The Black Dog’s mobile pizza van has been a popular fixture at many of the island’s biggest events, including the Royal Show, the Food & Drink Festival and Bushy’s TT Village but last year it also found a new home in the former Water Board yard as a pop up.
It was an instant success and owners Mike and Josie Wade have been working hard all winter to turn the site into a permanent venue.
They were finally ready to go on May 1, to coordinate with the Oie Voaldyn celebrations.
Mike says: ‘We opened the doors at 12, and there was nobody around at 12.30pm, but by one o’clock it was absolutely packed. We had sold out of pizzas by eight o’clock.
‘We won’t always be that busy, obviously, this was a special occasion, but it was eye-opening to see just how busy we could get.’
Mike is rightly proud of having built most of the features and fittings in the venue himself, including the outdoor tables and benches, the new kitchen and bar areas and the gazebo style roof, and he was thrilled to get the chance to see them being used.
He says: ‘It was wonderful to see people sitting on the benches that I’ve made, at the tables that we made: everything seemed to work properly and that was a nice feeling.’
One item he did not make is the giant woodfired pizza oven which is the centrepiece of the new kitchen area: this was built by Julian Aspinall in Lytham St Annes. Its ability to retain heat is astonishing, as Mike explains: ‘After we fired it on Sunday it was still at 100 degrees on Tuesday.
‘The idea is that we will use all that residual heat to constantly cook things on it. In the mornings, with the embers, in it will be 200 degrees so you can use it as a general oven for breads and that kind of thing.’
Woodfired bread, he adds, is ‘temperamental but lovely’, especially miniature loaves cooked in small flowerpots. He is also planning to offer woodfire-cooked fish, and soups and stews.
A pop-up Fynoderee Gin Distillery bar was part of Black Dog’s Oie Voaldyn celebrations but for the future the venue has its own licence and Mike’s eldest daughter, Molly, will be running the bar.
Mike says: ‘We’re going to sell Bushy’s lager and beer, and a guest beer, and that is always going to be a local beer - always. And, as much as possible, we’re going to do a local spirits bar as well.’
There will also be a spot for local cider from the Manx Cider Company, which is owned by Mike’s good friend, Ben Quirk.
Mike says he is thrilled to have these two brands associated with his new venture: ‘I’ve been going to Bushy’s since I was 17 years old, playing on the stage, so working with Martin [Brunschweiler] and having the Bushy’s logo here means so much to me.’
Pizza does, of course, also require red wine which Mike will be buying by the (refillable) box and decanting into carafes for the tables.
‘We’re trying to be as low waste as possible,’ he says.
This weekend they will also be selling, exclusively, a new rum punch from Outliers Distillery
The Black Dog’s support for local products and produce also extends to their pizza ingredients – with bases made from Laxey Flour and toppings including queenies, homemade wild garlic pesto and Close Leece Farm chorizo, these are definitely the ‘Manx-est’ pizzas around.
Mike was overwhelmingly voted in as a Peel Commissioner last year and he adds he wants to use this platform to make Peel as welcoming as possible to other unique, independent, local-supporting businesses like his own.
The Black Dog Oven is now open every weekend on a Saturday and Sunday, from midday to 11pm. They will also be open every day during TT fortnight and Mike says his one regret is that this means he won’t be able to be at the shows this year with the mobile oven.
‘We’re missing being at Bushy’s TT Village this year and I’d love to go back there because it was just so much fun – hard work but such fun.
‘Maybe next year we can do both...’