Saturday, 21 July 2018

Bucks Bites: Cheque it out

There’s nothing mad dogs and Englishmen love more than pub garden weather. Any hint that the sun might be coming out and we are there, balancing a pint of fizzy lager in one hand, while battling with the slightly damp parasol with the broken catch. 

From sitting in unmown fields on splintering picnic benches, to huddling on rickety pavement tables while breathing in the hot fug of traffic fumes, to concrete courtyards that are sticky underfoot and smell of stale fags, the sheer elation of being outside with a beer in hand seems to overcome all other circumstances.

While it is nice simply to be outside, swatting away wasps and getting slightly sunburnt, living in leafy Bucks means we are blessed with some very picturesque pub gardens to sit in. Having decamped from North West London as a child, this often meant family expeditions out into the gently rolling Chiltern Hills, with one of my Dad’s recent favourites being the Chequers at Fingest.

As he was staying with us recently, on a bi-annual visit from Oz, it seemed an apt place to go for dinner and celebrate the start of the great Heatwave of 2018 (can anyone still remember back to a time when they needed a coat, or shoes or trousers, or pretty much any clothes at all…).

Being a Brakspear’s pub, somewhat unsurprisingly, they serve Brakspear’s beer. Regular readers (Hello, Mummy P) may remember me talking about just this very drop when I went for a recent dinner at another charming Chiltern pub, literally but a stone’s throw from the Chequers. Which is handy, as I can just put in a link here and don’t have to bother repeating myself (not that that normally stops me)

It turns out my Dad is rather a fan of a pint of the famous double-dropped bitter as well, and we quickly made our way through three each, while the Ewing cursed being the designated drivernot, perhaps, because she particularly wanted to drink lots, but more the fact the decline in the quality of conversation and increase in beer drunk seemed to be directly proportional.

As much as my figure and Instagram feed may suggest otherwise, I don’t eat a huge amount of burgers. Yes, the word huge may be relative (literally and figuratively) but, as most of us have bitter experience, their proliferation on most pub menus does not guarantee something that you will actually enjoy eating. Especially at 15 pounds, as the cheeseburger costs here (a sum that would buy you ten of my beloved double cheeseburgers from Maccy D’s, the connoisseurs choice).

Still, we all ordered the burger anyway, although my Dad did initially attempt to order the sausages, being starved of a proper pork banger in Australia – where the grainy and perennial disappointing beef snag still rules the roost, despite the influx of Brits and Irish living – only to be told they were off the menu.

As far as burgers go, this was a champion; hefty in stature, but manageable without contorting your jaw awkwardly to eat; pink and juicy in the middle – the burger is made onsite – this was a squirter; topped with good cheddar cheese (nothing really beats plasticky American, but this was nice in a classy way) melted properly across the top; and served with lots of pickles, tomato and raw onion.

In fact, the food was so good that, with the heatwave extending into an almost unprecedented second week, the Ewing suggested we returned (sadly sans my father, who was heading back Down Under) a couple of days later, which, being the weekend, meant there was the added bonus of the pizza oven in the garden being fired-up for the weekend.

Pizza came topped with prosciutto, rocket and Parmesan, finished with a hefty glug of heady truffle oil - bringing fragrant joy or funky misery depending on which side of the tuber-scented condiment you come down on. For the record, I'm a fan, of the funk if used judiciously as this was. As was the Ewing, masterfully modelling her dinner in a surprisingly good-natured photo opportunity. A decade of my incessant photo taking has gradually worn her down.

The fierce heat of the wood oven had given the base the proper combination of chewy and crisp, with a smoky depth coming from the charred spots on the edge of the crust. And, while at fourteen quid for a disc of dough topped with a couple of slices of ham and a handful of salad, it could hardly be described as cheap, it still seemed fair value.

While the lure of the burger was strong, I plumped for the pork chop - served with a green peppercorn sauce, cabbage and mustard mash. While there is nothing particularly revelatory about the combination of meat and two veg, pork chops were my favourite meal when growing up and, on tasting this, it's fair to say not much has changed all these years later. 

Everything on the plate was perfectly judged from the punchy mustard mash, to the buttery crunch of the cabbage, to the crispy rind of the chop, best eaten alongside the briny pop of the bottled peppercorns in the rich cream sauce. Pub food at its finest.

Relaxing in the sun with beer, family and pork chops. At the risk of sounding like Homer Simpson (and surely there's nothing wrong with that), I'm not sure things can get much better.

No comments:

Post a Comment