Have you thought of having Christmas dinner in a pub? If you are visiting the UK over Christmas, or just want to let someone else do all the cooking for the big day, pubs are great alternatives to posh restaurants or do-it-yourself on Christmas Day.
With a few notable exceptions, only the most prestigious restaurants are actually open on Christmas Day and fancy dining spots cannot resist delivering the festive meal with their own gourmet twists.
Before You Plan A Traditional Christmas Dinner in a Pub
Pubs can be counted upon to serve a traditional British Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. And, since many pubs are also the landlord's family home, the atmosphere is warmer and friendlier than you might find in a restaurant. But before you plan on enjoying one, keep in mind that:
- Not all pubs are open on Christmas Day and among those that are, not all will be serving food.
- Christmas dinner in a pub is actually Christmas lunch in the UK
- Pubs, like restaurants and hotel dining rooms will charge a premium for dining on Christmas Day
- You need to book well in advance - most pubs that serve Christmas Day lunch start taking reservations around mid November. Some do it as early as the end of October.
- You will probably have to pay the full amount or a non-refundable deposit when you make the reservation
And, if you find the price of Christmas Day dinner in a pub is too steep, you may be able to save money by enjoying a similar menu earlier or later than the holiday itself. Most pubs offer a seasonal holiday menu throughout the month of December, featuring many traditional Christmas choices for less than the price of the Christmas Day full monty.
Ten Great Pubs for Christmas Dinner
These English pubs, dotted around the country, usually serve Christmas Day lunches or Christmas Eve Dinners (Because pubs change owners, landlords and policies, it's best to check their websites or ring up in early October just to be sure.):
- The Plough at Bolnhurst, Bolnhurst, Bedfordshire MK44 2EX, Telephone: +44 (0)1234 376274. Housed in a partly Tudor building, this was the Bedfordshire Dining Pub of the Year in The Good Pub Guide in 2009. In 2017, they are still describing this pub as well worth a visit and it certainly looks like fun. The restaurant critics all love it. In the past, they've offered lunch and dinner on Christmas Eve, a Jazz Lunch and dinner on Boxing Day (December 26) and a festive menu from December 1 to 23. Check with them in early November for their latest Christmas season plans.
- The Ferry in Cookham, Sutton Road, Cookham, Maidenhead SL6 9SN, Telephone:+44 (0)1628 525123. A bit modern and gastropub-ish but locals in this very pretty town sing its praises. The menu is traditional - or not - as you please. With plenty of choice for vegetarians and non-meat eaters. During the holidays you can book a spot at the bar for bubbly and nibbles too. That's a novel idea.
- The Royal Oak, Yattendon, The Square, Yattendon, RG18 0UG Telephone: +44 (0)1635 201 325. A restaurant with a tiny, child and dog-friendly country pub alongside. They won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2016 and a Diner's Choice award from Open Table in 2017. In 2015, their Christmas Day Lunchwas pricey at £75 per person but it included all the traditional favorites plus champagne. They did a very reasonable kids menu that features the Christmas meal essentials. And on New Year's Eve they had live entertainment. Ring them in late October or early November for details of the current year's Christmas plans.
- The Ship, Wandsworth, 41 Jews Row, Wandsworth, London SW18 1TB, Telephone:+44 (0)208 870 9667. This is a wonderful pub - one of my favorites in London. But its location, almost under Wandsworth Bridge, south of the Thames, makes it hard to find. And since there are several London pubs in the area known as The Ship, you could end up in the wrong place. Make sure you phone up for directions if you aren't familiar with the location. For Christmas Day, their lunch choices have ranged from traditional to sophisticated, and in past years were priced £80 per adult or £40 per child for a five course menu. Best phone them up in early November or visit their website then to see what's on in 2017.
- The Bull at Broughton, Broughton, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 3AE. Telephone: +44 (0)1756 792065. Lovely old stone-built Yorkshire pub. Their menu features local cheeses, Yorkshire lamb and regional specialities. Ask about their occasional Guinea Pig nights, when they try out new dishes in an inexpensive 3-course fixed price menu.
- The Grazing Goat, 6 New Quebec Street, London, W1H 7RQ, Telephone: +44 (0)20 7724 7243. If you're planning to stay in London over Christmas, particularly if you are staying in Bayswater hotel-land or near Marble Arch, the Grazing Goat usually serves up the traditional ingredients with a gastropub spin. Fish eaters and vegetarians are also well catered for. This pub with rooms is not your typical ye olde Englishe pub but it is very stylish in a modern, rustic way. In the past, their Christmas Day menu cost about £85 for four courses plus some champagne. They have a kids menu but don't seem to serve it for Christmas. I would call to double check. They usually also serve a nice New Year's Eve menu.
- The Red Lion, 2 Castelnau, Barnes, London SW13 9RU, Telephone: +44 (0)20 8748 2984. This Fuller's pub, within about a mile of Fuller's London brewery on the western edge of London, is popular year round. With its glowing fireplaces, Georgian-style chandeliers and warm wood paneling it seems like a perfect Christmas setting. There is also a heated outdoor deck where you can raise a glass if Christmas weather is mild (which it can sometimes be). Members of The Rolling Stones, The Who and Oasis are among the celebrated locals who have been known to drop by. And the place is very easy to get to from central and west London. Together with friends, I had Christmas lunch here myself in 2016. The food was very good - far to much to eat and beautifully made. The friendly, dog-friendly atmosphere, with families opening presents and everyone sharing the good spirits of the season was genuinely delightful.
- The Masons Arms, Cartmell Fell, Cumbria, Telephone: +44 (0)15395 68486. A cosy place not far from Lake Windermere in The Lake District. The Good Pub Guide has named it Pub of the Year for the Northwest in the past, and the Publican Awards have cited their accommodations. On Christmas Day they usually offer one sitting at 1pm for a huge, traditional feast. They also serve on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve. As usually, check their website from late October onward or ring up to discover their holiday plans.
- The Fox Goes Free Charlton, Nr Goodwood, W Sussex PO18 0HU, Telephone: +44 (0)1243 811461. Great name for a 400-year-old character pub in the horsey country near Goodwood Racecourse and the fabulous Goodwood Estate. Even you don't go for Christmas dinner, at least drop by for a pre-Christmas drink. Their outdoor decorations are just splendiferous!
- The Lamb Hindon Hindon, Wiltshire SP3 6DP, Telephone: +44 (0)1747 820 573. Formerly known as "The Lamb at Hindon," this pub dropped the "at" in its name when it changed hands. It is, for now, managed by Young's, one of the UK's major pub and pub hotel operators. We can't say what this will mean for diners but our experience in other Young's pubs has been excellent. Christmas lunch has been a long tradition in this 900-year-old public house. They usually serve a four course Christmas Lunch as well as Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day feasts. It's a lovely pub and if you aren't able to book a meal, it's still well worth stopping by for a holiday drink.