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So, super, special Sunday arrived and my dear readers will have been looking for a new winner – could The Jugged Hare next to the Barbican centre be it?
Recommended to me some years ago by a Scottish woman that I used to work with, The Jugged Hare was one of the founding members of my to-do list – not first of the to-do list, but…second.
Oh what a journey we’ve been on – and no, I don’t mean the exceptionally hungover train journey from Ely to London King’s Cross on Sunday early afternoon. Gosh these segues just write themselves, sometimes, don’t they? Suspiciously so – yes, you can call me deep woke. Semi-deep perhaps.
But what I took away from the whole footballing journey was how much society has actually changed for the better.
I see your eyebrows raised, and yes we saw some really shameful examples of behaviour, from the louts of Leicester Square, to the racist abuse of players, to the violence in and around the stadium, people attempting to steal tickets and break into the stadium. Please don’t read my blog if this is you.
However, 20 years ago, every Pizza Hut in every “levelling up” town would have been smashed up, every Fiat Uno would have been damaged, the front pages of certain newspapers would have been egging on the racism and the hatred of players that missed penalties. It may not feel like it, certainly the journey isn’t complete and we’ve gone a backwards in some respects in recent years, but English society has improved. Hasn’t it? Or was I still pissed when I wrote this?
We’ve still got a fucking long way to go to learn how to make decent roast potatoes, let alone reach a decent standard of moral decency – but I certainly don’t remember an outpouring of support for Gareth Southgate or David Batty for missing penalties years ago. The response to the racist graffiti in Withington wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago either.
Gosh that got a bit serious.
How about a sexy woman in an England top?
Erm. Well just picture her in a leather dress with a whip.
Fine, but it was a great journey over the last few weeks wasn’t it? The disappointing draw with a valiant Scotland (watched at a very fun Boxpark), the clear and easy victory over Germany, the thrashing of Ukraine, the squeezing through against Denmark – and then losing on penalties to the team that really were the best in the tournament.
It almost feels like the ups and downs of trying to find a great roast dinner in London…maybe I should rename myself Gravy Southgate? And I did expect The Jugged Hare to impress.
At when we first met
Apparently The Jugged Hare are “London’s leading game restaurant” – their words not mine – and eating game on this particular Sunday gone would have been appropriate. Alas, they didn’t have game on the Sunday roast menu – you can decide whether that is appropriate or not. Maybe it was a sign?
Game season does seem to be later in the year, so maybe I’ve missed my opportunity for a game roast, though apparently roe deer is sold at this time of year, and that would have been good on a roast.
The Jugged Hare has a classic feel to it, as you might expect from a pub in the city. On your left as you enter, there is a bar area with proper chairs and tables – none of this rescued riff-raff stuff, proper sturdy chairs. To your right is the restaurant area which even in covid times I guess could easily seat 100 or more – plus there were further seating areas downstairs.
Despite it being in about the quietest area of London on a weekend, it was fairly busy. They already have a good reputation, and don’t need semi deep-woke roast bloggers to help.
On the menu was chicken (with stuffing), pork belly and beef rump – all priced at £24.00. I went for the beef, partly because I trusted that they’d know how to do it nicely, and partly because I’d had chicken last week and it feels like I’ve had pork a lot recently.
Our roasts actually came really quite quickly, taking around 10-15 minutes. I’d given up on conversation and was listening to the guy on the next table talk about places he’d had a roast dinner and places he wanted to try, and I was so tempted to tell him about my blog. I really should figure out how to market this one day.
I cannot escape
It arrived presented like this, with both a small pot of kale and a small pot of celeriac/carrot cubes both on the side to share. Yet there is a problem. ENFORCED CONDIMENT.
It’s not like it’s even just on the side of my plate – the horseradish cream was covering a good quarter of the beef.
I did my best at scraping it off, through it meant that I sacrificed my watercress at the same time (oh no). I don’t mind condiments in themselves, but I want to appreciate my roast and the gravy – they just always feel unnecessary to me. Horses for courses but please let me choose my course.
Starting with the carrot and celeriac mix which was fairly heavily herbed – I only ended up with about three cubes of carrot so not much I can say there, but the celeriac had its flavour fully brought out, with a slight tartness to it.
The kale was nice, quite soft.
And I cannot forget
I could forget the roast potatoes – in fact, I half-expected to forget the whole meal through a long night of celebration…that didn’t quite happen despite the Met line’s best attempts to ensure that I didn’t get home.
They looked decent, but one was undercooked inside, one was very tired in a last week kind of feel, and the other was unremarkable. They also looked crispy on the outside, especially my accomplice’s roasties – but they weren’t crispy.
Sweet Yorkshire pudding, ba ba bum. The yorkie was decent, crispy outsides, nicely soggy bottom once the gravy had soaked in.
Beef is coming…noooooooo that’s just way too obvious. And nothing came home anyway, nothing is coming home. But the beef was very nice. Actually pretty excellent. Plenty of it, I think 3 or 4 slices, some of it was notably rare, some of it closer to medium-rare, the silkiness and juiciness of it came through so well and is easily some of the best beef that I’ve had this year. To make beef rump this good, which can maybe not be the most exciting cut – kudos to the chef.
Gravy you’re the one, you still turn me on, yes I’ve still got this fucking song in my head. Gravy actually was the one, this was one of the best gravies that I’ve had this year – probably second best behind The Albany in Twickenham. Thick, smooth, almost creamy feeling yet not with an especially strong flavour, this is proper gravy.
Met line’s not taking me home again
So I was pretty happy with this roast. They got some of the more important things spot on, in terms of the silky beef and the proper northern gravy – though no surprises on the cruddy roasties.
And everything else was broadly decent – service was good except for having my gender confused (I do need a hair cut) – enforced condiment was more offensive though.
I like the venue, I wish they had game for a roast but maybe the logistics of game season don’t support this – so I do have reason to revisit on a non-Sunday at some point.
I’m scoring it a 7.96 out of 10. The roast potatoes just stop me from scoring it over an 8…I just cannot bear to bring myself to give that high a rating without decent roasties. My accomplice scored it an 8.20.
On the off-chance I don’t get a self-isolation notice before Sunday, I’m going somewhere appropriate to celebrate (pass the sick bucket) “Freedom Day”. Let’s just say that the owner isn’t a fan of masks. I might wear one all meal just to annoy him.
By the way, how do I get that fucking Atomic Kitten song out of my head?
Just think, this could be the last roast dinner review that you read before football comes home. Damn, now I’ve put pressure on myself to finish it before the semi-final on Wednesday. Anyway, this week it is from Thatched House in Hammersmith.
But our booking got cancelled.
At first we were really disappointed and a little offended – was it something I said? I’m normally super nice to everyone and their shitty roast potatoes. But then we read that they’d had a fire. Hopefully they’ll be back up and running soon enough…and hopefully it will be as good as I expect.
So it was another spin of the random number generator, taking into account my arrival from Taunton where I’d been attending a heavy-metal non-wedding by the Church of Dude (at least that’s what I heard him say…Dudeism is apparently the slowest growing religion in the world) – and Hammersmith seemed reasonably close enough to, erm, Taunton.
Though to be fair, the Metropolitan line was closed all weekend (shocker) and my back-up Piccadilly line ended up being closed for a few hours – so coming from Taunton was actually easier…well…until I got to London.
Wiggle it, just a little bit
So, we have a semi. Yes, I know my sex life is so bleak that I even get turned down by Japanese sex robots, so any time where I can claim to be partaking in a semi, I am going to thrust this at you.
What’s that face for? It’s not often I get to enjoy a semi…they are about as irregular as crispy roast potatoes.
Speaking of which, shall I put my semi away and talk about the roast dinner? There’s only so much you can flog a semi before it fades into obscurity…sigh…but at least I’m not quoting Margaret Thatcher to you. One of the heavy metal guys at the non-wedding had a jacket full of badges from the likes of Metallica…and one with a Thatcher quote.
So Margaret Thatcher’s House in Hammersmith is somewhere that I’d never
come across heard of until someone sent me a list of recommendations last year – my to-do list is finally under 100 but I want to get it to a much more manageable level before the lockdown after the irreversible restrictions are fully relaxed, so I’m generally pretty wary of adding to it. However pubs that are under an hour to get to (in theory) from Harrow are pretty useful.
Still, I knew nothing else about the pub. I gather it is (or attempts to be) a community pub, it doesn’t have a thatched roof, it does have both a normal kind of pub area and a restaurant (ish) area, along with a garden out the back and a small pocket garden which used to be part of the road at the side. It’s probably not on your radar, unless you live in or around Hammersmith.
As a blogger, I should really only be reviewing popular places that you’ve heard of so I get more likes and whatever else it is that is supposed to give me a semi…but you already probably know that I’m a dreadful blogger and my attempts at semi jokes will definitely have confirmed this to you. Not to mention the fact that I actually pay for my meals too. Ex-Tory scumbag.
I wanna see you wiggle it
The roast dinner menu at the Thatched House looked decent but unremarkable – a bit like the pub itself, which had some nice touches like pots of fuchsias on the garden tables, but then had plenty of TVs – it seemed to be trying to please many bases at once.
