If you’ve spent any time in the UK you already know that the one, undisputedly positive culinary contribution of the English to the World is the art of Sunday Roasts.
Tenderly cooked meat (whether it’s lamb, chicken, beef or pork), roasted vegetables (parsnips, potatoes and carrots are non-negotiable; cauliflower is a bonus, cheesey is better; sprouts and lettuce and sundries are filler until their done well), and a Yorkshire Pudding, all doused with gravy. It’s decadent. It takes time. It takes practice, skill and quality materials.
Or, if you’re in London, you go to a pub and pay someone to give you theirs.
But which pub?
Here at Uncle HQ, we’ve made a study of traditional roast lunches over many years. Invariably, the recommended places are pedestrian while the pub you didn’t know about will somehow turn out the best plate you’ve had in months.
Which is all-well-and-good, but a bad roast will end and start a Bad Week. There’s a lot riding on that roast; even more if you’ve looked it up, booked it, travelled for it and anticipated it. We know: bad roasts can ruin months.
So here are the roasts that have kicked off our best weeks and the one that capped off our worst:
So Hawksmoor is bound to feature in a future post about where to go for a great meal and even greater cocktails…and for an even greaterer price, but how much is too much to pay for gourmet bone marrow?!
But aside from the slightly greasy inside bits of cow bones, Hawkmoor has a sideline in Sunday Roasts that is as excellent as you’d expect. And if you’re going to treat yourself to H’moor Roast, then you may as well do it at their only venue to also offer natural light at no extra charge!
4. Priory Tavern – Kilburn
Kilburn High Road is hardly the most salubrious part of London, so only the locals are likely to dip into this very proper pub, but on a good day, the Tavern will knock a pork roast further out of the park than most better situated restaurants.
Add to that the very exceptional Bloody Marys and huge array of board games, you’re just about set to while away an entire Sunday afternoon.
This little gem is a bit out of the way, but it’s great! The lamb and the chicken are always top-drawer, prepared and served with panache. The fresh mint sauce is supreme.
Bonus appetiser points for the Scotch Eggs, which are the best we’ve ever had (in or out of Scotland).
Bonus location points for being just around the corner from Karl Marx’s grave in the gorgeously overgrown Highgate Cemetery.
Angel doesn’t want for pubs and food options, and this one is in the heart of it all and yet, is inexplicably quiet on Sunday afternoons, which is all the better for roast lovers!
The pork roast is crispy, the cauliflower cheese is non-traditional but delicious. Bonus points for the chicken wings in a spicy buffalo sauce that is among the very best in the capital.
1. Wygston’s House – Leicester
The only thing wrong with Wygston’s House is that it’s not in London.
The setting – “in Leicester’s oldest standing house” – is delightful in all its black-beamed wonkiness. The staff are friendly. The food is peerless.
Sure, it’s a couple of hours drive out of London, but it’s almost worth the trip by itself, and, of course, if you’re actually in the area, you’re in luck!
And the worst Sunday Roasts?
What sinks the P&B? Expectations! 4.5 stars on Google. Booked weeks in advance. Crowded with rowdy families and buggies every Sunday, from opening ‘til the food runs out. It’s gotta be great!
But it’s not. Infinitely average, thoroughly on par. Food that is hardly bad, but nothing to write home about (or a blog post, current example not withstanding), sold at a greater than average price, and served by too few, harried wait-staff.
More than the great roasts we’ve enjoyed, dining at the P&B and places like it is what inspired this post; because if the Pig & Butcher has 4.5 stars it means there are too many people experiencing too many mediocre roasts to know what they’re missing.
Think you know somewhere deserving of a place in the top five? Think you’ve suffered a worse roasting?
Let us know in the comments below.