The Pudding Club and the British pudding revival
The British pudding is an experience to be cherished. So much so that, in some restaurants, it's the main attraction
In recent years, the British pudding has rather fallen off the end of most menus. Diners are perhaps too busy, too full or too health conscious; ’just coffee thanks’, comes the oft reply. So much so that in some establishments, the pudding has gone off and set itself up as the sole dining experience. Welcome then, to the idea of the pudding club.
The Boy who makes puddings
The Athenaeum hotel in London recently launched it pudding parlour in conjunction with Edd Kimber, winner of Great British Bake Off 2010. Here starters and mains are nowhere to be seen, just pudding, and a selection of wines or champagne to go with it. ‘We’re open 8pm-11pm for the post theatre crowds, or people who just want something sweet and a drink at the end of the evening’ says General Manager Simon Wakefield.
Edd has developed recipes for monthly seasonal puddings, in conjunction with pastry chef Marion Jeffery. Marion’s sticky toffee pudding is one of the best I’ve tasted, and contains - correctly - dates, which give it extra moistness.
Spoons at the ready
Probably the original Pudding Club however, is the one held at Three Ways House Hotel, Mickleton, Gloucestershire. The evening was established by Keith and Jean Turner in 1985 to ‘to prevent the demise of the great British Pudding, at a time when restaurants seemed to offer only tiny portions of Frozen Cheesecake and tasteless Gateaux.’ On the menu is jam roly roly, syrup sponge, spotted dick and bread and butter pudding. Simon and Jill Coombe and their business partner Peter Henderson took over the hotel in 1995, and built on the Turners’ success.
The run one ‘club’ a week, though in January 2012 they’re planning to do two a week. ‘Perhaps it’s down to the recession?’ says Simon. ‘People just want a bit of cheering up’. If you can’t get to Gloucestershire they’ve also just launched a range of puddings in over 100 Waitrose stores nationwide.
The first rule of Pudding Club is…
‘You have to clear you plate before getting a second (or third, fourth etc.) helping’ says Simon. As you can imagine they get through a fair bit of custard. Indeed, like oil in an engine, custard - a simple emulsion of egg yolks, cream and sugar, thickened slowly over a low heat - lubricates the British pudding-eating experience.
Do it at home
What is it about pudding clubs that people enjoy? ‘It’s nostalgic and comforting’ says Edd. ‘Nothing says love like crumble’. He goes on to explain that with baking, it’s rarely something you make just for yourself. It’s made to share and to enjoy with others, and I can’t help but agree.
I think only the British really understand the pudding. Granted, there's some fine French patisserie and such on the continent, and the Italians can do wonders with ice cream. But the hot sweet pud is a British invention, born out of our industrial and imperial past. More than that, though, puddings are in our soul. I always think that anyone who doesn't like puddings is bound to be a bit mean.
So why not have your own pudding club? Get some friends together, mix, beat, ice and bake, and revel in the loveliness of pudding.
Room for seconds?
Gary Rhodes' bread and butter pudding
Bruce Poole's hot chocolate pudding
Simon Rimmer's chocolate fudge pudding
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