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