Who made the cut and who was dropped from this year's list?

THE Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub Awards were announced this week during an intimate industry shindig at Star In The City, York. Although no Greater Manchester pubs made it onto this year’s list (nothing for the White Hart at Lydgate?), it included quite a few within reasonable driving distance from Manchester.

At the top of the list was The Sportsman in Whitstable, Kent, which scooped first for the third year running. Second place was The Pony and Trap in Bristol, followed in third by York's Star Inn.

Unfortunately a handful of North West pubs included last year, such as The Inn at Whitewell (21); The Assheton Arms, Downham (22); and The White Swan, Fence (48) didn't fare so well and were dropped from the 2018 list.

Four North West gastropubs, however, did make the cut. Here they are:

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No 4: Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire

Distance from Manchester: 50 miles

What the judges say...

'Steven Smith’s elegant Lancashire gastropub has held its spot among the top five for several years now. Food is all about contrast – experimental meeting traditional. Smith fuses locally sourced ingredients and love of the classics with wild, sharp world flavours. It could so easily go wrong in the hands of a lesser chef, but Smiths pulls it off with professionalism and gusto, creating a delicious roster of treats.

'Menu highlights include foie gras with beer vinegar, blackberry and smoked eel; roast loin and kofta of Nidderdale lamb with BBQ gem lettuce, miso aubergine, mint and yoghurt; as well as butter-poached native lobster tail with crispy claw wontons, wild blueberry, coastal herbs and black pepper sauce.'

Freemasons at Wiswell, 8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell, Clitheroe , Lancashire, BB7 9DF

Parkers Arms

No 8: Parkers Arms, Newton in Bowland

Distance from Manchester: 54 miles

What the judges say...

'Last year’s highest climber, shooting up 35 places from 48th to 13th. This year the gastropub has risen a further five places. It’s testament to chef patron Stosie Madi and her business partner Kathy Smith’s dedication to making their pub one of the best, with gourmands travelling on occasion the length and breadth of the country.

'Menu highlights include pheasant escalope in sourdough and Kirkham’s crumb with cranberry relish; Newton venison with local bramble and unpasteurised cheese; and Lancashire hogget hotpot with damson pickled red cabbage. There are also a variety of pub classics available including top quality steaks; fish and chips; and of course, Stosie’s famous pies.'

Parkers Arms, Hall Gate Hill, Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire, BB7 3DY

170401 Drunken Duck

No 30: The Drunken Duck, Ambleside

Distance from Manchester: 85 miles

What the judges say...

'As far as Lake District gastropubs go, the Drunken Duck in Ambleside has a lot going for it – dramatic landscapes, locally-inspired brews and a restaurant serving dishes influenced by Cumbrian produce. The Drunken Duck serves up 4 AA-starred nosh and offers guests the opportunity to stay over in its rooms – a must when visiting an area of outstanding beauty such as the Lake Distict.

'On the Drunken Duck’s menu, diners can expect to eat starters of soused mackerel, tomato salad and buttermilk dressing; smoked eel, new potatoes, lovage and pickled onions; and Lancashire souffle. For mains, expect beef cheek with artichoke, spring onion and rocket pesto; coley, pancetta, mushroom and oxtail; and corn fed chicken, mash, girolle, and chilli dressing. And for dessert: melting chocolate tarte with raspberry sorbet; rhubarb cobbler with popcorn ice cream; and strawberries, marigold ice cream and meringue.'

The Drunken Duck, Barngates, Ambleside LA22 0NG

Cartford Inn

No 40: The Cartford Inn, Preston

Distance from Manchester: 60 miles

What the judges say...

'The 17th century coaching inn is situated at an historic crossing on the River Wyre and is an award-winning pub, restaurant and hotel. The countryside offers a lot of inspiration to the chefs in the kitchen. In 2010 the pub made it into The Good Food Guide and The Michelin Guide and is also listed as a ‘special place to stay’ and a ‘special place to eat and drink’ in The Sawday’s guide.

'Dishes include, for starters: snails and nduja mayo; French onion soup; and Inedit beer braised game pastie. Mains include 12hr braised Jacobs ladder with parsnip mash, parsnip crisp, roasted piccolo and beetroot; Lancashire venison loin with winter fruit, shallot Tarte Tatin, butternut squash and chocolate; and olive oil roasted cauliflower head with Moroccan spiced florets, smoked aubergine, puy lentils and halloumi. There’s also a wide range of platters, grills and pub classics to choose from.'

The Cartford Inn, Cartford Lane, Little Ecclestone, Preston, Lancashire, PR3 0YP

Like this? Well you better read The Top 14 Gastropubs in Manchester and Beyond