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Hearth of the community

For NICK VAUGHAN a barbecue is both personal and professional, with the Savills director seeing a huge rise in interest in outdoor cooking and dining

 Nick Vaughan   Winter 2022

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In the same way that the discovery of fire ignited early man’s desire to cook, the discovery of gas ignited my passion for barbecuing and outdoor cooking. 

Up until then, barbecuing had been a once or twice a year pastime and limited to burgers and sausages of questionable quality, cooked in an even more questionable manner. And so it was I took the plunge and bought a gas barbecue in 2014 and have never looked back. 

There is a debate over which is best, gas or coal. However, getting a gas barbecue eventually drew me back to cooking over an open fire and made me a better outdoor cook in the process. 

Today I have both gas and coal, along with a smoker and a travel barbecue for when I’m away. The real answer to the gas or coal question is whatever you prefer and, moreover, whichever fits your lifestyle.

The huge advantage of a gas barbecue is ease of use, versatility and speed. I suddenly discovered that I could fire up the barbecue on a summer’s evening, throw on some salmon fillets, fresh asparagus and a couple of sweet potatoes and have a meal done in quick time that was not only tasty but also healthy. 

Taking that a step further I discovered a whole host of wonderful ways to use the barbecue to cook anything from fajitas to pizzas and everything in between.

These days if I’m cooking for friends, I will often use all three of my main barbecues – a Weber Spirit gas barbecue, a Weber Master-Touch coal barbecue and a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker.

I plan ahead in terms of what to cook, how to cook it and using which medium. 

If we are having a lot of people over, my go-to would be something like baby back ribs or a pork shoulder, cooked low and slow on the Smokey Mountain over a number of hours, some amazing handmade chuck burgers from my local butcher, Hook and Cleaver in Ealing, west London, cooked over coals on the Master-Touch and then some sticks and skewers on the gas Spirit. 



I love to mix up combinations such as monkfish and chorizo, salmon with honey and ginger, or halloumi and peppers. All served up with some homemade flat breads and a crispy, Asian-style slaw.

I’m a huge advocate of barbecue 365; year-round outdoor cooking, and now the weather is colder one of my favourite things to cook is lamb. I have my local butcher butterfly a whole leg and then will marinate it with garlic and rosemary for a couple of days before cooking it over coal and serving it up with seasonal vegetables, also cooked on the grill, the perfect supper for winter evenings. 

It doesn’t have to stop there; and at Christmas nothing tastes better than bratwurst cooked over an open fire with a few glasses of mulled wine. I have friends who cook their Christmas turkey outdoors which is a great solution on Christmas Day, especially if you have a small kitchen or a packed house.

I think whatever you are cooking, being outside, especially with friends, is a huge part of the enjoyment behind it. During lockdown when we were only allowed to meet outside, I would regularly get together with friends, whatever the weather and sit and cook around a firepit or barbecue, often accompanied by a few beers or a bottle of wine. While those evening were borne from necessity at the time, it’s something that has carried on now that normal life has resumed.

Working in residential property, one of the trends that we saw in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic was the desire for more space, in particular outside space. While outside space, especially in terms of the new homes market, has always been in demand, it now commands a much higher premium and is often top of peoples’ wishlists when looking for a new home.

Today there is a growing community, especially across social media, exploring ways in which we can all be more creative in our use of outside space and ultimately make the most of what we have.

In terms of new homes developments, outdoor cooking facilities are becoming more of a feature and certainly something that people are starting to look for when buying a brand-new property. 

Part of my role at property consultants Savills is to advise developers on the design of their buildings, from the overall look and feel of the building right down to the types of taps they are installing in the bathroom. 

With the garden, terrace or balcony becoming the ‘5th room of the house’, it makes sense these spaces are now geared towards lifestyle and entertaining. 

What was once patios and herbaceous borders are being replaced with decking and outdoor dining facilities. Outdoor kitchens are becoming more commonplace, especially in the communal areas of new developments and features such as pizza ovens and barbecues are being specified more and more.

The opportunity for outdoor cooking exists everywhere. I was lucky enough to eat in the private dining room at South Quay Plaza recently, Berkeley Homes’ new tower in the heart of London’s Canary Wharf. While the development has excellent internal amenities, one of the features that caught my eye the most was the barbecue on the 56th-floor terrace. Surrounded by an array of entertaining facilities this has to be the barbecue with some of the best views in London and it is regularly used by residents, entertaining friends and family throughout the year.

Coming back down to earth, it doesn’t matter where you are, how much space you have or what kind of cooking facilities you have, if you’re outside throwing something on the grill, through the alchemy of flame, fire and food, something magical will happen.

Nick Vaughan is director of London Residential Development at Savills


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