Our advice is to give up home BBQs completely and eat out if you're hankering for char-grilled chow. Some of London's garden pubs have taken to throwing lavish barbecues and there are restaurants which specialise in food cooked over coal.
The owners of The Canonbury Tavern, 21 Canonbury Pl NW1 (071-226 1881) Tues-Sun 12.30-2.30pm/7-10pm use their spacious back garden to host their Summer in Siam evenings where a variety of fresh food is barbequed Thai-style. Most popular are skewers of Tiger Prawns (pounds 4.95), the Thai burgers (pounds 3.50) with coriander and ground peanuts, and their delicious marinated chicken fillets (pounds 4.25).
Occasionally the seafood dish of the day extends to such delicacies as squid on a stick, mussels and scallops. Also unusual are their spicy Thai sausage brochettes. All meals are prepared by resident Thai chef Tanyika and come with a side salad and a choice of sauces. Plain rice (pounds 1) is extra and the excellent egg and vegetable rice (pounds 1.95) makes for tasty summer nosh. These evenings are popular so it is essential to book.
Greig's Grill, 26 Bruton Pl W1 (071-629 5613) Mon-Fri 12.30-2.30pm/6.30-11pm Sat 6.30-11pm is a traditional English restaurant with red velvet walls and Tudor banqueting tables. It specialises in char-grilled whopper steaks of the sort only ever seen in Hollywood movies, which may explain why the place is so popular with Americans.
The 16oz rump steak is the biggest monster (pounds 17), followed by the 14oz sirloin (pounds 18.50) and the 12oz fillet (pounds 19.50). All are juicy, tender Scotch steaks which are char-grilled over a open coal fire. All steaks come with mushrooms and tomatoes, but side orders of chips or jacket potatoes are extra (pounds 1.75). Also recommended are the English baby lamb cutlets and veal chops. A red meat-eater's delight.
The Mongolian Barbeque, 61 Gloucester Rd SW7 (071- 581 8747) Mon-Sun 7-10pm offers a one-price-fits-all deal. The Mongolian BBQ is actually a big round hotplate on which slivers of beef, lamb, jerk chicken and pork can be cooked in front of you. There are also some rather unappetising slabs of cod to flambe and prawns so small they must be out of a tin.
Before cooking your portion, you can sprinkle the raw meat with various sauces (soy, oyster, chilli etc) and spices which sit in small clay pots on the buffet-style spread. A big salad selection is included in the price (pounds 9.95). It's advisable to get there early as this place is a favourite with big parties which can cause quite a queue round the hotplate. Part of a chain with outlets in Wimbledon, Clapham and Ealing.
In the heart of theatre land lies the lively New York-style PJ's Grill, 30 Wellington St WC2 (071-240 7529) Mon-Sat 12am-12pm/Sun 12am-4pm. It's a BBQ grill house with mahogany walls, wooden floors, and white paper table- cloths. The staple menu consists of BBQ ribs, hamburgers and steaks (pounds 10.95 for a fillet) which come with lashings of fries. Slightly more exotic is their salmon done over the grill, as well as their tuna steaks, chicken and lamb (pounds 6.25). The mixed grill is also reasonable at pounds 8.50.
Lunchtime sees the business community resident, evenings start with a pre-theatre crowd and end with a post-theatre influx of excited kids who've just seen Cats or Starlight Express. Best to nip in mid-evening, when the restaurant is less busy so you can chow down on ribs in relative peace.
The Tufnell Park Tavern, 162 Tufnell Park Rd N7 (071- 272 2078) Monday nights 8pm-11pm, has a beautiful back garden dotted with statues and huge garden pots.
Their Monday night barbecues have become very popular, especially the monthly live band night, where the sounds and smells from the BBQ waft up into the balmy summer night. Over the big double grill a chef cooks chops, steaks, sausages and chicken, all dipped in BBQ sauce. Prices are extremely reasonable - steak and salad pounds 2.50, a mixed grill pounds 3. Seats for 60, but arrive early to avoid queues.