As it was with the roast, with all 4 usual meats covered, beef sirloin, half a chicken, lamb and pork belly, all priced shockingly low for recent London standards (have they not heard of post-covid inflation?) between £14.50 and £15.95.
I went for the chicken – partly because I think I’ve only had it one other time since we were granted freedom that apparently isn’t freedom, and partly because it could be the last time I’ll ever be able to pay under £15.00 for a roast dinner in London.
I should mention that the beer choice was unremarkable also – with Camden being the best of a boring bunch of beers. Our roasts took around 20 minutes to arrive.
I’m going to start with the red cabbage this time, which I don’t really like and others on the table dislike enough to remove it from their plate – I’d already asked for no peas so was concerned about not having any vegetables to remove so I didn’t quite go that far – my dislike of peas is to the level of phobia, speaking to a waitress with an exceptionally small head in Somerset this weekend she doesn’t feel comfortable taking plates to customers that have peas on. So it isn’t just me that has a pea phobia. Fuck that meal in Somerset was basic.
Anyway, the red cabbage tasted like it had been soaked in sambuca which was an interesting choice – I’m sure it was more likely star anise and cider, or something along those lines but I just couldn’t help singing Atomic Kitten songs as if I was back in Boxpark doing a shot per goal (ignoring that that game finished 0-0). I kind of liked it, but would have been happier with less.
Just a little bit
Broccoli was just broccoli though it seems to have made a reappearance in recent weeks into London – it was nice but not much else I can say.
Carrots were soft and nicely roasted – though with a light touch. Parsnips were similar, a tad too soft and squishy – but that doesn’t especially matter. Both were enjoyable.
Two types of potato were supplied on what was already an exceptionally generous portion – the mash was fairly soft and fairly creamy, I thought I detected both a hint of fennel and pepper, and was an appealing addition.
The roast potatoes looked good but were, shock horror, the most loathed item between the group. I actually seemed to loathe them less than others did – some people didn’t even eat them. Mine were crispy on the outside (granted not freshly crispy), but inside were nearly as dry and soulless as Priti Patel looking at your semi.
The Yorkshire pudding was fine, I guess. Quite soft yet quite tearable in texture. Though it didn’t offend me, it was utterly pointless – I’d have much preferred a ball of stuffing.
We’d had all the meats around the table, those eating beef and lamb were complimentary about it without being ecstatic, my friend eating the pork belly was served a slabhead proportion of it – most places wouldn’t even give you a third of the massive lump that they served. The pork itself was a bit too bouncy when I tried it (if that makes sense) though the crackling was apparently very nice – too nice for me to be able to steal.
For my chicken I was satisfied. Half a plump chicken, featuring crispy skin, a herby glaze, generally fairly juicy chicken though the depths of the breast was a bit dry – but nothing overly notably dry and definitely not offensive.
I feel like the gravy was a good metaphor for the meal in general. Plenty of it, and I enjoyed it at first – but I tired of the gravy somewhat as I went on – like I tired of the whole roast dinner somewhat. The gravy kind of tasted of tomato, which always worries me as gravy shouldn’t taste of tomato so I always assume my taste buds are fucked. Nice at first, but wasn’t so keen on it by the end.
As it grooves
Overall I thought the Thatched House provided a respectable Sunday roast, and one that will definitely appeal to those who rates their roasts based on volume of food or value – and people do exist like that.
Nothing really stood out as being especially good or especially bad. Perhaps the chicken was the best part, especially the skin with the herby rub. Actually the roasties were notably dry inside and disappointed more because they actually looked like they would be good…so yeah, the roasties were crap and the flavour of the gravy grated on me after a while.
My accomplices were a bit all over the shop on rating it – 6.50, 7.00, 7.20, 7.50 and an 8.00 (hungover rugby player so we can probably assume that he likes lots of food).
I’m scoring it a 7.13. Like the rest of the pub, it was unremarkable and inoffensive, yet it was decent enough. Oh, and I can confirm that I still find heavy metal exceptionally traumatic.
I’ll be back next week. Get wiggling.
And enjoy the semi.
Two weeks ago I went to The York & Albany. Last week I went to The Albany. So this week, I was relieved when the random number generator picked Black Dog Beerhouse in Brentford.
The same Black Dog Beerhouse that is situated on…yes…Albany Road.
What the fuck is going on? This Albany stuff is weirder than Matt Hancock’s hands whilst snogging, or England beating Germany on penalties. Given that there is no chance that I’ll finish writing this before the end of the game, my prediction of England beating Germany on penalties might look dishonestly prescient. Edit – it just looks wrong. Cool.
I’ll leave the dishonesty to the politicians, though I’m sure that the NHS contracts that Gina Coladangelo’s brother are perfectly appropriate and totally co-incidental. And I’ll mention Matt Hancock snogging no more – I don’t want to put you off eating, and I had enough to deal with by going for a roast dinner with a Trump-supporting anti-vaxxer…hashtag care in the community. This blog really is a community service in more ways than one.
The one with the waggly tail
Black Dog Beerhouse isn’t in the most salubrious area ever. I chose to walk from Acton Town, cutting through the surprisingly somewhat dishevelled Gunnersbury Park, then along a concrete jungle, though sensibly ignoring Google Maps when she insisted that I walked towards Brentford Towers.
To either side of Black Dog Beerhouse there are council estate blocks, council estate garages then a little further along a weirdly pastel-coloured multi-storey carpark just behind the Morrisons. Yet Black Dog Beerhouse looks eminently like the middle class beer-focused pub that attracts nobheads like me.
Not only did they have a really interesting beer menu, including the temptations of rhubarb cider, but they also had a tinned seafood menu.
Of course, I have no interest in tinned fish but I was in love with the idea that a pub might specialise in doing so. As my Trump-supporting anti-vaxxer friend pointed out, it wasn’t very MeToo. I then explained the modern meaning of MeToo to him.
Black Dog Beerhouse also, I think sensibly, offers their roast dinners in set time slots. We’d booked for 2:15pm – the next slot would be 4:30pm, I guess there might be midday and evening slots too – but you’d have to ask them. My hopes were that this might increase the possibility of freshly-cooked roast potatoes. Then again, I hoped that England might beat Germany on penalties. They won’t sing “10 German bombers” at the hipster place in East London I’m going to tonight will they? Edit – they didn’t.
There was already a lot to like about this pub, and then there was the roast dinner menu:
Tricky call. I love pork belly, though dislike red cabbage. I love ribeye but cannot say I’m keen on mushrooms on a roast. I love chicken gravy – but SALAD? On a roast? Well, choice of two then, but in the end I went for the pork belly at a reasonable price of £17.50.
How much is that pork belly on the menu
Dinner took around 15-20 minutes to arrive.
So starting with the red cabbage, which was nice for something I’m not keen on – a tad too bitty so it was a tad out of control on the plate and infecting other food and notably the gravy, but it was properly fruity and if you like red cabbage, you’d be impressed.
And the carrots…what…oh right, I see.
That better? Well you can barely see the carrots still because of my dubious photography skills, but they were of the purple and yellow variety (my accomplice assumed the purple carrot was just very badly burnt), had plenty of flavour in them, a bit of crunch, and were decent.
Then we had what my accomplice insisted was sweet potato (and what was in reality butternut squash). We do disagree on everything and I mean everything, even factual matters like what a vegetable actually is – though when I mentioned that we currently have the most corrupt government of my lifetime, he didn’t actually disagree. Softly roasted though they’d left the skin on and I’m not sure that butternut squash skin is edible though I’m yet to go to hospital so I’m going to assume that it is.
Green beans were ordinary, there is nothing to say about them, but the tenderstem broccoli was really nice – soft enough with a bit of crunch, for my preferences that was spot on, and enough flavour.
So we didn’t need penalties then. Woohoo! The roast potatoes were a bit odd. Seemingly freshly cooked (as I had hoped), soft enough inside, but with a soft coating too – they had an oily texture and taste to them and felt like they had been at least partly deep fried.
I do hope that doggings for sale
The Yorkshire pudding was pretty decent, if not especially rememberable, especially by Thursday morning, especially a Thursday morning after a midweek football-related piss-up. It was notably crispy – but not in a having been left under a heat lamp all day kind of way – you know, freshly made but crispy.
The man of the match, sorry, star of the match as UEFA no longer let you use the word “man” in men’s football but it’s totally fine to award the hosting of matches to countries with anti-homosexual laws, was the pork belly. I’d asked the waitress for her recommendation and actually took notice of it – this was pretty close to perfect. The pork was tender, the crackling glistened with moisture and joyful stickiness, and the fennel flavouring came through nicely – yet didn’t overpower the flavour of the pork itself. Really rather top notch stuff.
And then we talk about the gravy. It seemed to me like they’d made a good gravy, this one being a cider gravy which isn’t massively my preference – but then diluted it with water. Maybe that isn’t what actually happened, I’m no chef or capable of being one (you mean there is no air conditioning in the kitchen?) but I basically had nicely flavoured, slightly gloopy water on the plate.
