Pros: Well written recipes easily reproduced at home
Cons: Very English focused cooking style
Reviewed by Wayne Crich
Scott Thomas has written an interesting and worthwhile cookbook here. His focus for the book and professionally is pub food. For anyone who has been watching TV from the United Kingdom you will have noticed the whole gastro pub movement. Thomas believes the Australian food scene really needs the shake up that good pub food will bring.
Having set up two successful pubs in melbourne Thomas is in a good situation to share what works and the attitude required to transform a bar into a whole lot more. He outlines the idea of basing the whole venue on a welcoming and homely bar. Relaxed customers are the key and the whole business is based around the idea of a pleasant location for a drink and a bite to eat. Building off this then is the idea of a relaxed dining area serving good quality food at reasonable prices.
The key to success seems to be a positive staff and a relaxed approach underpinned with good quality food served in a way that relaxes and encourages social interaction. The menu is far from fussy, yet reflects care with the choice of seasonal quality ingredients. Bar food ranges from smoked haddock croquettes, tamarind chicken wings and of course a good quality burger. However this is Australia and you can also have a meat pie, fish and chips or a good steak in short what any Aussie might expect but done to a very high standard.
This is only the tip of a gastro pub and the dining room offers guests that little bit more in terms of quality and variety. At its heart the gastro pub establishes a high level of food in an environment to make it more accessible to customers who might never choose to go to a restaurant of similar standard. The dining room features some lovely recipes a stilton souffle caught my eye as did the roast poussin with walnut bread sauce. Deserts to do not disappoint with a range of traditional English deserts such as rhubarb eton mess, treacle tart and steamed brown ale pudding.
Recipe: Corned Beef with Buttered Cabbage and Mustard Sauce
Take a nice piece of corned silverside and simmer until cooked (30mins per 500gms is a good guide)
Simmer in chicken stock with carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf, white vinegar.
For the sauce saute diced onion, diced garlic in a little butter, add Dijon mustard white wine and a generous helping of the braising liquid. Reduce, sieve and stir in some thickened cream. ( Much nicer than the usual boring white sauce)
Slice a savoy cabbage finely and light;y cook in butter making sure to season well.
Makes a very nice tea.
Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Maple Syrup
Clean and trim the sprouts and cut in half - blanch
Saute until golden in olive oil and butter
Meanwhile dice a quantity of quality bacon and cook with the sprouts.
Drizzle the maple syrup just before serving (or just after)
Makes a vegetable I don't normally like eatable. To quote one person at my table " It tastes good cause you can't taste the brussel sprouts."
In short this book gives a great picture of how these two successful pubs in Melbourne work and with over 60 recipes why they are so popular. Its a good book with solid recipes that are clearly explained, well pictured and with instructions that most cooks can reproduce at home. This is a very enjoyable book.
Available for purchase here: http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Chef-Behind-the-Bar/Scott-Thomas/book_9781742570198.htm