Tag Archives: Barbecue

3TwentyOne

2 Jun

I always used to wonder why food writers were such curmudgeons. More often than not dripping with disdain for the chef’s / front of house’s / interior decorator’s efforts and whip-smart snarks following on from some lengthy prose about anything but the food.* How could you make a misery out of something so inherently joyful in a review? Then, I started a food blog.

My passion for eating out turned into a twice a week habit which, after nine months of scoffing and scribing, turns out to be just enough time to make you gag each time you gorge on the latest food trend. Having a healthier base for comparison raises your expectations beyond measure, and in the name of having something interesting to say, forage endlessly for innovative ingredients and fresh food concepts to write about. The more you indulge, the harder it becomes to find satisfaction, and after a while, it all sort of blends into one. It seems gluttony quickly runs to ingratitude.

It’s a hard life, no?

No, I don’t think so either. I can’t sympathise with anyone enjoys such privilege, myself included. I’m exceptionally lucky, not only because I can afford to eat out on a regular basis, but also because I occasionally get invited along to review restaurants for free. So, having found myself overfaced and underwhelmed of late, I’ve had to have a long hard look at myself, especially after a perfectly lovely dining experience initially left me with little to say, and the only thing left wanting was my attitude to it all.

If you keep abreast of the Manchester food scene, you may have heard something of 3TwentyOne. Just another meat mecca, I thought, albeit with its own smoker and a penchant for good liquor. An invitation to the grand opening evening for Manchester media mavens was missed on account of birthday celebrations with much loved friends, so was invited to come along at a later date when the cacophony of blogger’s gums smacking around short ribs and Singapore Slings had died down.

Sadly, they forgot I was coming, and much to mine and my friend Mal’s discomfort, asked to check my email invitation, then spent half an hour playing Chinese whispers with the waitress and owner about exactly what was included in the review. This, and the fact she harangued us until we placed our order whilst simultaneously trying to settle into our surroundings and say our hellos were the only low points of the night. The rest was just… fine and dandy.

Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini

The cocktails were a wonderful opener. My espresso martini of Kahlua, vanilla vodka and butterscotch syrup was perfectly pitched – neither overly sweet nor strong on the coffee – whilst Mal made appreciative noises over his Tommy’s Margarita. On reflection, it might be worth heading back and working my way through the cocktail menu alone, if nothing else than just to gaze on the bearded (slightly dour) hunk of a bartender, but I digress.

To its credit, the menu managed to distract me much more effectively, pared down as it was. Six starter and six dessert choices made the beginning and end of the meal fairly easy to navigate, but working your way through a list of four steaks, two types of ribs and a whole host of other hunks of meat made for a much beefier task.

Pork Ribs

Pork Ribs

The ribs weren’t bad. Both stickily coated and meaty, my barbecue pork ribs were a little fatty, though the pig happily fell off the bone and was made moreish by a boozy bourbon glaze used to jazz up the dish. Both mine and Mal’s beef short ribs were subtly smoked – a small disappointment given its billing as the main attraction – but had a decent flavour to them and were stacked high, making me grateful my eyes weren’t bigger than my belly in ordering more sides than the one that comes with – in my case crispy on the outside, fluffy within paprika-dusted fries. Perfection.

Manchester Egg

Manchester Egg

The Manchester Egg – black pudding and sausage meat wrapped round a gooey egg all deep fried in breadcrumbs – was a delight, as was the lightly smoked, tender boneless chicken wings with a creamy blue cheese sauce. Both disappeared pretty quickly (much to our waitress’ delight), though the puddings took longer to shift. A rich, fairly heady mud pie of rich chocolate ganache and Oreo biscuit base – from a fairly standard menu stretching not far beyond cheesecake – was lovely but a little too much to stomach, even with a sizeable dollop of Cheshire Farm ice cream to balance it out.