My accomplice also noted something similar with the chicken gravy – and his chicken was very small, almost like a poussin – too much effort for the enjoyment received, according to him. Let’s hope he thinks the effort over Brexit worth the dividends that are still yet to appear.
Woof or waff at Black Dog Beerhouse. Yeah that makes no sense but I’m still hungover.
It’s easy to conclude that Black Dog Beerhouse is a really good pub – and the kind of pub that people should be giving their hard-earned money to (or furlough money). Unlike The Garden in Kentish Town who are cunttastically asking for £30 entrance to watch the England game on some fake grass on an industrial wasteland – oh and you must buy a £300 case of beer/bottle of spirits. You know I’m a proud capitalist, but that’s calling out for a taste of Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction (he’s nothing to do with World War 2 before you ask).
The pork belly was fabulous, and I guess I would have come away a tad disappointed were it along the lines of the rest of the roast dinner. The vegetables were pretty good, especially the tenderstem broccoli, though potatoes that felt fried and gravy that seemed very diluted offered the disappointments.
My accomplice who had the chicken scored it a 7.00. The quality of the pork belly takes me to a healthy score of 7.36 out of 10 – there are definitely improvements available to turn this from a fairly good roast dinner to an excellent roast dinner – sort out the roasties and the gravy, and this would be excellent. It’s worth a visit in my opinion if you are anyway west London based – or further away and a tinned seafood connoisseur.
The only other down note was that there was a rush to get us to leave, ready for the next sitting. I totally know the game and it is my bad not theirs, but I still had the majority of a pint of very nice beer when they asked us the first time to leave – and I didn’t want to waste it. Alas, rules…but I was happy there.
This weekend I’ll be hoping that my train from Taunton on Sunday morning gets to London without a problem, as I really don’t want to miss what is booked. I’ve been to a couple of roasts this year that didn’t come close to my high expectations – well, this Sunday’s roast could be almost as special as when England win Euro 2020.
Yeah, I know not to get my expectations too high. It’s coming home though, right? Edit – the booking has been cancelled due to a fire. Oh well, I’ve now no idea what and where this Sunday’s roast will be. But we will beat Ukraine, right?
Also I lied to you about no more Matt Hancock snogging. Ah well.
Well an albany appears not to be a thing, but there are two small cities in America called Albany and a river in Canada with the same name. I guess neither pub is named after a river in Canada – so I’m as clueless to the nomenclature as I am to TFL’s inability to provide an acceptable service most weekends.
Yes, this week they decided to cancel my tube station, so I had to walk to the next one – not a major hassle in itself but, believe it or not, Twickenham isn’t especially easy to get to from Harrow and required 3 tube trains and one proper choo choo train.
My tube station wasn’t the only thing to get cancelled this week – IKEA, Kopparberg, Grolsch (I’m only 20 years ahead of you there, yuck), Open University, Nivea, Octopus Energy – like, why the hell are left-wing people trying to cancel an energy company that specialises in renewable energy? If I walk into a pub and they have GB News on in the corner, am I supposed to walk out? Will my 10 readers boycott me for reviewing a pub which shows GB News?
Fuck cancel culture. Except for Wetherspoons, of course, because I agree with cancelling Wetherspoons.
Cancel wanky jus
It was actually one of my few regular readers that cope with my trash talking that recommended The Albany to me:
Other than that, I didn’t have too much in the way of expectations when I left my house around 8 hours before heading to Twickenham – and, of course, one man’s amazing gravy is another man’s wanky red wine jus.
Is that a flat roof pub in the distance?
You know, we could just arrange ourselves into separate cultures and we wouldn’t need to cancel anything. You can have your Wetherspoons, Argos and Strongbow – I’ll have my Fuller’s, IKEA and well…availability of Kopparberg. We might have to share some things like motorway service stations, but you can use the Dyson hand drier, I’ll use the Mitsubishi hand drier. Obviously the “you” is probably not you as I doubt I have any Brexiters reading given the slating I gave it. But I’m sure you…they…have their own roast dinner reviewer moaning about woke remoaners on their separate right-wing internet. I would check 4chan…but my woke internet provider is watching.
I did actually write a proposal to solve the Brexit crisis in 2019 which involved two separate societies in the same country – Brexiters wouldn’t have to pay import duties on Australian beef – remainers wouldn’t be allowed Australian beef but we’d have cheaper French wine. Remainers would keep their EU passports and be able to enjoy the short queues, Brexiters would…well they’d have no Europeans in their longer queue. Remainers would still have to click cookie consent buttons, Brexiters would…still have to click cookie consent buttons but maybe one day might not need to.
And you thought Boris Johnson’s deal was bad.
Cancel Brex…oh too late
Chicken, British (phew) beef and lamb shoulder was on the menu at The Albany. All priced less than £25.00 – can you believe it? Actually, all priced less than £20.00. What kind of place was this? Flat roof, though.
I actually quite fancied chicken before I arrived, though seeing lamb shoulder on the menu twisted my arm. Arm. Shoulder. I should be a comedian.
Our roasts took around 20 minutes to arrive.
Starting with the carrots, which were nicely roasted, with a slight crunch and plentiful in volume.
The green beans were a bit squeaky which isn’t endearing to my NHS managed teeth, but otherwise fine.
And the broccoli was just broccoli. I assume boiled or steamed – perhaps more likely the latter, there was again a tiny bit of crunch to it, but on the good side of crunch. Broccoli feels ordinary but it is so rare on a roast that I really do appreciate it.
Also as a vegetable offering were the parsnips. I’d suggest too thinly sliced as they became a bit crispy, though otherwise really good – like as good as finally having a news channel that represents right-wing views because Nigel Farage was never on Question Time or The Daily Politics every other fucking Friday speaking to…Andrew Neil. Oh no. And fuck me, just how much of a bastion of communism is Sky News?
Cancel preparing roast potatoes the day before, please.
Guess what? The roast potatoes were actually freshly cooked. This might not sound like it should be a shock, but it really is a shock nowadays. Soft and fluffy on the inside, quite crispy on the outside. Small, but close to perfectly formed.
We also had mashed potato. On a roast. In the south. I’ve reviewed so many roast dinners in London that I no longer know whether mash is actually acceptable on a roast – but this was more than acceptable. Like…sensational – really creamy, really peppery – and just added that extra flavour to the roasties and parsnips that were laid on top.
And then another surprise – a Yorkshire pudding cooked on the same day too! Large, crispy on the outside, soft on the bottom – how is this so difficult every week?
Too many miracles, I feel that I need to have a lay down, maybe pour myself a glass of wine. Another miracle is that I’m actually writing this on a Sunday evening – sober enough, motivated enough, and still enamoured enough about the roast dinner – and I haven’t even got to the best bit yet. And there are some topless hotties coming up too. I see your eyes rolling.
So the lamb shoulder was really, really nice. Nothing too crazy in terms of flavour, just hearty lamb but sliced in a slightly pulled way, with tiny bits of fat moistening the meat, the texture was just glorious and every bite was yum.
And finally, remember what my follower said about the gravy? He was right. For perfection, it would have need to have been a bit thicker, and extra gravy did come in a Londonesque thimble. It was a proper meat stock type of gravy, I did get talking to who I assume “Babs” was afterwards (my friend decided to introduce the anonymous roast dinner reviewer…thankfully after we’d eaten) and I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I feel like she said it was made from the knuckles of the bones…or something like that. I wish I remembered…I wasn’t even hungover.
Anyway, onto the second paragraph for the gravy – I’ve said it before, but proper gravy that is really tasty can really improve a roast dinner, and this is an excellent gravy, improving a very good roast dinner. Yeah, you would have to go to Twickenham…but it is close to the station. You can do it.
Cancel the Metropolitan line…oh…again
Well I actually didn’t have to get the Metropolitan line this weekend, but you know what does need to be cancelled?
Victoria’s Secret. I got excited when I heard that they were bringing back their Angels show, alas, they are apparently going to aim towards women rather than what men want to see. Where am I going to get my soft porn fix from now? Oooh, how about my local shop?
Pretty sure retail premises are supposed to discourage smoking? And yes, topless men lighters too…I think about you all.
So The Albany does a great roast. It was a slightly odd pub, like it was going through a decade-long transformation from 1960’s office block to modern pub – and was halfway through. Part-restaurant on the side, part pub, a garden at the front with a view of a car park and a very 1960’s office block vibe if you go downstairs to the toilet.
Yet it does a great roast. I guess if you are going to criticise, then the vegetables were fairly ordinary – too ordinary for a very top score, and squeaky beans are not my cup of tea. On the flip side, The Albany feels like the first place that has got both the roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding right since a virus definitely didn’t leak from a Chinese laboratory – and freshly made too. Lamb was really, really nice and the gravy was sensational. Ooh and the creamy mash.
I was pretty enamoured by the roast dinner, as were my guests. One is even harder to please than me but this was her perfection and scored it a 9.50. Another scored it an 8.50. I’m scoring it an 8.38 – which makes it the 14th best roast dinner in London, out of 165, at the time of writing. Quite something.
