The inevitable interlude…

August 23, 2011


 

Its been a while between posts. A long while.

We’re in a bit of a state of flux at the moment. Crackles is long gone, swanning his way through South America before settling back down in Perth, Western Australia. Industry Boy has temporarily moved to Ibiza where he is glamming it up, filming and editing a dance music TV channel. Renardo has found himself a lovely girl and has been swanning about all the summer festivals, and The Sweet Fiend has just been continuously gorging himself on all manner of desserts.

With all this in mind, we’re not really sure what the future holds for Roasted Sundays. And much as it pains us to admit it, this will probably be the last post for some time. Roasted Sundays will stay online, we are committing the reviews into a digital deep freeze for the world to see. Or at least anyone looking for a good roast. They will remain here, a html rendered memory; a 2D library of a year that was for us a complete gastronomic heaven. We hope you continue to enjoy reading them as much we did writing them.

To all those who joined us for a roast along the way, you are what made this blog what it is today. Thank you. To everyone else, thanks for reading so far, and happy roasting in the future.

Yours faithfully,

The Gang at Roasted Sundays

 

 

Sunday afternoon. 2.30pm. It is a sacred day so the Roasted Sundays crew have arrived at a church in Bethnal Green for a Sunday service. The congregation of 15 strangers depart the winter chill, climb the stairs and enter in to the grand church hall, greeted by our pastor for the afternoon Chris Sandel, to take our seats for communal worship. We are all here for one reason and one reason only…to celebrate our faith…THE SUNDAY ROAST!

Our pastor (or should I say host and nutritionist) is Chris Sandel and he has kindly invited us in to his home to experience a new venture that he and his colleague and chef Matt Phelps have recently set up. It is called the Unearthed Supperclub, at which a gathering of like minded food lovers are thrown together over a three course meal cooked up by Matt and during which Chris explains the nutritional benefits of the ingredients that we are eating.

Chris and Matt had been reading the reviews on our blog and they felt that whatever The Hawksmoor, The Albion, or The Bull and Last could do, they can do better! It was a bold statement which intrigued the Roasted Sundays members so we felt we had no option but to take them up on their challenge and see what they had to offer. 

Upon our arrival we were presented with some delightful canapés and Prosecco. The cosmopolitan guests mingled with each other while we could see through the open plan living area/dining room in to the kitchen where chef Matt was hard at work. It is no easy task preparing a three course meal for 15 people in a home kitchen but the smells that were emanating from there indicated that he was clearly on top of his game.

The starter, a winter vegetable soup with Jerusalem artichoke and St Gall cheese was swiftly sent down the hatch and supplemented by an educational digression in to the nutritional value of each of the ingredients by Chris. We learnt a great deal but our minds began to wander as over Chris’ shoulder we could see Matt plating up lamb shanks, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and veg. Chris as the nutritionist was replaced in our minds with Chris the boxing ring announcer. The words ‘saturated fat is good for you’ replaced with ‘This is the main event…LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!’

The plates arrived. Industry Boy tore himself away from behind his new camera. The Sweet Fiend rubbed his belly. Renardo began salivating. The guests started tucking in and the only noise heard for the next 15 mins were groans of approval. The deafening silence testament to the quality of the food. The fall-off-the-bone lamb shank was fantastic, tender and tasteful. The roast potatoes (some would say the make or break for a great roast) cooked in goose fat were crispy and fluffy. The Yorkshire pudding was airy and soft. The gravy of meat juices and stock was oh so flavourful. Industry Boy was euphoric that there was no shortage and his was the first hand to be raised when asked ‘Does anyone want more gravy?’ The combination of winter vegetable mash, greens and lamb faggot stuffing were the perfect accompaniment. All washed down with a fabulous bottle of organic and biodynamic Chilean Syrah supremely selected by Nik the resident sommelier.

We managed to reserve space in our desert stomach to squeeze in a lovely chocolate tart and glass of port to round the afternoon off nicely. It achieved what all deserts strive to achieve…the Sweet Fiend’s seal of approval. Content, we slumped in to the couches for a short rest before we were ushered out and on our way.

We were promised one of the best roasts and it would be hard to disagree. It really does present a strong case for the argument that Sunday roasts are best when cooked at home.

