It’s always sad saying good bye to the Summer menu.
Chefs, like myself and the team at the pub, are necessarily attuned to the ebb and flow of the seasons.
As all the food that we prepare at our place in Somerset is locally sourced it’s really important that I always keep half an eye on today and half an eye on next month. Our changing seasons here in England are one of the best things about working in food, but it also creates a real challenge when it comes to devising and executing an interesting gastro-pub menu that can make the most of as much local produce as possible.
When it comes to the food that I create and prepare on a daily basis in the pub, the first priority I always have is instilling the unique culture of our Somerset location into everything that we do.
Where many other small pub restaurants often crumble under the pressure of the latest food trends, I’ve always felt that maintaining a strong local identity is key.
Although a budding young chef might feel like serving traditional Japanese sushi in his local Fish shop is a great way of getting his patrons excited about World food, there’s a reason why they’re going to their chippy every Friday night – and it’s not to try out Jake’s new take on sashimi.
Whenever I pull my team together to get some new ideas on the next season’s menu I always start by reminding them about what values our pub is defined by and ask them about how we can best exhibit them by using the local produce we have at our disposal.
The way I like to put it to them is by describing a hypothetical customer.
This customer is visiting from outside of Somerset and they’ve come to see the very best that our area has to offer – which means a quintessential meal which will serve as a warm welcome to our region. That means finding locally sourced produce that you can’t get anywhere else and preparing it with time-tested, traditional methods.
What this doesn’t mean is looking over the shoulder of whatever restaurant’s currently stirring up the scene in London and attempting to copy them. And this certainly doesn’t mean desperately trying to slap a new kind of gourmet burger on the menu that somehow references whichever celebrity has been causing headlines in the tabloids this month.
As a gastro-pub it’s always tempting to fill out the Winter menu with what are considered ‘pub classics‘. Any English punter can imagine this kind of menu with their eyes closed: Steaks, Shepherd’s Pie, Lamb Shank. These basic twists on ‘meat and two veg’ might well be a good way to plainly exhibit the quality of your ingredients but they’re so rote that you could safely order them in any part of the country.
It took several tasting meetings and a few visits to some local producers to get a good concept together for our new menu, but I’m happy with what we’ve ended up with: a selection that is packed with creative twists on traditional classics, with the very best Somerset ingredients at the centre of the stage where they belong.