Mud Pie

Mud Pie

If I had never enjoyed the bounteous beauty of deep fried coke or eaten ribs fresh off the back of a pit barbecue, my review might have been much more evenly tempered, but for what it’s worth, 3TwentyOne is a lovely little establishment serving up simple, hearty food. Whilst the glut of Manchester food blogs reviewing the gaffe has paid testament to the shonky service, I suspect such teething problems will be soothed over time, and with soft, modern décor and an enviable location next to the Deansgate Hilton, will attract a good crowd once the blogger rush is over and done.

So, here’s hoping they get a little more heavy-handed with the smoker. That and another espresso martini is all it would take to tempt this blogger back.

* Equally guilty on the waffling front. Do forgive me. I am but human (and a gob shite).

3TwentyOne on Urbanspoon

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All Star Lanes Manchester

16 Apr

As far as fun childhood pastimes go, for me, bowling is the one most steeped in nostalgia. From my first ever game with my overly competitive Dad (where under no circumstances was I to have the advantage on account of my age) to childhood birthday soirees, where me and ten plus friends got high on Coca Cola and between us – Uncle Buck style – managed to knock down the least amount of pins in the history of the game, this imported American pastime plays host to many a happy memory.

In later years, retro dates were the order of the day, though why on earth baring your arse to your beau and showing your inability to throw a ball straight is considered attractive is beyond me. These days, the thought of hurtling a bowling ball down a well greased alley just doesn’t appeal, but when two new venues opened in Manchester, throwing a heap of fine food and drink into the mix, well… you know what happened next.

I managed to tag along (thank you North West Nosh) to the opening night of Dog Bowl, the second Manchester bowling alley to burst onto the scene in recent months from the guys behind Black Dog Ballroom. Dark and self-consciously trendy (naturally), the food was decent (bad tacos, good ribs), the Doritos mariachi band delightful and the clientele interesting to say the least – we found ourselves in a Corrie sandwich whilst on the lanes – with the great and good of Manchester turning out to posture and get papped.

Not my scene, sadly, so an invite to review the USA-inspired All Star Lanes, whose launch event I sadly missed early March was hotly anticipated. The first venue north for this London-based boutique chain – boasting an impressive location out of the imposing Great Northern – I expected all out Americana but instead encountered a far more classy rendering, with soft lighting, colourful retro decor and surprisingly un-kitsch waiters and waitresses in bow ties and ankle socks. Cool, but not doggedly so, if you catch my drift?

All Star Lanes Manchester

All Star Lanes Manchester

All Star Lanes Manchester

All Star Lanes Manchester

Rather than take a friend and get high on Coca Cola (and rum), I decided to take my brother for a sibling rivalry revival. Plenty of smack talk went down (though not about our Mother), with Dan promising an ass-whooping the size of which I had never before seen. Fat chance! Those nifty bowling shoes are levellers for all, though he did just manage to pip me to the post with a couple of strikes and a 78-70 final score. I won at the food though. I WON AT THE FOOD!*

Dan 'man' handling his hamburger

Dan ‘man’ handling his hamburger

The menu read like a high-end American diner; classic short rib starters, southern fried chicken sandwiches and hamburgers for the main event, though the potted shrimps, mac and cheese (truffle optional) and grilled lobster with hollandaise sauce takes dining at the lanes to a whole other level. The popcorn squid with aioli was inspired – a light golden batter with a mild chilli hit was the perfect foil for the soft, yielding squid. Cutely served in a Chinese take out box and picked at with chopsticks, the dish had some serious chops.

Popcorn Squid with Aioli

Popcorn Squid with Aioli

Baby Back Rack of Ribs

Baby Back Rack of Ribs

The rest of the menu proved hard to master, but rocking out with a Josper Grill, it had to be the rack of baby back ribs. Cooked sous vide then finished off over the charcoal to make for a tender hunk of meat that falls apart under the fork, ensconced in a sticky, sweet and smoky based sauce, it was with a heavy heart that I left some to spare. The ridiculously moreish rosemary salt fries took a battering though, in no small part due to home-made hickory smoked barbecue sauce on hand to dunk them in.

