IT takes a special kind of vision to walk into a wooden barn miles from anywhere and envisage it as a buzzing, go-to destination for lovers of the very best in barbecue cuisine.

So raise a festive toast to chefs Sam Edwards and Jak Doggett of the Upton Firehouse near Burford, who have taken a huge wooden shed at the neighbouring smokery and turned it into a thriving restaurant which is as much a feast for the eyes and nose as it is for the mouth.

Platters of slow cooked brisket and pork belly, aged rump of beef, Buffalo wings, salt cod , BBQ ribs, wood fired hake, rib eye steaks and divinely smoked salmon lifted from the nearby River Coln, grace a menu which is fun and big on taste and texture, enjoyed in a beautiful barn strung with fairy lights.

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A bar in the corner with locally produced juices, elegant cocktails and great craft beers and cider, give it a festival ambience – a cross between a high-end restaurant, marquee party and barn dance.

“It was a barbecue buffet that used the products and produce from the smokery and farm shop, before we came,” says head chef Sam, 32.

“We wanted to improve on the existing business and add our own touch. Adding fresh, vibrant salads and different dishes, influenced from around the world.”

General Manager Jak, 27, nods. “We added a juice bar and a bar, repainted and decorated and like to think we have made it our own.”

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The idea for the business began while the pair worked in a restaurant in Cirencester. Sam was chef and Jak a 15 year-old pot washer, eager to get cooking.

“At first we had set up our own catering company and were looking for a venue,” says Jak. “A mutual friend of us and the Firehouse thought we would be an excellent fit... and here we are.”

They opened in February 2019 and while business started off well, the lockdown served their first major challenge.

“We closed and had to decide what to do,” says Jak.

“We were always open for pizza nights so it was a natural progression to open solely for takeaway.”

Sam says: “The hospitality business has done so much to ensure people’s safety, that of its customers and staff, and while we understood why the Government locked down, it was a blow to us as the business is so young.

“But we opened up for takeaways, which we had already been doing every Wednesday with our pizza evenings. And then we added in a Barbecue Friday set menu, Saturday Firehouse classics and Sunday lunch.”

Since then they have broadened out the menu, and despite the blip of the second shutdown, they are back again.

“We were not sure what to expect, but we decided to add breakfasts and extra lunch services and we have been busier than ever,” says Sam.

“After the first lockdown we had to do away with the buffet altogether,” he goes on. “But we have found a way to incorporate and use the smokery in a breakfast and lunch menu.”

The pride of the Firehouse is its extraordinary 10ft grill.

“This is the largest grill to our knowledge,” smiles Sam. “It takes a mixture of local hard wood and charcoal. It also houses our pizza oven, we don’t just use it for that, we also cook fish and roast beef on Sundays."

As I visited on a crisp Saturday lunchtime, the place was busy but – being a huge barn – was spacious and comfortable. Diners sat on chunky wooden benches, heat from the enormous grill kept the cold at bay, and strings of lights gave it a warm festive atmosphere.

The food was superb, with starters of juicy, fragrant smoked trout from next door, and plates of delicate sautéed wild mushrooms, followed by the signature barbecue platters of slow-cooked brisket and pulled pork so tender it flaked on the fork, and a herby Cumberland-style sausage. It was served with tangy crisp beetroot, coleslaw, Bulgar wheat and heavenly wedges of smoked salmon.

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Pudding came in the shape of comfortingly immense, but surprisingly light, slices of tiramisu.

Diners are also encouraged to stock up at the smokery.

“The shop is also open for business selling all of their great smoked products including the salmon we have on our menus,” says Sam.

“It’s all fabulous stuff!”

It is indeed.

  • Sam & Jak are at the Upton Firehouse, Upton, Burford
  • 01993 823612.