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The pub lunch

Giants of fire and food and a sporting great drinking sporting wines feasted at a garden table – the pub lunch reimagined. RUPERT BATES joined them

 Rupert Bates   Winter 2022

Join us on        @thebbqmag

 #TichborneArms #PubLunch




The Hampshire morning, as the rising sun cut through the mist, was as crisp and mellow as a David Gower cover drive.

The clouds over the South Downs soon gave way to aromatic smoke as an array of grills and ovens, furnishing and burnishing the pub garden of the Tichborne Arms near Alresford, were fired up to create the ultimate outdoor lunch, with the former England cricket captain the guest of honour at the banquet.

Gower, who lives in Hampshire having played for the county after starting out with Leicestershire, is one of England’s greatest-ever batsmen, playing 117 Test matches and scoring 18 centuries before going on to a distinguished career as a broadcaster, most recently commentating on England’s T20 tour of Pakistan ahead of the World Cup. 

The elegant left-hander, who would grace any all-time world cricket team, also loves his food and drink, becoming something of a wine connoisseur, drawing on the vineyards of the world from his cricket travels to inform and refine his palate.

Alongside the meat, fish and vegetables being cooked, was a selection of wine to pair with the food, brought to the party by Simon Halliday of the Sporting Wine Club. Halliday, a former England and Bath rugby centre, chose wisely for the special guest, even if Gower feigned dismay when offered a bottle of Graham Gooch’s Three Thirty Three, named after Gooch’s record Test innings against India at Lord’s in 1990. 

Gooch and Gower, legends and England captains both, did not always see eye to eye, on or off the cricket field, but Gower enjoyed the Syrah from the Domaine Saint Hilaire in the French Languedoc.

Meanwhile bottles of Botham Merrill Willis Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay prompted nostalgic talk of Gower’s great friends and teammates Sir Ian Botham and the late Bob Willis, with Geoff Merrill from the Mount Hurtle winery in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, the M of BMW. 

Other drinks on the menu supplied by the Sporting Wine Club included Welbedacht estate wines from Wellington near Cape Town from Schalk Burger & Sons - Schalk Burger Sr and Jr both played rugby for the Springboks. 

The Burgers have produced a Doddie’ 5 Red Blend, supporting the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, as the former Scottish and British Lion rugby player Doddie Weir battles motor neurone disease.



The world of football was represented by none other than Argentina’s Lionel Messi, supporting the Leo Messi Foundation, with the L10 Torrontes and Malbec from the Valentin Bianchi winery in Mendoza, while golfer Louis Oosthuizen, South African winner of the 2010 Open at St Andrews, had a bottle of his Louis 57 Syrah from Stellenbosch to taste.

Gower was joined by drinks expert and television presenter Andy Clarke, who opened proceedings by popping the cork on a bottle of Raimes Blanc de Noirs English sparkling wine, with the Tichborne vineyard just a six hit away from the pub.

Also tasting the wines and to add to the sporting flavour of the afternoon was David Beresford, author of Brothers in Arms, a remarkable rugby odyssey across France, with emblematic food and wine lacing its lavish pages too.

The beer was provided by BBQ magazine and Powder Monkey Brewing from Gosport, Hampshire, with a BBQ Rye IPA and BBQ Sizzler New Zealand Pale Ale, while the spirits of choice were Fishers Smoked Gin from Aldeburgh on the Suffolk Coast and Smokehead, an Islay single malt scotch whisky.

Clarke even whipped up a Negroni cocktail using the smoked gin, along with Reverend Hubert Winter gin liqueur and Asterley Bros Estate Sweet Red Vermouth.

“The smoked gin adds a cosy winter fireside feel to my festive version of a Negroni, with the Christmas spice of the Reverend Hubert complemented by the herbaceous sweetness of the red Vermouth,” said Clarke.

Glasses were swirled and grapes – Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Malbec, Torrontes, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Merlot and Grenache – identified as we moved through wines paired with cricket, rugby, football and racing; a LiveLoveLaugh Pinot Gris from racehorse owner Susannah Ricci’s Yotes Court vineyard in Kent. 

“I founded Sporting Wine Club six years ago and Schalk Burger was our original winemaker, followed by Botham Merrill Willis and Nick Faldo. The overriding principle was that all our winemakers must have a genuine sporting connection and the wines made and bottled on the estate, with our relationships founded on sporting values and high-quality wine production,” said Simon Halliday.

“The combination of wine, sport and charitable objectives drives us forward to build a narrative which appeals to our mutual values. This outdoor fire feast, in the company of David Gower, was a holy trinity of sport, wine and food.”