The drinks menu was something else. The cocktail menu rolls out originals and classics with dexterity; a rum, lime, honey and prosecco cocktail proved just the thing, as was the much needed Woodford Reserve Mint Julep to cleanse the palate after so many intense flavours. Daniel scored a strike in tapping up the milkshake menu, though. A heart attack waiting to happen ‘peanut butter and jelly’ number – aptly named the Elvis Shake – brazenly brandishing a slick of candied bacon was the highlight. They do boozy ones too!

The infamous Elvis Shake

The infamous Elvis Shake

Whilst bowling has never been a cheap do, on first appearance, the prices seemed highly inflated. At almost £9 per person a game and averaging £17 for a main, it all seems a bit much for a trip down memory lane, but with All-American portion sizes, quality ingredients and a deft touch with flavour and heavy hand with measures, All Star Lanes bowled me away. The USA-styled service polished with a touch of northern humour and highly informed hospitality made a pretty competitive evening all the more chilled out too.

So, go, relive your youth. Throw balls around and eat stack loads of food with someone you love spending time with (and can comfortably kick their arse without causing a ruckus). And whilst I wouldn’t recommend this very grown up fun emporium to families, it’s definitely the place to relive your teenage years. Just make sure it’s with someone you don’t mind flashing your arse too, especially after a 1970’s Presley inspired shake.

* Appears my Dad taught me well.

All Star Lanes on Urbanspoon

Most Memorable Meal: Mal O’Connor

22 Feb

I first met Mal at my first ever ‘official’ blogger event at Solita, and having heard on the grapevine that this fellow blogger was heavily into southern style barbecue, took myself along to one of his pop-up events to sample my first ever brisket, not to mention to the incredible states-inspired sauces he concocts. (If you ever see a bottle of Mal’s Alabama Red doing the rounds, grab it and run).

Spending the evening with a group of seriously interesting, very funny foodie people, eating barbecue and sipping bourbon was one of the most memorable experiences of last year, so when Mal started up his own concern in the shape of Fire and Salt BBQ and became the driving force behind the Manchester street food movement Guerrilla Eats, I was always going to be in support. Passionate about great food and bringing people together, I knew his most memorable meal would be a good story to tell…

Salt Lick Barbecue, Texas

The best meals are always more than just good food. Of course the food has to be good, although preferably exceptional, but you need more than that. There needs to be anticipation before, excitement, joy and wonder during and warm nostalgia long after. The best meals are always about the experience.

For me, the best meal I experienced was at the Salt Lick Barbecue in Driftwood, Texas. I was over in Texas about to start a three week road trip from Texas to California with my girlfriend and friends. We started our trip at the South by South West festival in Austin. While there, we were told we had to head out of town to the Salt Lick. Never passing up a good barbecue recommendation, we went for it.

Pulling into the white stone car park on a hot day in March, we had the window down so you could smell the faint aroma of mesquite in the air. By the time we got through the door, the aroma was in full effect but now intertwined with the scent of pecan shells smoking on the pit and the thick musk of brisket, sausage and ribs gently caramelising their glaze over that burning mesquite.

Through the door on the left I came to face the source of this aroma. This was my first ever sight of real barbecue. A stone barbecue pit right in the restaurant. The sight of all those delicious cuts of slow-cooked meat piled up there had me smiling already. To this day, the smell of wood smoke and seasoned meat brings me a certain joy that only barbecue can bring.

Taking a seat at a big timber bench in the lean-to shed on the side of the building, everything here felt sturdy and smoke-coated as if this were a living, breathing monument to barbecue.

Ordering was a simple process; we ordered the ‘Family Style’ plate. A heady mix of beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, coleslaw and beans. Just for good measure, we even threw in a side of chicken.