So it’s going on your list, right?
I’ll be back next week – it’s going to be another low-key pub, in a lesser-travelled area. Maybe it will be great also – but maybe very much not.
This week I went to the York & Albany in Camden. As per usual, I had a problem.
First Europe didn’t give David Cameron everything he demanded in pre-referendum negotiations. Then Eurovision gave us nil points. And now UEFA arrange an important football game at Sunday roast time. THIS. IS . A. DIS. GRACE. Where is Liz Truss when you need her? What, she’s doing the weather on GB News? Topless?
I lied about Liz Truss doing the weather topless, FYI. However having an England game at the same time as requiring a Sunday roast was a problem. I could have had a midday roast then quickly scooted elsewhere to watch the game. I could have had one after the game. But 2pm is kind of my roast time.
I attempted trying a few places at random from my to-do list, to see if they were both showing football and serving roast dinners, but to no avail. Then I found a list from Time Out of pubs showing the football – so I worked back from there – there was only one pub I recognised on their list that was on my to-do list, which was the York & Albany. Which surprised me – I didn’t really expect a Gordon Ramsay restaurant to be showing the football.
Unbelievably, some places that do Sunday roasts every Sunday, don’t serve them on Sundays when England are playing. Peak English nationalism almost at it’s finest as much as Peak London mattress discarding is in my local shithole.
But I had confirmation from York & Albany, in writing, on an e-mail that they were doing both roast dinners and showing the football, and that I could have a table watching the football. You know what I’m going to write next, don’t you?
Castles in the sky
I had a lovely walk through Regent’s Park. It has to be my favourite large park in London.
OK, I’ll talk about the roast. So we arrived at York & Albany and they offered us a table in the corner (out of view of the television) or outside (also out of view of the television). I advised that we’d booked a table to watch the football and have a roast dinner. They advised that I hadn’t booked a table next to the screen and that they didn’t have any such tables free.
I hurriedly scrolled through my e-mails on my Chinese spying device, and showed them the conclusion of our e-mail conversation:
Thanks for your email.
I have made your reservation for you, please note I have made it for 1.30pm as you would only have a certain time on the table. This would be enough time to cover the full match.
Please let me know if this is suitable.
They found a table for us.
Oh tell me why
Panic over, we had a view of the one solitary television on the other side of the restaurant…once they had removed the obstructing lamp on the bar…and when none of the waiting staff were in the way, which they often were as cocktail making/collection point was right in the way. Let’s just say, York & Albany isn’t really set up to watch the football.
But is it set up to serve us a good roast dinner? Well, it is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and between the 4 of us, we’d been to a few and never been impressed. The only Gordon Ramsay restaurant that I’ve been to is The Narrow in Limehouse, which was for a roast and I scored it a 6.48. Which is a bad score. Which meant my expectations were as limited as they were for the England football team. Yeah, I backed Croatia to win.
York & Albany is a nice venue though – apparently it is a 19th-century John Nash townhouse – whatever one of them is, and is a really rather glorious building on the outside, and smart but not too posh in the inside. It had a clean, spacious feel – very suitable for covid times. Here’s a couple of photographs I stole from the internet:
I don’t remember the walls being green, but hey. It also would have been a great spot to sit outside and people watch – were it not for the football.
So I was hungry. I’d been to a BBQ the day before and eaten less than you might expect for reasons you might expect. I also really didn’t want beef, mostly because I’d had the most amazing steak on the Thursday night, and any form of beef was just going to pale into insignificance.
They only served beef. And at £25.00, albeit that is less than I’ve paid the previous two weeks. Were I cooking for myself on a Tuesday night, then harissa roasted cauliflower would be fabulous, especially if I didn’t charge myself £21.50 for the cauliflower.
There was only one choice.
Do you ever question your life?
Our roasts took around 30 minutes to arrive, and it was roughly 10-15 minutes into the first half.
That’s not an especially helpful photograph, is it?
Ignoring the obvious peril and starting with the carrot as per usual – half a long carrot, roasted and charred nicely, a bit more crunch than the photograph might suggest and a decent start.
The cabbage was decent – again charred nicely, perhaps a tad tougher than ideal but a minor thought.
Then the broccoli, which I assume is causing the bookable offence. The broccoli itself – well, it’s nice to see an underrated and rarely-served vegetable on a London roast – it was a bit al dente, personally I would just have liked it a tad softer but that is very much a horses for courses thing.
But it seemed like either some cream had been poured on the broccoli, or maybe something creamy but solid had been left on it to melt – and this infected the gravy. Well,…it infected the jus. If this was proper northern gravy then I’d probably be hugely offended, but it was southern wanky jus and I think the cream probably improved it.
Do you ever wonder why?
Well, I’ve mentioned it so we might as well go onto the southern wanky jus – which as far as these things go was respectable. Gravy belongs on a roast dinner. But this was decent – not too rich, it felt complimentary and seemed of red wine origin.
GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL – we had roast potatoes!
Hang on, we need to check VAR (video assistant referee to those who don’t watch football).
Ah, no. On closer inspection this has been ruled out as baked potatoes.
Baked potatoes instead of roast potatoes – soft, perhaps fluffy but absolutely not roast potatoes. If these are good roast potatoes then the bar is very low – though if you are a regular reader then you probably understand that the bar is very low – too low for Chris Waddle, that’s for sure. Yet my co-commentators were a huge fan of these – I couldn’t quite understand. They were soft and fluffy, sure – but not even vaguely crispy, like no effort at all had been made to make these into proper roast potatoes. I kind of wanted to cut them open and put some butter, cheese and prawns into them. Good baked potatoes. Not good roast potatoes. Gosh this paragraph went on longer than I expected.
The yorkie was kind of cardboardy – it had that factory feel to it in terms of texture and dried crispness – yet wasn’t burnt, wasn’t totally dried out and was edible enough. Bar is also very low, but “edible” is progress. Again, my co-commentators were fawning over it for some reason.
Finally, the sirloin. Two slices, again – I keep coming back to this word, “decent”. It was juicy, but it wasn’t £25.00 roast dinner levels of good. Unless you ask my co-commentators who seemed to think they were eating Brazil.
Are the castles way up high.
By the end, I was confused. My co-commentators were over the moon with their roast dinners – one saying that it was the best roast he’s had in ages. Had they been watching a different game to me?
One scored it an 8.50, another an 8.00, the final a 7.90.
Broadly speaking, the roast dinner at York & Albany was decent. The roast potatoes were not roasted, but were nice baked potatoes. The yorkie was cardboardy but edible. The jus was…well…southern and wanky yet decent. Highlights were the vegetables, which were all nicely done.
Finding myself at odds to my co-commentators, I struggle to understand whether they were all over-rating it, or whether I was under-rating it. Maybe I was too hungover to appreciate it? Maybe they were all under the influence of too much sunshine? Maybe England not losing at half-time was just too much for them? Maybe it was actually rubbish and I’ve been peer-pressured into smoking Embassy No1s, oh and thinking it is a decent roast.
Looking at TripAdvisor reviews (after writing this) it seems that some people have their best meal ever – but others are really disappointed. Perhaps inconsistency is a theme at York & Albany? Yet it all seemed decent at worst to me – some weirdo’s on other tables ordered fish and chips and pizza on a Sunday – both looked and smelled fabulous as they went by. Service was really good, the venue comfortable, the outdoor areas both tres appealing – alas, beer choice very limited (Camden Helles, Camden Pale & Amstel – that king of thing), but wine was nice and the cocktail list is apparently really good – not that I would understand.
Will be interesting to see if any of you try it – maybe you’ll either think the roast is really good, like my co-commentators did – or just decent enough, like I did.
I’m scoring it a 7.03 out of 10.
Next week I’m going somewhere that costs less than £25 for a roast dinner. Much less.
I have never deserved a great roast as much as I did on Sunday. I’d had a nightmare week on call, Transport For London were being as obstructive to transport in London as possible and I’d only had some pineapple for breakfast. Thankfully I’d had the foresight to book one of the places on my to-do list that I had the most hope for – The Quality Chop House in Farringdon. Oh this is slightly NSFW – but no nipples or anything too dogecoin.
Originally I’d picked somewhere in east London, but realising that I was on call for this week, I re-arranged for somewhere supposedly more convenient – central London – just in case I had a call-out. It felt safer to be in a land of likely mobile reception and not too far away from *shudder* the office.
And I’d had a nightmare week – you name your DJ set starting time – and I’ve been woken up at that time during the week to check alerts of a possibly (almost definitely not) non-working major UK website. 1:30am, 3:30am, 11:30pm, 04:15am – 7 times I was awoken over 5 consecutive nights. Actually, one of those I slept through. Oops.
I used to say being on call was like free money – but then again I used to think the Iraq War was a great idea for liberating a country from dictatorship and spreading democracy. Or living in Harrow would be convenient for getting into London. Well, at least I didn’t vote for Brexit.
So, of course, on my way to lunch, the line controller on the Metropolitan line (ahhh almost like the good old days this) decided they needed to close the line for 1 hour and 40 minutes so they could have a spot of lunch.