Unfortunately as this roast was a one-off we did not feel it would be fair to mark this with our usual ratings. However, if the standard of the roast is anything to go by, we can most definitely recommend any future Unearthed Supperclub sittings the boys have to offer. The combination of organically sourced ingredients from reputable suppliers cooked to perfection, along with broadening your food understanding along the way, is a winning formula.

PS: The video above is our attempt to document the Unearthed Supperclub on film.

Roasted Supperclub

January 15, 2011

With Christmas done and dusted and a new year well under way, the Roasted Sundays posse are gearing up once more for having our stomachs stuffed full of delectable roasty goodness. It has taken us a little longer than expected to recover from the overindulgance that inevitably accompanies the festive period, but now that the last remnants of turkey have been sweated out from our bodies during a fortnight of detoxing we are re-energized and raring to go.

To begin 2011 we will be branching out from the traditional pub roast to an intimate sitting within a converted church in East London at a supperclub hosted by nutritionist, Chris Sandel, and chef, Matt Phelps. Their concept of providing, demonstrating and explaining the role healthy, seasonal ingredients play at meal time was one that appealed to us (especially appropriate during January…a month when the nation decides as a whole to abandon vices, join their nearest health club for a month or so and purchase fitness dvd’s from the latest in vogue z-list celebrities). We are honoured to have been invited along to experience what should not only be a fantastic feed but also a very educational experience.

The mouthwatering menu we shall be devouring is thus:

Canape

Choucroute Garnie

Starter

Jerusalem Artichoke and Winter Vegetable Soup with St Gall Cheese and Sourdough

Main

Slow Roast Lamb Shank with Goose Fat Roast Potatoes, Winter Veg Mash, Greens, Lamb Faggot Stuffing, Yorkshire and a Redcurrant and Rosemary Gravy

Dessert

Dark Chocolate Tart with Homemade Orange and Ginger Raw Cream

A full report will follow here on the site in a couple of weeks time but in case any of you are interested to find out more about the supperclub that Chris and Matt present, then information can be found here.


The Cadogan Arms
Chelsea
Whole / half roast free range Devonshire Bronze chicken (£29, for two), Roast rump of British grass-fed beef (£14.95), Roast leg of Herdwick lamb (£14.95)
Roasting: 8/10

The Cadogan Arms' whole roast chicken

Well The Cadogan Arms in London’s Chelsea was bloody, bloody, disappointing. No Burberry tablecloths, no white gloved servants, no silverware, no foie gras milkshakes or caviar cocktails, no Swarovski crystal potatoes. Not even, Roman Abramovich. Call this the Kings Road? Like hell it is, old bean.

All we got at the Martin brothers’ gastropub was pseudo-countryside: think fly fishing tackle and walls of taxidermic trophies, a cosy traditional British wood-paneled bar, and a dining room full of – would you believe it – quite ordinary riff raff.

Perfect Sunday atmosphere at The Cadogan Arms

Of course, it was just perfect for us. For when it comes to the great British Sunday roast, that most simple and elegant of meals, there is no pomp, no ceremony, nor surroundings, that can better our most precious of plates. It is a classless dish, it is a family feast, and it edifies our stomachs in a way that no one outside of our green and pleasant land will ever, fully, understand.

It is the food that matters most. And whilst Einstein might call us insane for eating the same thing over and over every Sunday and expecting different results, he might at least appreciate our use of the microscope: our Sunday roast reviews and ratings often come down to the most infinitesimal of details.

And last Sunday, it was the interior of a few of the roast potatoes that had our judges tut-tutting. Whilst some of our table of 11 enjoyed cutting through the flawless golden surfaces of their spuds to find creamy, fluffy cores, a couple of us had to chomp our way through the equivalent of the Sahara.

The dryness could have been caused by any number of things: too hot an oven, too long in the oven, the wrong kind of potatoes, or not enough duck fat prior to cooking (although if The Cadogan Arms does use duck fat, the menu does not say).

A few of our table called us pedantic for our nitpicking, and indeed when you’re a table of 11 in one of London’s busiest pubs during Sunday lunchtime, it’s unreasonable to expect absolute perfection. OK, so call us unreasonable. Our hunt to find Britain’s best Sunday roast will eventually come down to such persnickety.

Dead animals adorn the walls of The Cadogan Arms

And then, there was the homemade horseradish sauce, with its thoroughly unsatisfactory kick and much to much double cream. Whilst we thoroughly appreciate any such efforts in the kitchen to experiment and create taste sensations from scratch, if the results are below that of what’s readily available in your local supermarket, then it’s probably not worth doing so.