Served up on big plastic plates, every aspect of the meal was superb. Soft slices of brisket with that delicious barbecue glaze that’s mopped onto the meat, hot smoked sausages that are plump and firm and the thick country-style cut ribs with more meat on than a normal pork chop. Passing the big family plates around the table, everyone ate semi-quietly, only speaking to pass comment on the excellence of the food or to let out a reverent sound indicating the enjoyment of the food.

As time passed, and we all slowed our eating pace, we had time to sit back and enjoy the moment. The sweet flavours, the laid-back country feel, the chance to take your time and enjoy knowing that there’s nowhere else in the world you need to be. What could possibly make a meal better than that?

This meal was one of my most memorable because it inspired me (in a roundabout way) to get into barbecue. Having said this, in a more prominent way, it was truly the perfect meal; spent with friends, great food, an inspiring location and sampling a type of food I had never experienced. These are the parts that went together to make the most memorable meal I have ever had.

Guerrilla Eats

9 Dec

Ask and you shall receive, it seems. Having long lamented the lack of street food in our fair city, it seems my prayers have been answered. Hallelujah! Having watched London kick formal dining to the Kerb with its Kings Cross hub of independent traders, and Manchester Food and Drink Festival making the mobile food vendors of our metropolis the focus of its festival hub, it was only a matter of time before Manchester’s disparate food talent came together to feed the foodie thousands in need of an exciting new concept and a seriously good feed. God, am I grateful.

Guerrilla Eats started life in a car park out the back arse of Castlefield, the brainchild of Mal O’Connor of Fire and Salt Barbecue fame. Bringing together the most passionate and creative people from Manchester’s burgeoning street food scene, our very own collective of traders landed this weekend in the Northern Quarter, a spiritual home (of sorts) for quirky pop-ups and the city’s on trend food outlets and watering holes. And whilst hanging around a car park on a grim December evening might not sound like your idea of heaven, overlooking the crumbling mills of the Piccadilly Basin, for me it was as close to a food epiphany as I’m going to get.

Guerrilla Eats, Port Street Car Park, Manchester

Guerrilla Eats, Port Street Car Park, Manchester

I realised that behind the greatest food, there’s always a great story, and these traders have them in abundance. Chaat Cart, selling classic Indian street food, want to replicate the fresh, hot and intensely delicious experience of dosa and puri, experienced during the owner’s childhood in India. Mal, on the other hand, serving up crack like mac and cheese and the softest, most unctuous pulled pork, founded his business on the back of an obsession with southern style barbecue, picked up during his time spent travelling the southern states of the USA. Inspiration feeds passion, and with the Guerrilla Eats traders, it’s evident in every bite. Preach!

Chaat Cart Samosas. Ligly spiced vegetables in crispy pastry.

Chaat Cart Samosas. Ligly spiced vegetables in crispy pastry.

The Barn House Bistro Burger. Rump Steak Burger with a Lime and Jalepeno Mayo.

The Barn House Bistro Burger. Rump Steak Burger with a Lime and Jalepeno Mayo.

It also seems that no matter where the divine inspiration comes from, street food seems to pack a punch wherever you go. With constantly changing locations making it challenging to build up loyal custom, plus being outdoors and often out of the way, each trader’s food has to have some serious chops to draw each crowd anew. Immediate feedback also allows for a fast turn around on fine tuning recipes, so regardless of the experience of the trader in question, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a tasty morsel of food, and with prices hovering around the £5 mark, at seriously good value too. Amen to that!

The Sugar Bun Sisters. Chocolate Orange and Apple and Custard Cupcakes.

The Sugar Bun Sisters. Chocolate Orange and Apple and Custard Cupcakes.

