Simon Rimmer on Pub in the Park: “It’s like the best-ever birthday”

Who doesn’t love a festival? Live music, cold drinks, sunshine (we hope!) and exciting food – it’s the recipe for great summer memories. This year, delicious. is going on tour with Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park – the ultimate food lovers’ festival – which is visiting four towns across the UK from May to September.

Ahead of the party kicking off in Marlow on 16 May, we caught up with Pub in the Park regular Simon Rimmer. The chef and presenter shares the street food he can’t resist, his honest thoughts on camping – and what he’ll be up to at the festival this year (involving pints, dart boards and your favourite celebrities)…

Each Pub in the Park weekend has its own distinct flavour and line-up of food and music guests, with the calendar also including Chiswick (28-30 June), Reigate (12-14 July) and St Albans (6-8 September). Tickets are available to buy direct from Pub in the Park – we’ll see you there!

Simon Rimmer on Pub in the Park: “It’s like the best-ever birthday”

Festival season is here! Are you a fan?

I do a lot of food festivals and do like music festivals… but I really hate camping. I’ll go there and back in a day or stay in a hotel. I don’t like not being able to have a shower and clean clothes! My kids are both festival fans and find it hilarious that I’m like, “I’m sorry, I’m just not going to camp.” It’s not my thing.

Have you ever had any festival disasters?

I went to a festival when it absolutely chucked it down for the whole day. My kids were much younger then, and it was one of those days when the whole family falls out with each other. That was the most miserable experience!

What festival food do you make a beeline for?

I love a burrito, chicken wings… and anything barbecued – pulled pork, brisket and so on – will always be my first port of call. And it’s got to be spicy.

Spicy and barbecued are Simon’s festival food criteria


What do you like to cook at home to capture that fun, festival vibe?

I do a lot of barbecuing and quite often I’ll cook lamb shawarma: butterflied lamb shoulder with cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, fenugreek, chilli, garlic, lots of salt and a little bit of sugar. You cook it on top of a load of sliced onions with red wine, stock, a little bit of butter and a couple of halved lemons. Slow roast it for five hours, then just pull it apart. With some homemade flatbread and salad, it’s perfect – proper festival vibes.

You’re back at Pub in the Park this year. What makes it a great day out?

It’s so much fun – I’ve been involved since the second year. It does what it says on the tin: it’s a pub within a park. There’s good food, good beer, live entertainment and local producers with artisan products. It’s a nice, inclusive festival.

What are you excited for at 2024’s events?

I’m hosting a podcast this year called Pod in the Park. The fun schtick is it’s hosted in my imaginary pub – that actually isn’t very good. It’s a celebration of British pubs, the good and bad. Things like: have you ever had a lock-in? What was the worst drink that you used to order? If you could add one tune to our imaginary jukebox, what would it be?

At the end of each episode, our two guests play darts against each other. For our first episode on Thursday 16 May, we’ve got Mary Berry against Rick Stein. Who doesn’t want to see that? At Marlow, we’ve also got rapper Example on with Tom Kerridge, and singer Mae Muller up against Vernon Kay. In other locations we’ve got Matt Willis from Busted, Melanie C and chefs like Tom Brown and José Pizarro, too.

I’m not cooking at all this year, as we’re doing four podcast episodes from every Pub in the Park, so I’m in the fortunate position to just be able to eat and drink! It’s like the best-ever birthday.

What’s your best pub story?

I’m a massive Liverpool FC fan. I was standing at the bar and a bloke said to me, “Are you getting served yet?” I turned around and it was Ian Rush [Liverpool’s all-time leading goalscorer]. He was one of my heroes. Standing in the pub with my mates and having a pint with Ian Rush is probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me in a pub.

"Having a pint with footballer Ian Rush is probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me in a pub"

There’s a great line-up of chefs at Marlow’s Pub in the Park. Who are you looking forward to seeing?

It’s very rare that chefs get to hang out together and Pub in the Park has become somewhere we can do that. Tom Kerridge is one of my closest friends, and it’s great to get to spend a load of time with him. And Atul Kochhar is an absolute legend. Angela Hartnett is at Marlow as well – she can be the hardest person to get hold of, so it’ll be nice to see her face to face! She’s also going to be on my podcast.

Simon with mate Tom at Pub in the Park


And what are you looking forward to eating?

One of the best places to be is the barbecue pit. And the other thing I’ve heard is… Atul Kochhar is famous for his chicken tikka pies – he always has them at Pub in the Park – but he’s said this year he’s not going to do them, and there’s an outcry. My son came with me to one of the events last year, and he’s still talking about Atul’s pie now. I think there could be riots on the streets of Marlow…

What were some of your highlights last year?

I had the privilege of announcing McFly and then being side-stage. I’ve seen them a few times, but to watch them 50 feet away was brilliant. And we did a barbecue demo last year that went really well. I did a slow-cooked lamb and feta dish and it was beautiful. I’ll never forget the smell, as I took it off the barbecue and opened it up, and hearing the audience go, “Oooooooh”.

What’s your festival drink of choice?

I’m a beer drinker at a festival – but on the podcast we have a gag that we don’t do craft beer. I actually like it, but years ago there used to be a kids’ TV programme with two comedians called Trevor and Simon who did a sketch in a laundrette, and their punchline was always “We don’t do duvets”. So we’re going to do, “We don’t do craft beer!” The nice thing when you go to Pub in the Park is that there’s great local breweries and Greene King are a main sponsor, and their beers are good. You’re a bit spoiled for choice.

Who’s at the top of your list of music acts to see?

At Marlow: Mae Mueller, Paloma Faith, Busted… and Judge Jules is DJing and he always puts a great set on. He really knows how to get a party going. He’s like the Pied Piper: you watch the hordes of people moving towards the stage to listen to him. Elsewhere: McFly are back and Melanie C’s playing – she’ll be amazing. I think the level has been raised on music this year.

What music gets you up dancing?

I get more and more varied in my music taste as I get older. The things that I thought were naff when I was growing up in the seventies – like ELO, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac – I now really like. My sister was a massive disco fan, so I’ve always been into some Candi Staton; Earth, Wind and Fire; The Stylistics; Luther Vandross. Then I was at uni and an indie kid, so I like The Smiths, REM. And now I listen to bands like English Teacher and – locally to me in Manchester – the Courteeners. Plus I like a bit of country music! If Dolly Parton comes on, I’m your man.

Simon will be at Pub in the Park’s summer events at Marlow (16-19 May), Chiswick (28-30 June), Reigate (12-14 July) and St Albans (6-8 September). Discover the full chef, restaurant and music line-ups and buy tickets direct from Pub in the Park.

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