Rupert Bates Winter 2022
Pub lunch – two of the finest words in the English language. They often come with a question mark. But the inquiry is redundant. We know the answer, it’s just a question of where.
Actually, there is another question, if the weather is set fair. Inside or out? Unless granny has forgotten her coat – in which case leave her inside with a sherry – the default is outside.
The trouble is, not many pubs do it that well – cue howls of outrage and a load of aromatic invitations. Oh well. Most are certainly not that creative when it comes to a BBQ. We’ve all seen it. A weekend heatwave is forecast, so the landlord, having dusted off the grotty grill, asks the bar staff with the neatest handwriting to scribble BBQ on the blackboard and comes up with random prices for a burger and a hot dog. Job done. Don’t forget the four-litre ketchup.
During pandemic restrictions when only outside dining was permissible, many pubs, restaurants and hotels were forced to pivot. The more enlightened ones did not see it as a temporary measure. People will always prefer to eat outside. Create some shelter, heat and wind breaks and, unless Jupiter is in a foul mood, fill your garden with people and profit.
BBQs have always been mainly about backyards, cooking for family and friends at home. The fun is in ordering the meat, curating the menu and, depending on your confidence and skill levels, how adventurous you’re going to be. You only need look at the regular recipe pages in BBQ magazine to find not only inspiration, but tips and tricks, as well as step-by-step instructions, to give you every chance of rocking that cook.
Thor’s Hammer for instance – a recipe in this issue from Phil Yeomans, executive chef at Lainston House hotel – should at least keep the Nordic god of thunder clapping.
But just as we eat out to taste the work of those far more gifted than us, not to mention the sense of anticipation you get ahead of a fine dining experience and a special occasion, the best BBQ cooks can also create that vibe outdoors and elevate fire food to fresh heights. Outdoor dining Michelin Star anyone?
Well, if an off-duty Michelin inspector had popped into The Tichborne Arms in Hampshire in October for a pint and tried the food cooked on the fires in the pub garden, he would have slipped to the car park to ring the Guide editor.
You can read all about the feast, in the company of David Gower. As a template for future events and driving the profile of live-fire, outdoor dining through the hospitality sector, it was perfect.
Pub lunch anyone? Don’t worry, I know the answer.
Yours in live-fire cooking
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