Ginger's Comfort Emporium. Whisky Marmalade Ice Cream (FTW)

Ginger’s Comfort Emporium. Whisky Marmalade Ice Cream (FTW)

So, whether you try the gourmet ice cream at the award-winning Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, veteran of the Manchester street food scene, or the incredibly inventive beef and pork franks from Dirty Dogs are Hot, make the pilgrimage to the bottom end of Port Street this Sunday and find yourself converted to street food. Open from 11am to 4pm today, there’s a buffet of seriously delicious and vastly different foods on offer. And who knows? You might just be witnessing the birth of something exciting this Christmas too. With the food talent on show, who knows where these Guerrilla Eats traders might end up? A car park today; their own premises tomorrow? I can only pray.

MFDF: Indy Man Beer Con and Oktoberfest

6 Oct

Indy Man Beer Con

The past few years have seen a creeping revival of the British booze scene, witnessing everything from boutique gins to farm house ciders become more prevalent, thanks to artisan producers of some serious craft injecting real energy and excitement into the drinks of our history and heritage. For its part, real ale has spearheaded this resurgence, moving through the ranks from old man’s treasure to hipster tipple of choice, headlining the agenda at the local boozer to its current mainstream status, with larger swathes of supermarket shelf space dedicated to independently brewed beer than ever before.

It hasn’t blown wide open quite yet however, and is highly unlikely to, given the complex flavours and process geekery inherent, ensuring it will never truly ensnare the masses. Resolutely remaining an acquired taste for the largely long-haired, beard-wearing crowd, said crew were on show at Indy Man Beer Con, the latest offering in beer festivals. Headed up by the passionate folk at Common and Port Street Beer House, they put on a do aimed to out-do all dos at the most stunning of Manchester venues, Victoria Baths, and as part of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF) programme, I felt compelled to go along.

Victoria Baths, Manchester

Indy Man Beer Con Events Hall, Victoria Baths, Manchester

Now, largely a red wine, rum and cider drinker, the real ale movement has somewhat passed me by, apart from the occasional half pint of Robinson’s Old Tom and a recent flirtation with the brewery’s collaborative beer with Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys. I know cock-all about the terminology, processes and drinking culture involved, so was half bricking it, half tingling with anticipation over what a day of learning and drinking would bring. A warm fuzzy glow as it turns out, and a burgeoning relationship that I hope grows into a full-blown love affair.

Indy Man Beer Con, Cask Room

Pumped up and ready to go… (sorry)

Having wandered the venue (a treat in itself) and clocked the cask, keg and event rooms squirreled about the place, (and a nifty little Brew Dog pop up to boot), I broke myself in gently with a pale ale, as you do, from Yorkshire based Magic Rock Brewing Company. Curious by name, curious by nature, it unexpectedly tasted of mango and smelt divine, with citrus fruit wafts emanating tantalisingly from the third of a pint chalices we were given by the organisers, with the aim of ensuring we tried as ‘broad a spectrum of beer’ as possible. Excellent idea, and more than manageable for a rookie like me.

Magic Rock Brewing Company, Curious

Magic Rock Brewing Company, Curious

Unlike many of the attendees, pottering around with beer sheet in hand and ticking off ales as they inhaled them,* I winged it , wandering round sans sheet and talking to brewers for want of clue, and did fairly well (I think). The joy of the pale ale led to me trying a Blood Orange Tea collaborative number from Stockport’s Quantum Brewery and North Tea Power, a slick, fruity ale with a bitter back hit that set me nicely on course for a stout, mixed with chilli and chocolate by the magicians from Brewing Bitches. Cack name but cracking stuff.

Brewed specially for the event, it comprised cocoa, scotch bonnet and naga chillies to make for a sweet initial hit, which gave way to rich, dark flavours followed by a tingly sensation. Incredible! All in all, the day was a revelation. I learnt the difference between cask (twice fermented and traditionally hand pulled) and keg (brewery pasteurised with added gas), the history and characteristics behind a session beer (less than 5% ABV and drinkable over a period of several hours), and that traditional brews are complex, flavoursome and happy drinks, produced and supported by some incredibly passionate people.