But that is about the end of our criticisms. The rest of the Sunday roast was delightful. The whole roast free-range Devonshire Bronze chicken (for two) with lemon and thyme stuffing under the skin, was absolutely delicious, and even better when dipped into the accompanying bread sauce. We did note however, that it was slightly on the dry side.

Gravy boats at The Cadogan Arms

The roast rump of British grass-fed beef was some of the tastiest that we’ve had the pleasure of devouring, full of flavour and plentiful. The roast leg of Herdwick lamb with homemade mint sauce was similarly fabulous, and disappeared just as fast.

The highlight of the whole roast was the stunning Yorkshire pudding, which we reckon, might just be one of the best in the country. It was huge and brown, with pristine crisp edges and a superbly soft inner bowl. What made it all the more extraordinary, was that every single one of them was faultless.

Because they were so perfect, those who had opted for the roast chicken were left a little envious as their meal did not include a Yorkshire (a fair occurrence, as Yorkshire puddings are traditionally only served with beef). They did however, have the the last laugh, as they got delicious pigs in blankets instead.

The vegetables on offer were sufficient with a handful of fun kale, and a collection of, I quote, “the best carrots ever”. It would have been nice to have a third vegetable on the plate, but they probably wouldn’t have been able to fit it as there was hardly any white space thanks to every plate having its own gravy boat (unlimited gravy is an essential part to a Sunday roast we think, so The Cadogan Arms scored top marks there).

By the end of the meal we were completely stuffed, and happy, so naturally, the Sweet Fiend insisted that we all order desert. Sadly, it was the weakest part of the meal, and disappointing, considering the £5.50 cost each.
Dry all the way through: the chocolate fondant

Ten of us ordered chocolate fondant with honeycomb and caramel ice cream, whilst one opted for the lemon posset with blackberry jelly and shortbread. Out of the ten chocolate fondants, only one of them was gooey and had a satisfactory ooziness to its inner consistency. The rest of them, although quite tasty and enjoyably sinful, were nothing more than dry chocolate sponge all the way through. Perhaps they suffered the same oven as the roast potatoes?

The lemon posset on the other hand was lovely, as was the wine (Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Tenuta Neirano, Piedmont, Italy 2006) at £19.50, and the spicy bloody marys which we had at the start of the meal.

And so concludes this week’s Sunday roast dissection. Now, take me home, James.

Meat ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Potatoes ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6)
Veg ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Yorkshire ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9)
Gravy ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Serving Size ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Menu Variety ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Service ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Atmosphere ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9)
Value for money ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)

Total Roasting: (8/10)

The Sweet Fiend’s Last Word:
Great lemon posset but generally woeful chocolate fondants, which were firmer than the Sweet Fiend’s orthopaedic mattress. Final word – Stick to the meat, avoid the sweet. ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3)

The Cadogan Arms on Urbanspoon

All around us, lumps, layers, it seems like mountains of flesh and meat are bleeding, glistening, wafting across the round table, with crisp brown edges and raw red centres, surrounded by small cute pots of golden chips, green spinach, carrot chunks, and cheesy bubbling macaroni, in front of a trio of gravy jugs with thick Béarnaise and Peppercorn sauces, a bottle of homemade ketchup, two bottles of red Sangiovese, ice water, and six neat place settings most notable for their extra sharp, saw-action, steak knives, in a dim bricked basement where gentle classical music and jazz plays below the animated conversations of suited city types, rich and fashionable ladies, and silver-haired old men with thick-rimmed glasses.

How barbaric, how carnivorous, how elegant, how sophisticated, how so very Hawksmoor.

When we heard that our favourite Sunday Roast offerers, the highly revered British steakhouse Hawksmoor, had opened a new restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, we pulled the Twitter equivalent of don’t-you-know-who-we-are, and eventually (thank the meat Lords) bagged a table during their soft opening. (Yes, we know no one likes a queue jumper, but hey ho, you don’t have a Sunday Roast review blog and we do.)

Our table of six arrives with great expectation at the quiet entrance to the restaurant, for a feast awaits. A polite greeter takes our coats and shows us downstairs to the stunning, wood paneled bar area, that has a perfect Manhattan speakeasy feel to it, with low desk lamps and high wooden bar stools.