The long journey there
You want to know how I got to conveniently located central London from Harrow, don’t you? Well, I walked to the other side of Harrow, which was just under an hour’s walk and got the mainline from Harrow & Wealdstone to London Euston. Of course, there was no Metropolitan, Circle or Hammersmith & City line from Euston to Farringdon either, so I walked from Euston to The Quality Chop House. All because there are not enough line controllers – and won’t be for another year as it takes a year to train them apparently. #LondonIsOpen
I don’t understand – if we can train drones to decide who to kill on a battlefield, surely we can…wait…we’ve done what?
Fuck, wrong movie.
“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle” because there are not enough line controllers on the Met Line.
Finally arriving at the conveniently located Quality Chop House after a 1 hour and 50 minute journey, we were seated on benches. Thin, awkward benches, squeezed around a table with a bit of padding on – assumedly built for when humans were about half the size and weight that we are nowadays. Well, at least it balanced out the aches from my feet. Plus I was pretty sweaty from my 90 minutes of walking in the warm weather – thank fuck we don’t need to hug people in 2021.
I like this car
I’ve decided this week’s review is a Boris Johnson free zone because it’s just getting a bit too predictable to target my ire at him (granted the Met line has probably featured more often) – though if Dominic Cummings is reading, he probably thinks that the Terminator quotes are about him. Hey, it’s possible – he does like a wandering blog post with barely any function or reason.
Though I do have some function. And some reason. Let’s check the menu, shall we?
It was another expensive roast dinner – two courses for £35, 3 courses for £39 or a mystery amount if you were only hungry enough for a roast dinner. None of us were tempted by a starter, so we ordered our mains – I was curious about the Mangalitza collar – I recognised it for some reason, and our waitress (who was superb throughout) explained that it was of Hungarian breed – and then I remembered the amazing sausages I had in Budapest from the same breed of pig – I was sold.
I guess our roasts took around 20-30 minutes to arrive – I was too heavily concentrating on balancing trying to have a conversation whilst trying not to have too uncomfortable a bum on the benches.
Yes, it was one of those that arrived requiring a photo gallery, as 5 of us shared the vegetables on offer – perhaps not massively generous. I almost forgot to ask for extra gravy too.
Which then arrived:
For 5 people. Several of whom were northerners…arguably still are northerners. We advised her that we all wanted extra gravy – she said, “Hasta La Vista, Gravy”. No, she didn’t actually, but she took away our extra gravy.
Come with me if you want to live a life of roast dinners
The carrots were chopped and roasted – pretty much to the consistency I’d do myself with a slight crunch. They were nice – a hint of honey flavouring though I cannot say I noticed the thyme.
There was a small portion of Hispi cabbage each, which according to the menu came with “green sauce”. Said green sauce was very lemony – think along the lines of a salsa verde and you won’t be far off – which really complimented the more earthy flavour from the Hispi cabbage. Would have worked superbly well with seabass.
One of my desires after reviewing 162 other roast dinners in London, is a bit of creativity – a bit of imagination. Something different. And The Quality Chop House did offer this – both with the Hispi cabbage dish – and with this:
Corn on the fucking cob. What is corn on the cob doing on a roast dinner? I know, I know, “please give me something different” has become “what the fuck, they’ve given me something different” – I accept the blame and will destroy the one solitary computer chip that created such a monster.
Those who ate it, enjoyed it – topped with parmesan and chives – though mentioned that it wasn’t the easiest and most convenient thing to eat on a roast dinner. As TFL line controllers might suggest – “fuck convenience”. I demurred as it is just wrong.
And then…what the fuck is an elastic band doing on a roast dinner?
I don’t know how much longer I can hold this…
Yes, I discovered an elastic band. I think it was in the Yorkshire pudding when I cut it open, but not entirely sure.
Mistakes happen. One day I will break something notable on the website for the company I work for, and it will cost them thousands in lost revenue, possibly hundreds of thousands. This is just an elastic band in a dinner – it broke nothing, it didn’t and wouldn’t poison me – just a bit embarrassing for a restaurant.
And was handled with grace by the waitress when I informed her – who advised she would deal with it, brought a plate over and whisked the offending elastic band away with some panache.
The Yorkshire pudding also needed taking away as it was shite. Burnt, crispy and barely edible – I ate only the slightly softer bottom bit. EXTERMINATE. Shame, as it looked double-egged and had a nice structure. Hang on…that was the daleks, wasn’t it?
Roasties were fair at best – bit tough and rubbery on the outside but quite soft in the middle – one accomplice was quite enamoured with hers which were apparently crispy. Mine certainly weren’t – but I will have a lot worse.
You’d expect a chop house to be good with their meat – and thankfully, the Mangalitza collar was sensational. The pig meat so tender yet well-structured, the fat glistening within yet not overwhelming – this was a truly superb cut from a restaurant that clearly knows its chops, and cooked to perfection. It was a wow – a rare wow from me. So much so that I was almost willing to forgive the enforced condiment on the plate. Almost.
Accomplices also complimented the beef – I had a tiny bit and that was absolutely gorgeous too.
The extra gravy did come back, and there was just about enough rationed out for all. Rich, silky and barely existing – sometimes a rich gravy can completely overpower a roast, like at The Albert Arms the other week. Yet this complimented it well. Sure, it wasn’t the thick and copious proper gravy that northerners like myself need to power up and fight the T-2000, but if you are going to give me a rich, jus-ish gravy then this definitely worked.
Do I like this roast?
Did I like the roast? Gosh that’s a tough question to answer.
There’s a lot to complain about. The benches really were uncomfortable – I think we intended on staying for dessert and another bottle of wine, but I’d had enough of sitting on those benches, which was roundly agreeable. Only half of the restaurant had those benches – the other half and a small outdoor area at the front had proper chairs – so try to request proper chairs if you value your bum not being numb.
The elastic band incident, the burnt Yorkshire pudding, the slightly cruddy roast potatoes, the minimalisation of gravy, enforced condiment – corn on the flipping cob. Oh and the price – £29.00 which makes it the second most expensive roast that I’ve ever had.
On the flip side, the Mangalitza collar was sensational, the vegetables were inventive, the gravy was good for that type of gravy. Service was excellent – our main waitress had wonderful grace and the elastic band incident was resolved nicely. Oh and one of the house reds, recommended by our waitress was superb.
Given how sensational the meat was, I am going to score it quite high despite all the other difficulties, and a score of 7.57 feels about right. Yet, if you are intrigued to visit, given how sensational the meat was, maybe try a midweek steak or something? On proper chairs.
My accomplices scored it 5.50, 7.50, 7.70 and 7.95 – the lower one has a different scale to the rest of us, and has 5 as his average score, whereas 7 seems to be average for me and most others using the football player rating system from the Hull Daily Mail.
You’ll be heartened to know that I caught the last tube home – just. Last tube home…at 6:10pm. #LondonIsOpen. Oh, but it, erm, terminated before my stop, so I had another 40 minute walk. All that walking meant that it was the only time I’ve ever been out for a roast dinner and lost weight.
I am not Sarah Connor
So I’ve been to two places in the last three weeks that I had high expectations for – The Guinea Grill and The Quality Chop House. Neither came close to my high expectations of them. Next week I’m going somewhere that I have low expectations for (and is also overpriced) but is showing the England game – and that is all that matters – because…
IT’S COMING HOME. Boris Johnson is going to be insufferable if we win Euro 2020…oh fuck…well I almost made it to the end without mentioning him.
I’ll. Be. Back.
With more complaints about overpriced roast dinners, undercooked roast potatoes, burnt Yorkshire puddings, watery gravy and the Met line being the Met line, next week.
I arrived back from my holiday, nicely rested and ready for roast action – the first indoors roast dinner of 2021. I was booked into The Guinea Grill in Mayfair – and had pretty high expectations.
Well, I say booked into but I did have a little scare on the way when Google Maps insisted to me that they were closed. It lied (hey Boris) – I assume The Guinea Grill need to update their status – though it took me a little longer to find out the truth as I had forgotten to take Google Maps off car mode so had a very convoluted 5 minute walk there which took 20.
Given my belly size, you could say that I needed the walk. But I’ve done lots of walking over the last week – in the Lake District.
It was actually so dreamily beautiful, it almost made me love my country again – though don’t tell my leftie friends in London. I nearly even thought about giving Brexit a chance.
And then we went to Whitehaven for the afternoon.
Well, we went to Whitehaven and very quickly left Whitehaven before someone spotted my hipster jacket and accused me of not being a Tory.
Pills, grills and daffodils
I also had a competition last week with absolutely nobody to see how many times I could eat meals with gravy in one week.
And then Sunday arrived and I desired only seeds and satsumas. Not yet another big meal with yet more gravy.
Thankfully I was booked into The Guinea Grill in Mayfair, which I had high hopes and high expectations for. High expectations partly because of the £26.95 price tag (it was £24.95 when I added it to my to-do list last year) but also I’d been recommended it a couple of times and seen one of the 846 roast dinner accounts on Instagram describe their gravy as one of the best they’d ever had.