Indy Man Beer Con, Portable Street Beer House

Indy Man Beer Con, Brew Dog Pop Up

Much to my dismay, I also learnt that drinking real ale turns you into a big old pig too. On arrival, I had myself a pork shoulder barbecue roll from Mal at Fire and Salt BBQ (smothered in the fast becoming legendary Alabama red sauce) and heading out the door snaffled myself a Dachshund Dog of smoked polish sausage, stout-soaked sauerkraut and Bavarian smoked cheese joy from those geniuses at Dirty Dogs are Hot. After four hours of drinking, I was in sore need of a smackerel of something to soak up all those beer juices, and serious sustenance to power me through the 40 minute walk back to town. That’s my story, is all…

The Dachshund, Dirty Dogs are Hot

Having attended the beer lite session during the day, I missed out on the potent promise of the evening’s festivities, which served up beer talks on yeast, hops and craft beer at large, brewer tastings and live music, plus the true excitement only apple candy floss can bring from the guys at The Moss Cider Project, in attendance with their co-operatively produced Cider Pony. From all reports, the evening was a great success, and with more of the same today and tonight, I’d heartily recommend you try bag yourself a ticket. I’m already putting myself down for next year, all in the name of continuing my education, of course.

Oktoberfest

Final weekend of the MFDF and its all eyes to the festival hub, where street food still reigns supreme, plus more beer based fun for your roving (and now rolling on account of all the MFDF food and booze consumed) reporter. The beer tent has morphed into (what I suspect to be a slightly watered down version of) Oktoberfest, with German beer brand Veltin’s sponsoring. Packed to the rafters with after-work drinkers and kids kicking off their weekends, the whole of Albert Square was in excellent spirits on the final Friday of the festival.

Oktoberfest, Veltins

El Kantina, Pulled Pork

With the street food changeover taking place earlier in the week, my flatmate Aoife and I tucked into pulled pork nachos from El Kantina, though Chaopraya and Levanter Fine Foods were also pulling the crowds with Thai delights and paella respectively. All washed down in the beer tent with a pint of Veltin’s, an easy-drinking clean and herbal beer, we were serenaded by a lederhosen toting oom-pah band, who had the crowds up on the tables dancing to Poker Face, Delilah and Bohemian Rhapsody, not to mention a rousing Happy Birthday for an eighteen year old I’ve ever met.

Oktoberfest, Table Dancing

Great food and drink and great atmosphere, take yourself along to the festival hub to see MFDF out in style.

* Real ale drinking may just be the train spotting of booze. All little beardy men with sheets, ticking off the beer supped and looking sublimely happy as they go.

Southern Summer Barbecue

18 Aug

Barely heard of several short years ago, the bizarre, wonderful and ever changing concept that is the pop up is now a full on thing, each one creative in its own way and truly dedicated to the foodie notion of its creators choosing. With houses, office buildings and rickety old vans playing host to everything from burgers to bubblegum ice cream, the pop up has given us a whole new way of eating, several fabulous new food trends and another brilliant excuse to bring people together through food and drink.

This fully fledged ‘foodie’ trend first came into public consciousness (at least to my mind) with the much publicised and lauded Underground Restaurant, the pop up eaterie established in the home of Kerstin Rodgers, or MsMarmitelover as she prefers to be known. Meat Liquor (formerly known as The Meat Wagon) burst on the scene around the same time, and gave the nation an obsession with the elevated burger that continues to this day, not to mention their find-it-if-you-can-van, which kick started our ongoing preoccupation with street food as well.*

As usual, London has lead the way, but in Manchester, supper clubs have reigned supreme, with particularly notable offerings from Monica Sawhney’s Spice Club, dishing up authentic Indian food, and the now sadly defunct gastroclub. Paying homage to quirkier dishes and unusual ingredients at many of the city’s more obliging restaurants, gastroclub is the sole reason for me trying squirrel, jellyfish and chicken feet over the course of a happy and very adventurous food year.