Meanwhile the feast was being prepared – extraordinary bonds of flame and flavour, with the meat supplied by Sean Thurgood of Hogget & Boar butchers from Stockbridge in Hampshire.

First to Tom Bray of Country Fire Kitchen, with rib of beef hung over his Asado fire. 

If Bray, who makes live-fire cooking equipment for chefs and BBQ enthusiasts, had been around in 1415, I swear Henry V would have asked him to feed his Agincourt troops on St Crispin’s Day.

Gower was fascinated by the elemental, yet refined, cooking over and in the fires, wafting away the smoke, as if knocking cricket balls to the boundary.

“After seasoning the beef with salt, I tied it with some wire so it’s easy to hang. Using a hook and chain I lowered it over the fire. Turning it regularly for around four hours – cooked to 55°C, rested and sliced,” said Bray, whose natural affinity with the fire, the heat and when to turn the meat is extraordinary – a flame whisperer.

To the turkey on the Big Green Egg and the cooking innovation of Luke Vandore-Mackay, a chef, teacher and food writer who runs High Grange Devon, a barbecue school and feasting venue.

“You might think that you ‘don’t like’ turkey. You might think that it’s dry and boring. But you probably haven’t tried barbecuing it. A great quality turkey cooked over charcoal in a ceramic barbecue will change your mind forever. With a little bit of care, you end up with the turkey of dreams – moist breast, rich gamey legs and most importantly skin that’s just like turkey crackling,” said Vandore-Mackay, adding that a drip pan with a vegetable trivet and stock beneath the bird makes for “a delicious smoky gravy”. 

“I massage every inch of the turkey with butter and then season with salt and finely ground black pepper. Set your Egg to 180°C and let it go for about three hours. The ceramics keep everything nice and moist while the convection ensures shards of glass-like salty skin. This will be the best turkey you and your friends and family have ever eaten.”

For one afternoon in October this garden was Ambrosia and if a pantheon of Greek gods had booked a table, they would have made deities of the chefs.

We moved on to the fish dish – wild-caught salmon fillets about 250g each. Cooking the salmon in the DeliVita oven was chef Marco Biasetti.

Seasoned with salt and petter, butter, garlic, honey, soy sauce and lemon juice, the oven was pre-heated to about 350°C, with the seasoned fillets initially cooked for three minutes and then set aside.

“I then heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add the garlic and lemon wedges; sauté for about a minute, until fragrant. Pour in the honey and soy sauce; allow the flavours to heat through and combine. Add in the lemon juice; stir well to combine all of the flavours together,” said Biasetti, a DeliVita ambassador.

He added the salmon steaks to the sauce in the pan; cooked each fillet for three to four minutes or until golden, while basting the tops with the pan juices, before seasoning with salt and pepper.

“Cook for a further five to six minutes, or until the tops of the salmon are nicely charred, and the salmon is cooked to your liking.”

The gammon was cooked on a Traeger Ironwood 850 by BBQ magazine’s Mike Tomkins, a MasterChef finalist in 2021 and now carving his culinary name running hugely popular supper clubs cooked over fire.

“The great thing about cooking a ham on the Traeger is, using the temperature probe, you can manage each stage of the cook remotely from your phone, ensuring you don’t dry out your gammon,” said Tomkins.

“To spice my gammon up, I cooked it using a whisky mustard rub before pressing in a treacly muscovado sugar and clove rub and then continuously basted the last 30 minutes of cooking to ensure a super moist treacly finish to the ham.”

The Vulcanus grill played host to an incredibly innovative vegetarian dish. 

“We took the humble wheat gluten and made it into a feast. A spiced Seitan meat loaf wrapped around leeks, chestnuts, blue cheese and local cheddar,” said Joel Czopor, landlord of The Tichborne Arms. 

“Our raw ingredients were cooked on the plate of the Vulcanus until ready to be turned into a stuffing to go into our dish with a few additions of herb from the kitchen garden. Robert Masterton was on the grill and helped roll it up to be finished with a lick of smoke on the Egg.”

This was a feast fit for one of England’s greatest sportsmen and most endearing and easy-going characters. 

There was enough food and drink to keep us sated for five days, but with the clock ticking and the sun setting the tempo eventually turned from Test cricket to T20. 

Gower asked when we were doing it all again. With hospitality undergoing something of an outdoor revolution, more and more pubs, restaurants and hotels are looking at the BBQ magazine template for al fresco fire food theatre, with drinks to match. Watch this space – the outdoor space.


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