The Guinea Grill is a proper old school boozer on the edge of Mayfair – though whether it is still a pub or a more a restaurant…well I’d probably side on the latter. I feel like it probably has a load of history but the website suggests nothing of the sorts, just the usual basic Young’s website though with the re-opening pop-up flashing up on every page you open, and even Londonist hasn’t scraped up much either – and they can usually be relied on to know about the history of quirky London establishments.
However, a trip to the toilet did help me discover that they won the national 1991 steak and kidney pie competition.
Thrill me, grill me
So onto the exciting part, or what would be exciting were I not already stuffed from eating 4 gravy dinners during the week. THE MENU.
To be honest, I’ve seen so many pub menus over the last week that the excitement of reading a menu is wearing off a tad – the £26.95 price tag didn’t help either. There was the choice of beef rump or pork belly – not sure we had the energy for dealing with a rack of lamb to share (plus memories of all the cute lambs running away from me in the Lake District), and I had no intention of making it even more expensive with the sirloin joint.
And I don’t think I can even make a joke out of not wanting to pay £26.95 for a vegetarian meal in a pub…restaurant…pub. Beef rump cap it was. For £26.95.
My £26.95 dinner took around 20 minutes to arrive.
Alas, my photography skills remain as developed as our Prime Minister’s desire for transparency – my skills being no more helped by the darkness inside The Guinea Grill than Johnson is helped by his anatomical namesake.
Not sure if that helps, but onto the carrots anyway. They were really nicely done, roasted with some charring evident but completely full of carrot flavour – and honey flavour too.
Parsnips similar and probably roasted together, good but not quite to the same high standards of the carrots.
OK, my accomplice took a photograph – is this better?
Grill me, baby
I liked the cabbage with bacon bits – perhaps my imagination but the bacon tasted as though it had been soaked in red wine which was a pleasing touch.
We paid £5.00 extra for the cauliflower cheese for glutinous reasons – it didn’t quite work that well – the cauliflower was a little tough, the cream minimal and the cheese was more evident stubbornly clinging to the top of the pot than it was on the cauliflower itself.
Predictably things went downhill, as per the usual London standards of roast potatoes. 3 roast potatoes – one was totally crud from another dimension, or perhaps last night. The other two would have made decent boiled potatoes – soft inside but absolutely zero evidence of crispness on the outside.
And the Yorkshire pudding was another of those pretty for Instagrim affairs that had probably been cooked the night before or in the morning – evident from how crispy and solid it had become. Interestingly the bottom tasted of honey – not sure whether that was leakage from my carrots, my imagination or deliberate from the chef – if the latter then kudos but maybe make the sides of the yorkies edible also.
At this stage of judgement I was thinking that The Guinea Grill was over-rated and over-priced but the beef rescued matters somewhat. A generous serving of beef, allegedly medium-rare but felt more rare in places (fine by me) – very tender cut, a tad peppery, a bit of fat – I wasn’t bowled over but it was very good.
Alas, it was only somewhat rescued because the gravy was a limp, weak affair. Watery at first instinct and nowhere near as brown as the darkness filter suggests – there was some flavour going on but nothing especially discernible. It very much reminded me of the standard disappointing, watery Young’s gravy when their roasts went through a bad patch in 2019. And it is a Young’s pub.
Oh well – I’d had enough gravy anyway. And yes, all of the gravy I had in the Lake District was sexual.
Tills and bills at The Guinea Grill. Gosh I hate coming up with these shitty headings to make my SEO plugin happy.
It would be fair to say that I wasn’t impressed – especially when paying £26.95, which in 3 years time will hopefully still look expensive unless inflation really does take off.
Yet as much as it had its typical detractions, it also had some notable quality too. The carrots, parsnips and cabbage/bacon mix were all really nicely done – carrots especially. The beef was tender and fairly sublime, even if rump cap isn’t my favourite cut – though one I am appreciating more. Service was good – one young lady was especially friendly and had a sense of humour which is often so missing (and not easy to get right as a waiter/waitress). The building itself is full of pub charm too…it just screamed “why is my Dad not here”.
You probably don’t me to spell out what I thought wrong with it – but I will anyway. The uber-crispy yorkie, the watery gravy, the predictably disappointing roasties – oh and the price. I’ll happily pay that much, even more, if I come away relishing my experience and I’ll barely mention the price, despite being from Yorkshire.
All of this conspires to make me struggle to work out what to score it. My accomplice was much more satisfied than I, and scored it a 7.70 out of 10 – though I feel that she scores most roast dinners a 7.70.
It was a confusing mix of quality and disappointment so anything from a 6.50 to a 7.50 would be fair. I’m scoring it a 7.03 out of 10 – a kind of halfway house with the quality of the beef just nudging it over that 7 mark. There is also a possible mitigating factor in that it was their first Sunday back this year – but that would have been the same for almost anywhere I booked. So perhaps unfortunate timing – but if you are good at roasts, then you should be good every Sunday.
I don’t think there will be a review next weekend as I’m going up north to celebrate Christmas…5 months late. Though apparently my 88 year-old Grandma actually thinks it is Christmas. Oops.
With it being a bank holiday, I imagine that there will be a few places doing roasts on the Monday when I’m back…but realistically I doubt that I will. The week after, should be a special roast. I’m wary of setting expectations, but it could be a top 10.
Ahhh the great British summer, don’t you love it? Thundery downpours were advertised by the Met Office. The social media output at The Albert Arms In Elephant & Castle didn’t exactly suggest that we’d be sheltered.
Yet the show must go on. Nothing stops me from bringing you reviews of roast dinners in London. Except lockdown. And lockdown 2. And lockdown 3. That is the end of the series, right?
So it was with some trepidation that I headed to The Albert Arms on Sunday, to sit outside for probably the last time ever as outdoor dining is now one of those things that I closely associate with the pandemic like not having enough toilet roll or eating banana bread – that I want to banish to history. Yes I do keep a minimum of 10 toilet rolls for myself at any one time.
Had the weather not been a clusterfuck of Britishness over the last month of outdoor dining then this would probably have been a period of exteme jollity, yet this last 5 weeks has been an endurance test of cold nights, wet days, Arctic winds – with occasional false hopes of spring sunshine, normally before 10am on a work day.
Before arriving I had visions of a flimsy gazebo sheltering us during a thunderstorm – which then collapsed under the weight of water or hail – or perhaps blew away in a tornado, leaving me with a Yorkshire pudding full of hail, and gravy that resembled water…well…that last one wouldn’t be anything new.
The fun of thunder
But one thing you probably don’t know about me, unless you know me, is that I love a good thunderstorm – so much so that I’d happily travel even further for one than a roast dinner. I’ve actually been storm-chasing in the UK. I want to go storm-chasing in the US. I was gutted to miss the thunderstorm this Monday gone when I was instead going on holiday. By the way, I have a sun tan from my holiday in the Lake District – two whole days of glorious, cloudless sunshine. Who needs Magaluf?
Anyway…thunderstorms. I love the suspense as you are waiting for it to arrive and the drama as the fury is unleashed. It is as much a piece of theatre as my roast dinner reviews are literature – though both are normally soon forgotten, the brief moments of “oooh” becoming a fast-fading memory as you then end up at a shitty Greene King pub, forgetting that you have a treasure trove of advice here.
Though I still didn’t quite want a thunderstorm to interrupt my roast dinner and arriving at The Albert Arms, shortly after a heavy shower, I played a confusing game of table hokey-cokey with the waitress until I was shown to a table just under a predictably flimsy gazebo. And my seat was wet. Yikes.
At least I was under the gazebo – unlike most of the rest of the tables.
And then the sun came out. Just realised – talking about weather and roast dinners in one post – this will surely be my most popular post ever?
Just two choices for roasts, which given how long I seem to be taking in making dinner choices at the moment is a good thing, shoulder of lamb at £17.50 and rump cap of beef at £19.50 – just hanging on under the £20 mark.
I went for the lamb, purely because I’d eaten beef the week before.
Bring me sunshine…and gravy.
Our roasts took around 20 to 30 minutes to arrive – which always gives me greater hopes than a roast that arrives after 10 minutes. The photograph shows hope too, doesn’t it?
Starting with the carrots, as per usual, these were nicely roasted – perhaps with a hint of honey.
Similar with the parsnips – I’d guess they were roasted together but there really were good parsnips, with their flavour fully brought out.
The spring greens were decent, quite well seasoned and easy to eat. Not really sure what else I could say.
Cauliflower cheese, which cost £3.50 extra, was creamy, cheesy and had crispy onions sprinkled on top to add a bit of extra texture to the cauliflower cheese. Nothing stand-out whoa amazing, but good, flavoursome cauliflower cheese.
The shock of lightning…and the shock of crispy roast potatoes.
You spotted them already, right? Two crispy roast potatoes. Freshly made, properly crispy, soft in the middle. London – why do you get it wrong so often? These were excellent roasties. But you noticed something else, didn’t you? Yep…but better two excellent roasties than three cruddy ones.