The one dish establishment is a further extension of the pop up trend, seen at Salt Dog Slims in Liverpool, brainchild of the people behind Santa Chupitos and El Bandito, where American-style chilli dogs and steins of beer are served up. Others prefer to keep it simple in altogether unexpected ways, like Penelope’s Ice Cream of Manchester fame, which serves up creative and creamy concoctions out of a shed in the centre of Spinningfields.

Despite having tried many incarnations of pop up, and greedily indulged in one too many back street burgers of late, I had never been along to dine at someone’s house before and despite a brief introduction at Southern Eleven, American barbecue has remained a mystery to me. So when I realised fellow blogger Mal (of Mangechester fame) was running a Southern Summer Barbecue from his back yard, I knew it was the thing for me.

Having travelled the USA and experienced the Texan legend that is Salt Lick BBQ, a fascination was born, and thankfully for all Mancunian residents, brought it back home with him and built a breeze block pit in his back yard, all in the name of cooking a whole pig. Project Pig commenced, and what followed was a foray into all the other trappings of southern barbeque, from ribs to pulled pork and sauces through to sides.

Southern Summer Barbecue

His Southern Summer Barbecue is the result, and on the evening my London friend Vicki and I attended, we were treated to a menu of deeply flavoursome beef brisket with burnt ends and Alabama red ribs, both the most tender and moreish pieces of meat you could dream to eat. Served up with hush puppies, a traditional southern dish of deep fried cornmeal with jalapeño, creamy mac and cheese and a refreshing Mexican cobb salad, it was one hell of a spread.

Burnt Ends

Brisket

Ribs

Home-made sauces accompanied, including a tomato based Alabama Red, mustard based Georgia Yellow Belly and coca cola based Atlanta Juice, all of which kicked off a big ole discussion on the barbecue traditions of the eleven southern states. Each area keeps true to their specific base of sauce, as well as making a religion out of cooking certain cuts of meat, which we learned vary massively from those we butcher in the UK. It seems Mal is keeping Frosty, his local butcher, on his toes.

Mac and Cheese

Hush Puppies

Mexican Cobb Salad

Whilst the eating took place, there wasn’t much yakking, and initially this was a blessing, as apart from our venerable host, Vicki and I knew no-one. However when you have a mucky mouth and are moaning loudly on account of the excellent food and a full belly, its hard not to relax into the company you are keeping, and we were dining with some truly lovely people

At our table we met Ana, Amy, Pedro and Ricardo, food lovers and fabulous company each. Originally hailing from Portugal, they gave us some great insights into Portuguese food traditions, from villages raising and cooking whole pigs as a community to the popular fish only barbecues they host. Mal’s friends also were also in attendance, having dedicated themselves to enjoying their friend’s culinary adventures, and our evening culminated in gathering round the table as a big group to prep our own dessert.

A melted chocolate and parmesan mix was given to us to inject into Krispy Kreme donuts which were then griddle cooked over a hot ring, making for a creamy and bitter caramelised dessert served with vanilla ice cream. Piled into the centre of the table, friends or not, we took no prisoners and had the dish clean in minutes, shyness no doubt overcome with the help of a few bottles of wine and a shot of strawberry infused bourbon provided by Mal.

Krispy Kreme Donuts injected with Chocolate and Parmesan

Chocolate Parmesan Griddle Nuts with Vanilla Ice Cream

The evening ended with us all round the table, drinking, sharing stories (the majority of them best not repeated) and talking over everything from food to bionics and road trips to rum, all enabled through an evening of great food in an unusual setting. It’s an experience I’d happily repeat over and over again.

Thankfully, Mal is getting ambitious, with a second back yard barbecue taking place this weekend and a pop up Pig Out event at Almost Famous this coming Tuesday 21st August, and aside from a few early doors tickets, both events have sold out. Keep your eyes peeled though my friends. Serving up pork and hospitality as good as this, he’s one to watch.

*Street food is big enough now, apparently, (despite only being done widely in London), to have its own awards. No jokes.