Top 50 Gastropubs

Josh Searle

Head chef at 2022 Front of House winner, Dylans at Kings Arms

What got you into cooking?

My mum had a big influence on me growing up. She is a great home cook and I used to enjoy helping her in the kitchen – she makes an awesome curry and all the classics, so I got a good grounding from her. I’d come in from school and watch Ready Steady Cook with Ainsley Harriott - those shows were such an easy watch on TV and something that I grew a passion for. I got to meet Ainsley at Pub in The Park last year too which was surreal!  He’s such a legend.

Growing up I quickly realised that I wasn't born to be in an office or on a computer and I thought cheffing looked like an easy job to go into at the time!

Once I started, I quickly realised it’s actually quite hard and demanded a lot of training and work. At the beginning, I struggled with the unsociable hours and one day, a head chef sat me down and told me I could be great if I knuckled down, and it really stuck with me. I just had to find the right place – which turned out to be Dylans at The Kings Arms.

Why did you choose the gastropub route?

I worked for a few chain restaurants, but I quickly knew they weren’t for me, I wanted to get into something more serious, work with more quality produce and ingredients and push myself, so I began working in fine dining at a hotel which had 2 AA Rosettes.

After a while, I found out Dylan’s was hiring a sous chef, so I jumped at the chance as they already had a great reputation.

I’ve been here six years now (head chef for almost two) and I’m absolutely loving it. I’ve been able to develop my style whilst staying true to the Dylans ethos of quality and simplicity. 

We say that we make the type of food we all like to eat. It’s unpretentious but delicious.  We make everything from scratch in-house and use only the best suppliers and ingredients and it makes all the difference.

What do you enjoy most about your industry?

The camaraderie in hospitality is what I love most about the industry. You only succeed as a team and creating a great team around you is key to being a top gastropub or restaurant. I love working with quality ingredients and working with the seasons. Training my team and getting them excited about that aspect of food is also really rewarding

It’s also an industry that never stops coming up with new ideas and pushing boundaries, it’s constantly evolving and that makes it very exciting to be part of.

Where’s your favourite place to eat in the UK?

I like Brat for its simplistic way of cooking. They make the core ingredient the star of the show and keep it very simple. A style we use in our kitchen. It is also the first restaurant I took my girlfriend to, so it’s got a place in my heart.

What makes dining at Dylans so special?

We have a relaxed vibe, it’s a friendly and welcoming place. We also have a great front-of-house team to welcome you in. You first walk into the bar where you can grab a beer from our tap wall or a cocktail at the bar before heading to the back room for food.

We also serve a Snacking Menu in the bar so you can have some smaller dishes which are perfect with some of our craft beers. The bar is not bookable so there is usually a rush to get a table to enjoy some of our bar food.

We create dishes and menus that change with the season and as well as having stand-alone dishes we also have sharing dishes such as the Txuleta Dairy Cow Prime Rib or whole Cornish Fish which are ordered for the table to share.

One of the key things that makes Dylans special is our suppliers. We have been going for 9 years this year and we work with excellent suppliers such as Mr Txuleta and Kernow Fish. A lot of the hard work is done when the quality of their ingredient shines through.

One of my favourite things to cook is Fresh Cornish fish. Jace at Kernow Fish is awesome and gives the kitchen team something different to work with depending on his catch which gives our customers the most incredible, fresh fish around.

Who’s your biggest influence?

My mum. She is the hardest worker I have ever known, and, in this industry, you have to work hard. It has rubbed off - she will be pleased to know.

What does being a Top 50 Gastropub mean to you?

It’s something we all work hard to aspire to.  The whole team, front and back of house are seeking to improve our position on the list and provide our customers with quality food and service that the list demands.

It’s great for that effort to be recognised as it helps bind the kitchen and bar team together  - we only succeed if everyone is focussed on that level of perfection.

Our goal is to be in and around with the best and our jump in the list by 22 places shows that we’re doing things right. Going forward we’ll work even harder to rise further.

For me personally, I’m still young (30 soon!) and to have the opportunity to grow in an environment which is supportive and ambitious is motivating and rewarding. I love the challenge it brings every year.

What advice would you give to an aspiring chef?

Be passionate and dedicated. Enjoy what you are doing and keep your head down and learn. You never stop learning so take it all in as this will help you grow in the industry.

Best country for food?

Spain. I love the idea of tapas paired with sunshine. Again, it’s all about simplicity and the Spanish are masters at this.

Typical day off?

One of my days off is in the kitchen when the pub is shut practicing/developing new menu ideas. The other I spend with my girlfriend trying a new restaurant. I’m always around food one way or another.

Sweet or savoury?

Hard to choose. Savoury as I grew up never having dessert after dinner but that doesn’t mean I do not have a sweet tooth. If there is chocolate going……

What do you think the future holds for Gastropubs?

Despite the major challenges facing hospitality right now I like to think the future is strong for gastropubs.  People want fine and quality dining to be more informal and accessible to them, locally.  This year’s list shows what strength there is all over the country.  

The environment in which the food is served is no longer a barrier – just because it’s a ‘pub’ setting doesn’t mean that the food is regular pub grub – there’s scope for all kinds of incredible cuisine and an appetite for it.

Key Dishes

Txuleta English dairy cow prime rib sharer

Cornish day boat fish

Seasonal modern British

Simplicity is at the heart of what we do