My Yorkshire pudding was decent, quite crispy but decent enough with a soaking of gravy. My accomplice’s Yorkshire pudding seemed like it had been under a heat lamp for a week – and was completely crispy and unfinishable. Throughout the roast, there was an oily feel to it, which my accomplice thinks came from her Yorkshire pudding – I couldn’t work it out.
My lamb was really nice – really, really nice. It had been shredded which was an interesting touch, well-seasoned again with just a slight crisp around some of the shredded elements. My accomplice had the beef which she was pleased with.
The gravy was as thin as rainwater, but thankfully it didn’t look or taste as such. However – it perhaps could have done with some rainwater as it was too rich. I’d understand if everything else was poor and needed masking by the gravy – but everything else was good…very good and the gravy kind of overpowered everything.
Not to a roast-destroying extent – I noticed it quite early but others I spoke to only noticed it after I mentioned it. A more complimentary gravy would have boosted the score well into the 8’s. Did this detract from the roast? A tad, but not too much.
And it was still sunny.
Sunny times at The Albert Arms
There isn’t much competition, both in terms of quality and quantity of reviews, but this is easily the best roast dinner that I’ve eaten out in 2021.
There is much to compliment – especially the lamb, the roasted veg – the amazement of actually getting banging roast potatoes – when was the last time I praised roast potatoes from a pub? Certainly not in 2021. Barely ever in 2020 either.
The gravy was really the only downside and it wasn’t majorly so – mostly because it just didn’t match the rest of the roast dinner. Yes, it was too watery, but the richness of the gravy, at least for me, didn’t compliment what was a really good roast dinner. And there was a slight oily feel to the roast – we think from the Yorkshire pudding but are unsure.
I was heartened enough to give it a score of 7.95, my accomplice scored hers a 7.70. My other accomplice ate just the burrata – she enjoyed it but why would you come out for dinner with LORD GRAVY and just eat cheese? It did look stunning though.
We also resuced some people to join us on the picnic bench when it started to pour with rain – I stayed longer than I initially intended as the Intel Pentium chip inside me wanted to see what people would do when it poured down with rain, but instead we invited the braver souls to take shelter with us. I did ask them for scores out of 10 but I don’t remember what they said.
Hopefully I’ve been profusive enough in my praise to make you at least consider a Sunday at The Albert Arms. Easy to get to, despite being in south London, a cosy pub inside, plenty of outdoor seating on the off-chance that we get a summer, a very good roast dinner, a really interesting menu for the rest of the week, friendly bar staff – it had a good vibe to it.
They clearly have a very good chef there.
I’ll be back on Sunday with my Lake District sun tan. And I’m going somewhere kind of posh, but not too posh.
Yeah but some of your customers are leery old men. Well, more middle-aged pretending to be young.
So after a couple of days of learning from people on Twitter how to win people over and influence them, it was time to ditch my restrained weekend drinking so far and have a roast dinner at The Woodman in Highgate, and way too many beers for a Sunday.
Speaking of stupidity:
Yes, I’m sure that calling people racist cunts will help persuade them to vote Labour next time, as I assume is the desire of the above Tweeter. Until I “get over it”, I’m only voting for people/parties who are actively campaigning to re-join the EU – but believe it or not, you don’t actually have to be a racist or a cunt to vote for the Tories – back in 2017, I thought that Theresa May was better able to run the country than Jeremy Corbyn – I thought she’d fuck up the economy less. I wasn’t racist in 2017 and I wasn’t a…well…I was…still am a bit of a nobhead.
I’m in danger of making a serious point that isn’t about the crudness of roast potatoes again, but you are not going to influence people to vote your preferred way by calling them cunts, or whatever it may be.
Fuck anyone that didn’t vote for Count Binface though.
Like a virgin…
Oh well, at least we can all go on holiday.
South Sandwich Islands, anyone? According to Wikipedia, “it is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands…”, as I pointed out on Twitter on Friday evening when the exciting news came out.
Or how about St Helena, to quote one of my few dearer Twitter followers who still uses Twitter since Donald Trump was banned, it has a “historical connection while still being a remote and inhospitable shithole”. Enter St Helena Travel from stage left:
There was more replies. Lots more. Did anyone else delete all their travel apps from their phone around a year ago? Anyway, no flights to St Helena from London. But I can fly from South Africa once a week…oh no I cannot because South Africa is not on the green list. Oh well, apparently I can visit St Helena on my own yacht…hmmm…or a cruise ship…hmmm….or charter a plane. And I thought Peckham was a ballache to get to.
Oh well, I will just have to admire the “what to do” page on the St Helena tourist page, presumably designed by David Hockney.
Oh well, how about Israel? There’s a what? War? It’ll blow over.
Papa don’t preach
I guess I should resist the temptation to get into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – if Donald Trump’s son cannot solve the conflict, then I certainly cannot. Ask me about the roast dinner? You want to know how the roast dinner was? How kind of you to ask.
So we went to The Woodman in Highgate. Why did I go to somewhere not on my to-do list, I hear you probably not ask? Well, I suggested to some very fun friends that we go for a roast – one of them suggested The Woodman, another agreed – and by that point it was really too late to insist on MY list. Plus I’d previously taken them to The Hand In Hand in Wimbledon – score of 4.98 out of 10, and Eat Lagom in Hackney – the saltiest roast dinner ever.
Initially I was seated in front of their welcome sign but then was offered the opportunity to sit in the sun – either directly in the sun but next to the road, or at the back of the transparent awning – which is what I chose though it did make it a bit more difficult to attract the attention of staff at times. Unusually for post-covid there seemed to be enough staff, they didn’t seem overly busy and there were always spare tables – it was just that they were not always positioned to see our waving hands and (later on) our strange “serve me” dances.
My expectations were not great for The Woodman – I kind of had the feeling that it would be poor or surprisingly good. For the latter argument, apparently their menu was “curated” by someone from The Ivy, though if I curated this blog and got someone else to write it, can you imagine just how crap it would be?
Google and TripAdvisor reviews were few – mostly people complaining about service (a tad unfair) and drinks prices (I’ve had worse). But this scared me:
What the fuck is that? Did Count Binface bring it to earth?
Also giving me a sense of foreboding was the menu – one of those huge menus that you get at chain pubs that offer every possibility which makes me wonder how they can be good at everything on there?
Yet the choice of roasts was rib of beef (my favourite cut of beef), leg of lamb (my favourite cut of lamb), pork belly (my favourite cut of pork) or roasted chicken, with stuffing. Or you could have a mixed roast or some unknown vegetarian/vegan offering. Nah.
I chose the beef at £18.95, along with a bottle of Rioja which worryingly wasn’t even listed on Vivino let alone rated.
I was initially really tickled to be granted Romanesco for the first time ever on a roast dinner in London, yet it became clear that something was a bit odd as all of the vegetables tasted weak – they all seemed boiled.
The giveaway was that I had done a pea-check, yet there was still a solitary pea to be found. You know what we were thinking? ICELAND. And no, I don’t mean the Iceland that is on the green list of places that we soon won’t be accepted into because of a new super-spreading variant that is bound to happen (happening?).
I’ve done a little internet search for carrot, pea, cauliflower, romanesco and green bean medleys – I cannot find any such medley but it remains our suspicion that this was from a large bag of frozen vegetables from a wholesaler like Brakes.
There isn’t much point of breaking down the vegetable descriptions as they were all basic, flavourless and disappointing. A bit like discovering that the Falkland Islands, one of the few places I could go on holiday, have a surprising lack of sexy Latino women – especially considering how close they are to South America. What happened?
La Isla Bonita
The roast potatoes were a tad less obviously pre-frozen, but probably were. They were very large – you cannot make good roast potatoes that large. They tasted a bit oily on the outside, but quite potatoey on the inside – which is an obvious thing to say, but some potatoes have a stronger potato flavour than others. Kind of soft – they were edible and OK.
The Yorkshire pudding was pretty good. This actually seemed to have been made in the kitchen, tasted pretty fresh, was quite soft too.
And the rib of beef was very nice. I mean, this whole review would have been an absolute slating were it not nice, but I did enjoy eating the beef. Overdone for my personal preferences, but each to their own – the fatty edges of the rib of beef worked well with the meat itself.
My accomplices shared complaints with me, but most were happy with their respective meats, though the accomplice with the lamb complained that it was too tough.
Finally, the gravy. Well, it was good enough for me to be photographed pouring gravy from the jug into my mouth once a few more beers had been drunk. It has some consistency, it had a bit of a salty edge but not too much – and was, well, OK.
I worry that since the end of the first lockdown, I have been a bit too kind to pubs and restaurants that I am reviewing, after what they have had to go through (with taxpayer support, let’s not forget) over the last year or so. You might think, “great that you are being so nice” but it actually isn’t fair on others pre-pandemic that got the full treatment.
I don’t think my scoring has been out of whack with Before Covid, marginally at most – yet I do think I try to find ways to compliment the venue when I haven’t liked the roast that much, such as The Red Lion in Barnes which I scored a respectable 7.10, but I felt that I had to go out of my way to describe how nice the garden was, that the staff were friendly and that they served my favourite beer of the moment (Soundwave), etc.
