Bar snacks play a large part in many pubs and operators understand that these offers will reflect on the menu as a whole.
At the recent Leffe Gastro Bite Awards 2014, over 100 pub owners and chefs battled it out to have their bar snacks crowned as the best in the country.
Judged by Kevin Love - head chef at Heston Blumenthal’s Hinds Head in Bray, Berkshire - the five overall winners cooked up an array of exciting dishes that included a warm salt beef Scotch egg, sausage rolls with homemade piccalilli, goujons of battered lobster tail and salmon and popcorn chicken with paprika mayonnaise.
Kevin Love cooks up an array of popular bar snacks at the Hinds Head including a Scotch egg (£3.75), devils on horseback (£2) and a hash of snails (£9.95).
To coincide with the competition, Love also created his own recipes for AB Inbev brand Leffe.
Dishes include a stoemp Scotch egg served with mustard mayonnaise; duck ham served with duck rillette, truffle mayonnaise and asparagus and a Kentish rarebit with endive and apple dice.
“I firmly believe that kitchens are now becoming more involved in bar snacks to provide more gourmet offerings. Pubs can really put themselves on the map nowadays with a tasty bar snack recipe,” said Love.
“We have two or three bar snacks on the menu at any one time and change those throughout the year. Our Scotch egg is our most popular snack – we sell about 100 a day and can’t make them quick enough.”
“Scotch eggs are everywhere at the moment and are coming in various shapes and sizes but it’s good to think outside the box and create something that’s a little different or with a twist.”
A number of different ingredients can be used for Scotch eggs, such as black pudding, haddock, chorizo and quail and duck eggs.
Kevin also serves up homemade pork pies and cod three ways in which the skin of the fish is dried in a dehydrator and deep fried to make a cod quaver.
Pubs can capitalise
For pubs lacking in dining space, Love encourages the use of the bar as a way to draw customers to its food offerings and enjoy repeat business.
“If a pub doesn’t have the room for a large restaurant area then it can use the bar area to serve food and that’s when the bar snack comes in. If people know they can stay at the bar, have a few pints and a few snacks then they will keep coming back and that will keep evolving.”
Many operators are now creating more high end bar snacks including the Vintage at Drygate in Glasgow which offers a range of charcuterie such as octopus pastrami (£4) and spreadable chorizo (£4).
Russell Norman’s Ape and Bird in central London serves rolled gammon and piccalilli (£7) on its bar menu while Drake and Morgan sites around London offer prawn lollipops with sweet chilli and soy dip (£5.95).
Silk & Grain in central London offer an extensive bar snack menu that includes smoked haddock ‘scotched’ quail’s eggs (£6), crispy pig’s ears (£5) and bourbon-glazed pork belly bites (£5).
Gourmet snacks here to stay
According to Love, the trend in operators serving quality bar snacks is set to continue, with the public enjoying it just as much as the chefs.
“The demand in this country for great food, recipes and ingredients has come on leaps and bounds. People want good home-cooked food and buy into the idea of knowing where ingredients are coming from.”