The thick cocktail list has a great number of interesting paths to begin the night, with each drink carefully explained via a helpful and insightful anecdote about its origin and ingredients. I opt for the Fancy Gin, which the menu describes as “the perfect showcase for our national spirit, gin. Extravagantly sweetened with Curaçao instead of sugar.”

For booze hounds, there are punches and cups, fixes and fizes, juleps, aromatic cocktails, sours, and bridging drinks, as well as a curious collection of anti-fogmatic drinks which an American named Harry Craddock, who was supposedly obsessed with creating an effective pick me up, developed in the 1930s. He described them as an “anti-fogmatic, eye opener, bracer, corpse reviver or morning glory.” Forget Red Bull, this is serious alcohol appreciation.

Drinks downed and muscles loosened, we are shown to our place in the large banquet hall which is buzzing with activity. Every table is full, and yet somehow, the restaurant still feels spacious.

Our server explains the food menu but we have only come for one thing: meat. We order lots and lots of it, and the blackboard at the end of the room that lists all of the available cuts of beef promptly has the 1.2 kg, 1.1 kg, and 1 kg of Chateaubriand struck off it.

There is something quite pleasurable about watching what you’ve just ordered being removed from the menu. It’s like the food you’re about to receive is one-of-a-kind, unique, and has been specially and lovingly prepared for you.

And it has, at the Hawksmoor. That’s what you pay for (and pay, you do). All of the restaurant’s meat comes from the award winning butchers, The Ginger Pig, renowned for their meticulous attention to dry ageing – the minimum they offer is 35 days.

All that’s left for you then, is to choose how you’d like your steak, and what sides you want. The Hawksmoor’s chefs use a real charcoal oven, and today, due to the sheer weight of our meat, they insist we go for medium rare, as “a large amount of undigested protein sitting inside your stomach isn’t very good for you”, says our waiter.

To go with our meat, we order the aforementioned selection of sides and sauces. The Hawksmoor offers two types of triple cooked chips, one in beef dripping, the other in sunflower oil, so we order both.

When the food arrives it doesn’t disappoint. Above all, the meat is utterly delicious, tender, and oozing with juice. With 600g or so each to eat we don’t manage it all, and have the remainder wrapped up in doggie bags for the ladies we left at home.

Completely stuffed at the end, our faces are incandescent as our bodies struggle to process the huge hunk of flesh in our stomachs, the digestive enzymes bouncing off the molten mass like pitiful little flies off a car windscreen.

And then just in case nuclear winter sets in tomorrow and this is our last chance to eat a civilised meal before a life of scavenging, we order desserts; sticky toffee pudding, chocolate fondant, and cornflake sundae. Even the Sweet Fiend, whose voracious appetite usually knows no bounds, leaves the Hawksmoor feeling overindulged, even a little bit sick.

Of course, that’s all the Hawksmoor’s fault, their food is simply too delicious to say no to.

Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon

Note: we didn’t have a Sunday Roast at Hawksmoor Covent Garden, so therefore have not ranked it with our usual Roasted Sunday categories. But if it’s the same as their offering at their spot in Shoreditch, it is the best there is.

Wow, who turned on the gas? This past Sunday, our traffic exploded with 643 visits in just 24 hours. That’s an insane amount for us, and more fuel for the blogging fire. Our search for the UK’s best Sunday Roast will continue, thanks to your interest.

We actually started this blog because we woke up one Sunday at Renardo’s house, hungover, cold, and hungry, and desperate for some decent British comfort food, the mighty Sunday Roast. The only problem was, there was an abundance of pubs offering Sunday Roasts in London and that was not something we were happy to face, having to surf through all of those websites looking at libraries of menus. It was tiresome, boring, and time consuming.

If only someone could have pointed us the way, you know, like a friendly old man in the village who had eaten at every pub and knows a good Sunday Roast from a dud one. If only there were some obsessed Sunday Roasters, mad meat lovers, who had reviewed every pub in London and come up with a definitive list of the best ones. If only…

That’s when we decided to launch RoastedSundays. We never had much expectations from the blog, other than people to find our reviews and ratings useful. We never expected big traffic.

It’s great to know that there are Sunday Roast fans out there using our reviews come Sunday morning. We hope your hangover is a little easier to bear with Roasted Sundays in your bookmarks.

