Pub of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2022/3
Chosen by our judges:
The Olive Branch, Clipsham, Rutland
The top public vote-winners:
The winner is The Olive Branch of Rutland – one of the region’s best-known pubs, which has won many awards over the years but still has the ability and motivation to wow diners and drinkers.
Having bagged GQ Pub of the Year last summer and then, a few months later, its kitchen burning down, you might forgive The Olive Branch for resting on its laurels or perhaps even giving up entirely. But not a bit of it. This unique pub still does everything possible to pursue hospitality perfection, even with its team cooking in a portacabin – something they’ve endured for months (although the new kitchen is nearly ready).
Indeed, the dishes prepared by head chef Luke Holland and his hard-working crew are extremely carefully planned and executed. For example, the 48-hour slow-cooked beef rib that our judges enjoyed came topped with delicately placed layers of smoked mustard, sour cream, fermented cabbage and Lincolnshire Poacher cheese. It was simply outstanding – a perfectly judged combination. And the homemade Eccles cake served with Barkham Blue cheese and Earl Grey cream was a taste sensation. It’s great to see so many dishes using produce grown in the paddock opposite the pub.
The Olive Branch is a smart gastropub but manages to retain a relaxed pub vibe. It’s very much ‘still got it’!
The other finalists
Castle Bytham’s Castle Inn is a completely charming village pub. Cosy, traditional and welcoming, our judges fell in love with it while enjoying a delicious homemade curry made from scratch by Tammy.
Slow-cooked for hours, it was tender and satisfying, especially washed down with a pint of the aptly named Simple Pleasures from Nene Valley Brewery. The Castle Inn also offers excellent homemade sausage rolls and scotch eggs. It’s a village pub that any village would be proud of.
The owners have done a magnificent job of rejuvenating and enhancing The Millstone at Barnack near Stamford. It’s a stunning environment and was positively buzzing during our judges’ visit – the perfect setting in which to showcase head chef Sam Sharman and his team’s gutsy, flavoursome cooking.
The menu is creative, balancing pub classics with more interesting dishes. We were also hugely impressed by the service, which was as professional as it was friendly.
The Stag & Hounds at Burrough on the Hill is a humble-looking village pub but boy does it pack a big food punch!
A past winner of this award, head chef and co-owner Dom Clarke and his team have turned it into a genuine dining destination, offering a short but carefully edited seasonal menu of delightful dishes that have propelled it into the prestigious Top 100 Gastropubs list. The cooking is seriously good and the welcome is always warm.