Tim Allen has stepped into Daniel Clifford’s shoes at this Essex inn to produce a menu that, he says, puts flavour first and foremost. Katherine Alano paid him a visit
It’s been shy of four months since Tim Allen took over the Flitch of Bacon from two-Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford, who in February announced his decision to take a step back from the Essex pub.
“Daniel approached me about the Flitch in 2015, but it wasn’t the right time,” recalls Allen. However, when plans to work with Select Property Group in Manchester as executive director of food and beverage fell through, another opportunity to take the pub over arose. “There was one proviso [in the decision],” says Allen. “That the restaurant had nothing to do with Daniel. And he agreed.”
Allen boasts a stellar CV and brings a wealth of experience. In 2015, he joined the Wild Rabbit in Kingham, Oxfordshire, and it was awarded a Michelin star two years later. Prior to that, he was chef-patron at D&D London’s Launceston Place, which went on to win four AA rosettes and a Michelin star.
Nestled in Little Dunmow in the heart of the Essex countryside, the inn, which has been renamed Tim Allen’s Flitch of Bacon, offers a ‘place to eat, drink and sleep’, and has three areas: a 20-cover bar, a 44-seat restaurant and outdoor dining space for 40. There are also three rooms, with prices starting from £90.
Accessibility is important to Allen. Reducing the price point of the rooms has helped with occupancy, and he offers a reasonably priced bar menu and a three-course lunch menu at £25 as well as the à la carte.
“Is the bar menu the mainstay of what we do here? No, it isn’t, but you have be able to offer people a pint and a decent plate of food,” he insists. “We offer informal dining, and that means you leave feeling like you have spent your money well. We offer a quality product, but that still has to mean value for money.”
Guests eating from the bar menu can expect traditional pub grub, from fish and chips (£14) to English asparagus on sourdough toast (£14.50) and bacon, egg and chips (£14.50). This, in essence, is the traditional dish elevated to a richer, more indulgent level, with a generous slice of bacon served with a fried duck egg and triple-cooked chips. As Allen enthuses: “It’s food you want to eat. Ham, egg and chips. Who doesn’t like that?”
The pork comes from pigs reared at local farm Great Garnetts, who Allen works with to produce the bacon, a process that takes 10 weeks. The bacon is a perfect balance of salt and sweet, so it’s no wonder that it’s the inn’s best-selling dish, selling 60 portions a week. “I’m not trying to be clever. I can do all the cheffy things in the world, but is that really what people want to eat? That’s what I’m interested in.”
No visit to the inn would be complete without ordering its namesake: the Flitch of Bacon from the à la carte menu. Here, the bacon is glazed in maple and served with creamed cauliflower, sautéed Orkney scallop and compressed apple.
Also from the à la carte is one of Allen’s most recognisable dishes, a starter of spring salad, which has been part of his repertoire since Launceston Place. Despite its simple appearance it comprises 11 cooking methods, including salt-baking, barbecuing, steaming, slow-poaching, roasting and pickling. The vegetables are served with truffle cream cheese, a honey reduction, ice plant and nasturtium leaves.
“People seem to appreciate it, so it stays,” says Allen. “But it’s evolved over the years.” The salad is evolving again in the coming weeks to incorporate skills and techniques that Allen is interested in, such as Japanese food.
“I have always cooked ballsy, gutsy full-of-flavour food,” admits Allen. “But my food is getting lighter and, with the salad, there is a finesse to dressing it. It has to look live and fresh.”
Other dishes include roasted quail with smoked sausage, savoy cabbage and verjus reduction (£14.50); and Romney Marsh lamb with Provençal flavours (£24). Desserts include lime and maple cheesecake with pineapple roasted in Muscavado sugar, spices and pecan served with a lime curd ice-cream (£8.50).
Looking after front of house is Allen’s wife, Magali, while Laura Bisciglia is assistant restaurant manager and Marcin Oziebly is sommelier.
“We do have a small team, running a small, personable place,” Allen says. “Ultimately, I want the Flitch of Bacon to be known for being the place to go and have great food and service.”
From the bar menu
• Buttermilk chicken, roasted garlic and lemon mayonnaise £13.50
• Suet pudding, beef short-rib, beer-pickled onion purée, purple sprouting broccoli £12.50
• Caramelised sourdough ice-cream, poached garden rhubarb and candied ginger and crispy pastry £8
From the à la carte menu
• Heritage tomatoes, whipped goats’ curd, young basil, tomato consommé, our sourdough and iced nocerella olive £13.50
• Cornish monkfish, confit chicken wing, wing terrine, barbecued Hispi cabbage, broad beans and roast chicken emulsion £24
• Gariguette strawberries, aerated buttermilk, strawberry jus, pistachio meringue and orange skin ice-cream £8.50
The Street, Little Dunmow, Dunmow, Essex CM6 3HT