From their native north, to the arty heart of the capital, The Hairy Bikers have won over all-comers with their distinctly British brand of culinary motorcycling
Words: Frank Grice
With their joint love of bikes, great food, and exuberant facial furniture, Si King and Dave Myers – known collectively as The Hairy Bikers – have been travelling the length and breadth of the world on their trusty hogs for over a decade now. And with a plethora of TV shows and books under their belts, the public has embraced the duo for their delightfully laidback and endlessly earnest attitude to fantastic grub.
The pair’s waistlines may well be somewhat smaller these days – a lasting reminder of the weight they shed for 2012’s Hairy Dieters show – but the genial back-and-forth banter and thick accents are ever-present. That being said, though the follicled friends hail from County Durham and Lancashire respectively, it was here in London that their bearded bond really began to flourish.
‘For me it started in my tiny place in Trinity Buoy Wharf, at Container City,’ Myers explains. ‘A fantastic little spot – incredibly modern, but draped in history. The whole plot is made from shipping containers, right next to the Thames. In my case, it is a beautiful shade of terracotta, with two welded together, plus a balcony that overlooks the river.
‘The architects did a great job on that whole place. At the time we were working down there a lot at the start. Si used to come over and eventually he stayed so much he would end up chipping in rent at the end of the month!’
Naturally, this led to the forming of a strong working relationship and friendship. ‘Dave and I were working quite closely together,’ says King. ‘It was clear he had massive passion for food, and knew what he was talking about, so that was our main hub of conversation. Then it went onto motorcycles!’
London is such an exciting place to live, food wise. We travel around the world for multicultural tastes and those that reflect every nation, yet in reality it’s all here in the capital anyway!
The artsy nature of Container City may at first seem incongruous with the everyman attitude of the nation’s favourite gastronomic motorcyclists. Yet, when you consider the duo’s background in the entertainment business – Myers was a prosthetics artist, while King served as a locations manager – and the incredible food available in the capital, the choice to settle in London seems an obvious one.
‘London is such an exciting place to live, food wise,’ beams Myers. ‘We travel around the world for multicultural tastes and those that reflect every nation, yet in reality it’s all here in the capital anyway!’
King nods along in agreement. ‘There are not many places that you can say that about,’ he says. ‘People crave that eclectic cultural influence in cuisine and in most provincial cities and, as Dave says, you have a plethora of world cuisine around you and long may that continue. We have a 24/7 celebration of food and social diversity in London and that’s very precious.’
Despite their televised travels around the globe, both Myers and King still gravitate back to London to sample some of the wares prepared by the city’s cadre of upcoming cooking talent.
‘There are a lot of young chefs who are very passionate in this city – and it’s a flipping hard industry to push your way through into. You’ve got to be very special, and these lads are – it’s just fabulous.’
For their most recent adventure, however, the Bikers have swapped city life and British cooking for the sun, sand, and seafood of the Mediterranean. It was, the pair agree, an absolute no-brainer.
There are a lot of young chefs who are very passionate in London – and it’s a flipping hard industry to push your way through into. You’ve got to be very special, and these lads are
‘We’ve got a great relationship with the Mediterranean,’ says King, ‘in the sense that the Med is normally where we go on our holidays. Dave has lived in France, my sister lives in Italy as well, so each had this link with the Med and that instantly felt special. It was just an opportunity try to scratch the surface of the Med a little and look into the cuisine and the anthropology.’
Ever ready to throw themselves beard-first into culture, the Bikers sampled the whole range of foods the Med has to offer, from simple pasta dishes – ‘good olive oil, salt, pepper… job done’ – to ‘honestly quite nice’ boiled tuna testicles. That being said, the sheer size of the area means the pair already have one eye on revisiting the region in the near future.
‘When we did the research, we found that there are 21 countries which border the Mediterranean with a couple of islands, and it’s such an intense area that you couldn’t hope to do the lot,’ agrees King.
‘We concentrated on the Western Med, so started out in Southern Italy, where it was the Greeks who first settled, long before the Romans. It was a very good starting point for that investigation, and we ended up in Southern Spain. We’ll head back soon, I’m sure, but in the meantime, London is just fine!’
The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure, is out now, published by Seven Dials (hardback: £25, eBook: £12.99)