Sunday Roast Review: The Mall Tavern

May 25, 2010

The Mall Tavern
Notting Hill
Lamb or Beef
£15
Roasting: 9/10

Proper knives. Proper forks. Proper napkins. The Mall Tavern is the kind of place you bring your old man for a sunday roast. They certainly don’t muck about. No flimsy forks or nonfunctional knives, oh no, these are the tools you want when smashing into a mountain of meat and veg. Take note, all you other pubs. You know who you are. A decent knife and fork goes a long way on sunday.

We’ve had the Mall in the crosshairs for a while now. Following head chef Jesse Dunford Wood’s numerous twitterings got our stomachs rumbling, and reading reviews on the likes of Gourmet Traveller meant we were itching to get down there and see if the roast was as good as the rest of the menu that’s being bandied around the blogosphere. Having recently changed ownership and become part of the posse that runs The Stag, we also thought this would be a great opportunity for a bit of a roast-off between the two establishments.

1.38pm. 27 degrees celcius. The afternoon sun employs a slow backstroke over a beautiful thick blue sky. Four of us have parked ass outside in the garden, and are slurping Aspall’s in a futile attempt to nullify the effects of the previous evenings booze fest that was Facility’s leaving bash. In terms of beer gardens, The Stag wins this one hands down. But it’s hard, nigh on impossible, to compete with that puppy. Its freaking huge.

The beer garden at the Mall is more of a cosy patio with room for about 20 or so people. Perfect for reading the weekend paper. Hidden out the back, leafy shades of green grappling white washed walls can be seen as you look over the dark wooden bar and across the leather banquette seating that dominates the front room. Looking around inside, you’ll begin to notice more of the requisite gastropub aesthetics – random glassware, antlers on the walls, scuffed wooden tables, funky lampshades. It’s all there, but in a nicely understated, simplistic manner.

There’s also a banquet room upstairs, where you can take part in the ‘feast’ menu. Think whole suckling pig, cured meat crubeens, potted ‘Mall-Smoked’ mackerel and pot roast chicken, amongst other things. Something we really like the sound of.

But we didn’t come for the furnishings, even if the vintage whisky dispenser behind the bar would look totally grouse back at the Roasted Sundays Towers. We came for the grub. So we got started with some bar snacks of pork crackling and cauliflower florets with curried mayonnaise.

The crackling was perfectly salted – thin, crispy and light enough to make you forget you are chomping down on pure, unadulterated pig fat. It was like eating little potato crisps of porky goodness. The florets maintained good internal crunchiness, with the soft outside giving way to mildly seasoned semi-crispy batter. Dunking in creamy curried mayonnaise completed their journey perfectly.

We raised a point in the last review about the roast beef costing £15.95. We feel this is something of a step up, as once you crack that £15 mark you’re really moving into the upper echelon of roasting territory. This is where the big boys play. It’s like moving from second division to premier league. It’s like changing from Tesco to Waitrose. It’s where you start to expect, quite simply, a fucking good plate of food.

With only beef or lamb as the choices on the menu (for the roast) we settled on 2 beef and 2 lamb. On arrival the beef consisted of 3 generous slabs rendered in a rich glorious pink. Slow cooked beef is a new one on this blog, and the resulting tenderness meant the nicely weighted steak knifes we had been given almost weren’t necessary.

Shovelling it into our gobs, the beef had that fantastically deep meaty flavour of a cut that’s been hung a little longer than usual. Beautiful. The lamb employed the usual gamey flavour that is expected from a nice cut of lamb, and although we like it slightly rarer, like the beef it was a terrifically generous serving.

3 potato boulders of duck fat delight were a clear spud winner. This is how you do potatoes. Glorious, golden crunchiness on the outside and a fluffly yellow cave lurking within, the hot greasy goodness of fat loaded carbo-nuggets will never tire with us. Amazing. The meaty syrup-like gravy would be better described as a jus, it was oozing with rich flavour and although we found it a little salty, it was quickly inseparable from the looming skyscraper of a yorkshire pudding.

Easily the tallest yorkshires we’ve seen, they were light and crispy with strong walls and light bready undertones. We’d even go so far as to say they were best yet. The beef came with a mini-afro of leafy greens, while the remainder of the veg on both plates was made up of several lengths of crunchy sprouting broccoli and parsley spattered carrots. Sprouting broccoli was a welcome change from the usual stuff, and the carrots provided a refreshing crunchy sweetness. Happy days.

The Mall didn’t fall short on service either. Quick, attentive and very accommodating of our 4 steaming headaches. Little touches like the steak knives being straightened. Mint sauce and creamy horseradish arriving without being asked. You’d be surprised how many times we’ve had to ask for the horseradish. Quite impressed.

But we’ve gone off course. The roast-off. The Stag clearly has a better beer garden, and a beer selection to rival an oktoberfest tent. The novelty of carving a chicken at the table is something we will never get tired of. The food on both sides will serve as great sunday roast at any time, but the beef at The Mall was constantly that extra step ahead. On top of this, it was the constant attention to detail at The Mall that really makes it stand out.

Things like complimentary olives. Proper napkins. Proper cutlery that feels just right in your hand. Old Hooky and Black Sheep on the pumps. Great service. And a pretty much perfect plate of food. It’s one thing paying £15 for a roast, but its another thing to walk away feeling like it was worth every penny. And thats exactly how we felt when we left. A big hats off to you, sir.

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

Total Roasting: (9/10)

Mall Tavern on Urbanspoon

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7 Responses to “Sunday Roast Review: The Mall Tavern”

  1. Fungus Says:

    feckn hell that crackling looks ridiculously good!

    as well as the other food..

    why the hell didn’t we go to any of these places whilst i was there ffs

  2. lec Says:

    You didn’t mention the gravy being a little too salty?

  3. lec Says:

    cracking review though 🙂

  4. Dave Milligan Says:

    Went today based on this review.

    Apart from excellent beef, the rest of the roast plate was sub par.

    Service was awful as well – order items missed + when we asked for extra gravy for what were very dry plates, the waitress pointed to a tiny jug of gravy on the table – barely enough for 1 person (there were 6 of us!!) and said “you’ve got extra already” – then turned away and walked off quickly.

    Won’t be going back unless I hear they have sacked their plebian service staff…


    • That is very worrying to hear. The Mall Tavern was certainly one of the best roasts that we had had in London, when we reviewed it a few months back.

      There is certainly no excuse for a waitress being so condescending as to suggest that “you have extra gravy already”. The only person who should decide if there is sufficient gravy present on the table is the person eating (and paying) for the Sunday Roast. Each of us has his/her own opinion on what is a good amount for gravy, so pubs should provide unlimited gravy boats in order to cover all variants.


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