Thanks for reading. Leave us some comments, spread the word and give us some love!

The Paradise
Kensal Green
Pork belly (£15.50), Goosenargh corn-fed chicken (£14.50), Rib of beef (£17.50), Rump of Lonk lamb (£16)
Roasting: 7.1/10

A roast awaits
Roast chicken

A Sunday roast is all about satisfaction. For Finn Renardo, that comes down to the meat. The tenderness of the beef. The snap of the pork crackling. The saltiness of the chicken skin. The juiciness of the lamb.

For Yorkshireman Neil, it’s all about serving size. When the day revolves around one single, vital, lunch, it has to fill you up to a point where you can simply eat no more. It has to put you into a food coma, as Neil calls it.

For Iranian Roasted Sundays debutante Annahita, it is the roast potatoes – the glee she feels when she saws through a crisp, outer layer of golden-brown skin to get to the fluffy, moist interior: potato heaven. The spuds are the most crucial part of a Sunday roast, she argues, “because they’re the only thing that I can’t do properly at home myself.”

Where's the gravy?

Me? I can’t enjoy the hodge podge of disparate elements that make up a Sunday roast plate unless they are unified by a messy dark brown puddle of thick meat juice, otherwise known as gravy: the magical elixir that bonds it all together.

Tellingly, there is a lot of discontentment at our table when the food arrives, especially for a pub that calls itself ‘Paradise’.

Neil’s tut-tutting, Annahita’s sighing, Renardo’s grumbling, and me? I’m wondering where the hell my gravy is. We asked for an extra jug (Sunday roast offerers please note: bottomless gravy boats should be on the table as standard, not desperately begged from the kitchen like Oliver Twist), and all we got was two measly fingers worth. Not even enough for me, let alone for a table of nine. Two fingers, indeed!

Pork belly

Those that ordered the Rump of Lonk lamb were left with a serious case of menu envy – compared with the thick slice of Trough of Bowland beef, or the plentiful Goosnargh corn-fed chicken, the lamb was a mere dwarf. The pork belly too, was a little on the smaller side compared to the other pork belly experiences that we’ve reviewed recently.

And none of us were happy to find ourselves the losers of Paradise’s roast potato lottery: some of the duck fat roasted spuds were perfectly brown and crispy, whilst others were soft and dry, like they had been boiled, and then boiled again.

The Yorkshire pudding, as spectacular as it looked, was near-on impossible to swallow due to the aforementioned lack of gravy. “Who can actually eat a Yorkshire pudding without it being covered in gravy?” asked Annahita. Quite.

At least the vegetable medley was sufficient, if not unimaginative, with al dente green beans, red cabbage and sultanas, carrot slices, and a single roasted parsnip each.

Roast beef

Inside the Paradise's dining room

Bread & butter pudding

By the time the Roasted Sundays score cards came out, the cynics had already sharpened their axes. “The fact is, the beef here is a whole £2.50 more than the Hawksmoor’s, which is the best we’ve ever had,” shouted one. “When you charge above £15 for a Sunday roast it has to be next level, it has to be exceptional,” said another.

Strangely, after arguing ferociously about each category, the final score actually turned out to be fairly positive. The Paradise’s beautiful and relaxed dining room filled with antique furniture, miscellaneous artifacts, chandeliers, and stuffed animals, made us feel right at home. It scored high in atmosphere.

The menu variety too, was beyond anything previously seen, with not one, but two offerings, for those bloody, self-righteous, meat-hating sods, the vegeborings. We had no choice, but to give them a 10 for that.

And when the deserts arrived, the whole mood changed thanks to the brilliant sticky toffee puddings and coffee ice cream, caramelised bread and butter puddings in custard, and rich chocolate mousses, that made everyone feel as jolly as cream.

The final bill was, in the end, pretty hefty at over £30 per head (including two bottles of wine).

Were we satisfied? Admittedly yes, our stomachs may have been, but ultimately we couldn’t help feeling a little disgruntled. Perhaps, even a bit ripped off.

Meat ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Potatoes ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5)
Veg ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6)
Yorkshire ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7)
Gravy ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5)
Serving Size ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7)
Menu Variety ★★★★★★★★★★ (10)
Service ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8)
Atmosphere ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (9)
Value for money ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6)

Total Roasting: (7.1/10)

The Sweet Fiend’s Last Word ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9) (*new category for puddings!)

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