Top 50 Gastropubs

Newcomer of the Year

The Oarsman

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Heading up the kitchen brigade, Smith brings a wealth of experience with him

Newcomer of the Year

With exemplary service, stunning food and sumptuous drinks list, the Oarsman Bistropub & Wine Bar is this year’s worthy winner of Newcomer of the Year.

Nigel Sutcliffe and James Mclean reopened the Marlow-based pub in September 2021. The duo, who were co-founders of restaurant consultancy Truffle Hunting, have worked together for more than two decades.

Their expertise has resulted in the Oarsman serving bistro-style, seasonal dishes from the open kitchen and small plates from the charcuterie and larder counter, the pub’s menu changes daily.

The venue has a strong environmental ethos and supports local suppliers where possible in a bid to serve the finest, seasonal produce with mains starting from about £16.

This is featured in dishes that have included pig’s head with boudin noir and apple as well as trotters and bacon with beef dripping and toast, and venison with pickled pear, Nero and faggot.

Diners with a sweet tooth can choose from a range of delicious desserts such as Ecclefechan Tart – a nod to head chef Scott Smith’s heritage.

Or for those who would prefer something a little more savoury for afters, a cheeseboard with a range of cheeses is also available.

Heading up the kitchen brigade, Smith brings a wealth of experience with him to the Marlow pub with previous roles at Michelin-starred restaurants from across the nation such as Arbutus, Wild Honey and Sugar Boat.

Wine is a firm focus at the pub, offering a weekly changing list that showcases more than 300 wines from over 200 grape varieties from forty plus countries with all being farmed sustainably, most organically and a number biodynamically, grouped by style.

Furthermore, the Oarsman treats ciders and perries in a similar way to wine, serving tipples from small producers in 750ml vessels.

The pub also hosts events such as its Wassailing evening where guests can enjoy live music, warm spiced cider and a snack around the roaring fire at a local vineyard before returning to the Oarsman to be treated to a three-course menu by Smith for £55.

All in all, a spectacular pub, with an extensive and interesting wine offer, which complements its high quality, delectable dishes, while remaining at the heart of the customers it serves.