For The Woodman, I’m struggling to find those counterspective (I feel that should be a word but isn’t…deal with it) points – we did have a good afternoon and the beer garden was large. Yet the beer choice was very ordinary – not quite Greene King levels of ordinary, but definitely frozen veg levels of ordinary. The £28.00 bottle of Rioja was absolutely not a £28.00 bottle – I’ve had far nicer for less, but it was decent enough. Dessert was good though:
The service was occasionally distant and difficult to attract, drinks were then sometimes very slow to arrive – but broadly speaking it was decent and friendly enough.
And for the roasts, well, the beef was very nice – yet the vegetables were just frozen nonsense, and you can get good beef with properly cooked vegetables for £18.95 (or cheaper…perhaps) elsewhere. Maybe I’m wrong about the vegetables – but I’ve actually had a lot of roast dinners in my life, and if I am wrong – then that is probably a worse indictment.
We all scored it around a 6.5, I’m scoring it a 6.47 out of 10.
This coming Sunday I’m going to somewhere that knows of my existence, somewhere that does at least occasionally tag me in posts – so the pressure is on a little bit. Plus, heavy and thundery downpours are forecast, for my last ever roast dinner outdoors thanks to the irreversible lockdown re-opening that our trustworthy leader has promised.
Fingers crossed that I have a bit less fun this time.
Sunday arrived on a bank holiday weekend and we had an outdoor table booked at The Stag in Belsize Park. Alas, by Friday I was already so done with socialising outdoors until next year.
Ah the joy of a British bank holiday weekend with yet more fucking cold weather. Sometimes I feel that the weather trolls us – last year we had the sunniest spring ever when we weren’t even allowed in the park, this year we seem to be having the coldest spring ever when we are only allowed to eat and drink outside. Well, frostiest April for 60 years according to the Met Office, to be factual.
What’s that? It’s mayoral and local election week and somebody has written something factual on the internet backed up with evidence? Sorry about that.
Can you guess who I’m voting for on Thursday? I’ll tell you later. Think of it as a game…this would have counted for fun this time last year.
It was a weekend of mixed success with hospitality for me. Being limited to outdoors socialising meant that even two weeks in advance it was impossible to book somewhere decent in central London for Friday night, and we ended up booking a table at Brewdog. Have you ever eaten a burger at Brewdog?
Don’t. I’m not the greatest fan of burgers at the best of times, but this was gash. And given that it is close to the office building that I possibly in theory still work in, I do have experience of how shit the burgers are at Brewdog. I knew the burger would be shit. I still ordered the burger. And yes, it was shit. Granted it is good to be proven right – sometimes I feel that I prefer being right, for example predicting the gashness of this burger, as opposed to being very wrong when predicting my football team to get relegated and them subsequently winning the league.
I’m going to stag you up
Why was the burger shit? Well there was no avocado as advertised, barely any sauce, the red onion tasted revolting and the chicken was clearly fried even further in advance than your average roast potatoes are cooked. I am a fan of their sweet potato fries though. Oh and I was freezing cold sat outside – all that crowdfunding every few months and you cannot afford any heaters, Brewdog?
On Saturday I went to Costa Del Tottenham which at least sounded warmer. It was a cool set-up, but I had no mobile reception which makes ordering via app pretty challenging (though not as challenging as using Brewdog’s clunky anti-user experience app), drinks took ages to arrive – we learned to order again as soon as the round of drinks arrived, though at the worst even that didn’t work when waiting an hour for some beers to arrive – as much as increased prices are a trend so it seems is a lack of staff. Did I mention that it was cold outside? What am I saying? That was the perfect cue to start a rant about the lack of sexy European barmaids due to Brexit. Urgh I’m such a nobhead. I don’t mention Brexit enough nowadays, do I?
Alas, there was a choice of burger, burger or halloumi burger for food at Costa Del Tottenham. Yet the burger was actually good – really good quality beef with some Applewood smoked cheddar on top, washed down with some gloriously nasty red wine in a cheap plastic glass, with some DJs of gender types that several of the London mayor candidates wouldn’t approve of, banging some house music out. In the cold.
I feel that January’s me would have been envious of my social life this weekend. Yet I was even more tired of socialising outdoors in the cold than Shaun Bailey is of shadows.
So I cannot say that I was too excited to be on my way to The Stag to be sitting out in the cold once more. Alas, I’m here to serve you. Worked out who I’m voting for yet?
Hey sexy, fancy a stag?
Thankfully, The Stag had a surprisingly large garden that was temporarily completely covered by a marquee – with plenty of heaters. It was actually so warm that we asked them to turn the nearest heater down.
On the menu was a chicken sharer, rib-eye beef or pork belly. I was torn between the pork belly and the rib-eye – pretty much my two favourite roast meats, perhaps with leg of lamb up there also. With equal levels of indecision to when I was ordering from the Brewdog menu on the Friday evening – but with opposite levels of hope, I eventually chose pork belly under the pressure of the waitress waiting for my decision, at the respectable price of £16.50. And no, I won’t be voting Gammons for mayor.
It took around 15-20 minutes to arrive, though we then made the rookie error of ordering red wine when the food arrived so our wine then arrived 10 minutes into eating – our fault not theirs, I should stress.
There was a fair plethora of vegetables and the carrots were the pick for me – the flavour was brought out really nicely from their roasting, and they had a good balance between softness and crunch.
The parsnips were also very flavoursome, excellently so – yet just a bit too undercooked for my preferences – too much of a crunch. Nothing too burdensome, but enough to reduce the joy.
Also too al dente was the tenderstem broccoli – I’m a big fan of tenderstem broccoli as for me it hints towards quality, and I liked the way that they mixed it up with the cabbage – but it really was crunchy. Some people like their vegetables crunchy. Some like them mushy. I prefer the middle ground. No, I’m not voting Laurence Fox.
There is no stag
I thought that the Yorkshire pudding was quite good. It was very large and yes I have posted a photograph on Instagrim as I am required to do by law of large yorkies. Definitely done quite a bit earlier as it had that aging crispiness, yet with sufficient unlimited gravy the bottom softened up nicely.
Also done much earlier, probably the day before, were the roast potatoes. A source of disappointment even more reliably so Downing Street wallpaper, these were suitably disappointing. A bit rubbery and just old – I’ve had worse and will have worse this year – kind of 4/10 level.
Sadly the pork belly was a little disappointing also. Plenty of it – I think the photographs seem a bit unfair as they make it look smaller than it was (I possibly nearly had need to upgrade my phone, as on the way to The Stag a moped made a suspicious pavement to road swerve right behind me…just as I was putting my phone back in my pocket) – or perhaps the fact that the pork belly was a bit tough made it feel like there was more than there really was.
The crackling on top was more tough than crunchy – I could barely rip it apart with my steak knife – and you know when pork belly does that kind of gooey crunchy goodness that melts in your mouth? There was none of that joyous feeling. The bottom part was tough also – yet the middle layer was respectably soft.
Finishing, as usual, on the gravy. It was quite thick and advertised as unlimited – with my two requests for extra gravy I did manage to at least slightly test this, though I decided against pushing it any further as the staff were clearly very, very busy. So the positive was the consistency, but the negative was that it was overly salty – not to the point of being ruinously salty, but to the point where 10 minutes after finishing, I could only taste salt. It did detract from the roast, a tad.
Not a stag party
Overall, the roast dinner at The Stag was a real collection of imperfections. I kind of enjoyed it, I was kind of satisfied – yet it is one of those where the more that I think about it, the more unimpressed I became.
The gravy was too salty, the pork belly a bit too tough and probably cooked long before being served. Disappointing roasties and some vegetables too al dente for personal tastes. I think the only items I complimented were the carrots and parsnips – though oddly I didn’t come away thinking I’d had a bad roast dinner.
I was kind of satisfied – yet there was room for improvement throughout. Around the table we differed in our ratings – one at 6.5, one at 7 and one at 8 – though he’s a proper weirdo so take that with a boat of salty gravy.
I’m scoring it a 6.63 out of 10.
There were other positives outside of the food – staff were friendly, the outdoor area does look like a good place for summer drinks, they had around 15-20 beers on and the red wine we had was reasonably priced at £18.50 a bottle – rather drinkable too. I could see me back here for drinks at some point – but the roast does need some work, I’m afraid.
Speaking of needing some work, I’m still not sure who my second preference will be for mayor (or even what the point is of voting for a first and second preference). I’m open to suggestions – as long as they aren’t Labour, Conservative, racist, not racist but, communist or related to a communist then feel free to tell me who to put for second choice. Though even with 20 candidates for mayor that doesn’t leave much choice.
Worked out who I’m voting for yet?
I’ll be back next week. I’ve been gazumped into going away from my to-do list and I’ve just looked at a couple of photographs of their roast dinners on Google – let’s just say that I’m no more hopeful of a good roast than I am that Count Binface win will become London Mayor.
Yeah, you guess correctly. Bin For The Win.