A Lesson In How To BBQ at The Avalon Gastropub
Published 6 July 2010
During the walk from Clapham South tube station to The Avalon gastropub, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was on my way to a typical pub with a beer garden at the back. Certainly the neighbourhood of Clapham South is one of the typical middle-class London suburb.
From the outside, The Avalon looks like your typical gastropub; with outdoor patio seating at the front, typical bar and dining areas inside, and a few TVs dotted around the walls. But walk to the back of the building and out the door, and suddenly you find yourself in a beautiful and surprisingly large back garden area, which stretches for at least 2 blocks. The size of it is hard to judge initially as it is long instead of wide, and there is more privacy than the typical beer garden as tables towards the back are in their own shrubbery alcoves. The Avalon’s beer garden is one of the best I have come across in London.
I was here with a group from Qype to learn about BBQ techniques and tips from the head chef at Avalon. The evening was hosted by Renaissance, owners of Avalon, along with other gastropubs in London such as Stonhouse and Abbeville. Just over the past weekend, the Avalon had a massive BBQ party for the ill-fated England vs Germany World Cup game, which saw heavy use of the gas burner BBQ they have onsite. Head chef Adam Hicks was there to teach us the basics of how to BBQ, starting off with grilling the staple beef burger, followed by making quick and easy piri-piri chicken from scratch.
For the burgers, Adam uses ground rump steak, moulded into generous thick patties, and then simply brushed with oil and a liberal sprinkling of salt before placing on the BBQ grill. The patties should be flipped regularly when the colour of the meat changes, and only when the patty is no longer sticking to the grill, as the meat loses its stickiness to the metal when it is cooked. Throwing together a simple flour bap with sliced tomatoes, lettuce leaves, some mayo and jalapeno relish, and you have an elegant yet simple to make burger for a home BBQ. Tast- wise, it was interesting to have a burger made with pure minced rump steak, as the texture is very different from regular burger meat. It was a lot finer and leaner as well, with the fatty bits in-between, but as a result it did taste a bit dry and a bit too dense.
For the piri-piri chicken, Adam made the marinade from scratch right there and then, combining chopped onions, red chilli, coriander, bay leaf, and olive oil in a blender to produce a coarse marinade. Ideally, the big chicken breast fillets should be marinated overnight in the fridge to get the full flavour. The piri-piri chicken were thrown onto the grill, and while we waited for it to cook, Adam talked about grilling fish, and how it was better to BBQ whole fishes rather than fillets, and the best were sea bass and sea bream, or any other oily fish as the flesh held together well.
Last of all to be cooked were the traditional Cumberland sausages, which thrown onto the grill without pricking the casing, which helps to preserve the juices and flavour inside. As sausages are quite thick and overcooking them results in split casings, one tip was to blanch the sausages in boiling water for a few minutes to cook them through before throwing them on the grill for a few minutes. This technique seems to work: the sausages were extremely flavourful, and a very interesting apple-like flavour from the herb comes through with each mouthful.
While we didn’t get to try any of the dishes from the regular menu and so I am unable to provide any opinion on the food, The Avalon gastropub is worth going to just for the tranquil beer garden at the back, even if Clapham South is a bit of a trek for anyone not living in South London. And having gained some invaluable tips from a professional, I will be holding more BBQs during the summer to show off my newly learnt skills!
Cuisine: English gastropub-style food, with a modern twist on classics
Address: The Avalon Gastropub & Garden, 16 Balham Hill, Clapham, London, SW12 9EB
Nearest Tube Station: Clapham South tube station (5 minutes walk)
Booking tel: 020 8675 8613
Official website: www.theavalonlondon.com