Good news: the Pit Kitchen is back for the summer!
Brothers Adam and James have fired up the grill again to bring the tastes of East London’s street-food scene to the Cotswolds countryside.
I was lucky enough to sample one of their ‘Pit Nights’ recently: a casual al fresco dining experience in the beautiful Cornwell Estate outside Chipping Norton. About a 30-minute drive from Oxford and we were in a hilltop field with country views all around. Communal tables nestled under a protective sail with charming fairy lights; a fire pit warmed the air.
There was plenty of open space for the many children to play in, while dogs chilled next to their owners.
I could feel the relaxed vibe wash right over me. But even better than the rural tranquillity was the hum of happy diners. We quickly joined the queue at the little wooden shed to check out the action at the grill. The Pit Kitchen is all about cooking over an open fire; the flames and smoke won my heart even before the first bite.
The Pit’s menu is deliberately small, as they aim to offer ‘a few things done really, really well’.
The dishes are inspired by the sort of Turkish classics that you might find in a London street-food market. For example, the one starter was a mezze plate (£12), and for the mains there was a choice of two types of shawarma (£15), each with a meat or veggie alternative. Two small plates on the side, one pudding – and that’s it. But that simple description doesn’t even begin to do the food justice.
The Baharat-spiced lamb neck shawarma featured warmly aromatic meat that was meltingly tender after some gentle treatment in the sous vide and judicious charring on the grill. It was piled generously with grilled courgette, green pepper sauce, feta cheese and some house pickles – all on top of the homemade sourdough flatbread. This freshly grilled bread was chewy, slightly puffy to catch the delicious juices, and worth the drive all on its own.
Our second sandwich was a very fulfilling veggie option on the same more-ish bread. Once again, the flavour combination was a delight. Earthy brined oyster mushrooms contrasted with the feta dressing and pickles, while the generous dukkah topping added nuttiness and spice. Both dishes were substantial enough to attack with knife and fork: you don’t want to drop anything this delightful due to careless fumbling. A little side of sundried tomato and garlic pilaf (£4) was fluffy, light, and flavourful.
Tucking into my pit-fired meal at the picnic table was a pretty special way to have a sandwich for dinner.
My hunger had one minor setback: the charred corn with spiced butter (£4.50) was already sold out by 6.30. I had to watch the few remaining orders coming off the grill and being eaten with gusto by the earlier, luckier diners while I waited for my food. And there was a bit of a wait because the warm Saturday evening had attracted quite a crowd.
Still, there are worse things than sitting at a picnic table at dusk enjoying a glass of wine. And the food is more than worth it; I can’t wait to get back there for more lamb and for a taste of that golden grilled corn. Or the juicy brined chicken that I spied sizzling on the grill? Maybe I’ll find room for the Hackney chocolate gelato pudding too? It’s the kind of place where you just want one of everything!
The Pit Kitchen
Open Wednesday to Saturday, 5pm to 10pm.
Pit Kitchen, Chipping Norton, OX7 5YF
We dined as guests of Pit Kitchen, all views remain our own.