Florentine, Lambeth

Ahhh dining solo again.

It’s actually only the second time in 23 roast dinners that I’ve had to go by myself. Sure, I could have stayed in bed and ordered a Nando’s takeaway – but I don’t have any chicken gravy granules in the cupboard, so that one was out. Plus I’m doing a service for you all – like jury service but for roast dinners. Yes that does mean you should share and invite your friends to follow me on Facebook.

I do have two very excellent and reliable roast dinner devotees in my life, but they are not always around. I reckon that I just need one more close, reliable person in my life. NOT A GIRLFRIEND. Well, unless she is Spanish, either a C or D cup, doesn’t want children and enjoys ironing.

Actually, what am I on about? I work in a start-up, doing web development – I won’t ever need to iron anything ever again. Bar weddings and funerals. Maybe job interviews.

So do you remember when you first went into a pub by yourself? It was Trepidation Central. Eventually I matured (vaguely), and made it to the point where I could go in a pub, by myself, have a beer and read the Daily Sport (covered by the front page of the Daily Mail – both bought with my 5p in the quick-buy thing at WH Smith).

Eating by yourself is a whole different ball game. It helps if the venue is in the middle of nowhere. It helps if there is a corner in that you can inconspicuously place yourself (though there is little about me that is inconspicuous). It helps if it is reasonably busy. It helps if you feel comfortable in your surroundings.

It also helps if the waitress doesn’t bring too much attention to it. You know, let me feel that eating a roast dinner on a Sunday afternoon by myself is normal. Ideally, just don’t fucking ask if I am eating by myself – don’t rub it in. Yes, I’m alone. Yes, I’m a miserable bastard that nobody likes to spend time with. Yes, I’m ugly and completely undateable. Yes I am an old, obese, miserable bastard who cannot get his cock up. Maybe I should have pretended that I’ve been stood up. Though that would never happen in real life.

Florentine has a sophisticated feel to it. All clean, modern, smart and perpendicular inside – on the ground floor of the Park Plaza Hotel, and rather conspicuous in its elegance for Lambeth. Ooooh nearly put an apostrophe in ‘its’ then.

I am about as sophisticated as alphabet spaghetti. The venue was quiet, I was shown to a whole row of tables in the middle of the restaurant so it was nice and obvious that I was eating on my fucking tod. And yes, the waitress was only too happy to oblige in reminding me that I was eating on my fucking own. In a nice way, but in an obvious way. I didn’t feel good about it – I tried to tell her that I had no friends but she didn’t respond.

On the Florentine website, there is an offer of a free drink if you sign up to their newsletter. I signed up but did not receive any confirmation. I then brought this up with the waitress who advised that there was no such offer on their website. I tried to check on my anti-smartphone, but it takes forever to do anything. The waitress came back and advised that she had just checked the website and there was definitely no offer.

There was. Their website clearly states that you get a free drink if you sign up to their newsletter. This was half the reason I went – being a tight arse northern tosser.

Being a tight arse, I decided to order the cheapest meal on their menu, which was chicken, at a reasonable £14.00. Rib of beef was on offer at £17.00, and leg of lamb at £15.00. But I distinctly now wanted to spend as little money as possible, seeing that I was not getting the free drink that I was entitled to.

Less than 10 minutes passed and my dinner arrived. You cannot cook a roast dinner in less than 10 minutes. You can reheat one in a microwave, though.

You can probably tell where I am going with this.

Starting with the collection of fine green beans. They were numerous and rather squeeky – for me just a shade undercooked, though not everyone would agree.

The parsnips were much softer. There were a few batons – with quite a distinctive honey-roast taste, and a touch of oil. I’m not keen on honey – horses for courses.

Then there were 3 roast potatoes. The larger one was tougher than ideal, the other two were fine in terms of fluffiness. They did taste and look like they had been deep fried rather than roasted, even with the minor sprinkling of rosemary, as I could greatly taste oil, but the menu suggests they were roasted so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt (though their website also suggests I was due a free beer). I’ll come back to the oil issue in a bit. And probably the free beer bit.

The Yorkshire pudding was fairly large. But that is as far as the compliments get. Now, I’m not that good at Yorkshire puddings, but at least mine are smooth and look like Yorkshire puddings. I am still to work out how this kind of speckled, tough Yorkie is made. I know I don’t like it – it was, tough and around the rim it tasted burnt. And oily.

Allegedly the chicken was corn-fed according to the website – though allegedly I was due a free beer. I’ve had plumper corn-fed chicken, but still it was a very good piece of chicken. Pleasingly generous on the lemon flavouring, with a hint of chargrill to the outside. The best part of the meal by some way.

The worst part was the gravy. Or should I say – jus. At least they state it is jus instead of pretending it is gravy. What kind of places do jus? Smart, sophisticated places – places that neanderthal northerners who just want a titwank and a bowl of thick gravy don’t tend to frequent. It was overbearingly oily, and it detracted from the whole meal. More men in corsets than horses for courses.

I am perhaps not being as subjective as I could be. It wasn’t their fault that I was on my own. I definitely had a minor downer and was feeling a tad awkward. It certainly isn’t a solo-dining place. Though neither is it a recommended roast dinner venue.

It wasn’t awful. But I didn’t enjoy my experience – 5.98 out of 10, is the highest that I feel I can justify.

And I definitely begrudged paying the £2.37 service charge. But like the free beer that I was entitled to according to their website, I was in no mood to argue about.

Then it was time to go inhale some graffiti fumes, bizarrely watched by a woman in a wedding dress showing her crotch to everyone by holding the skirt bit of her dress in her hand – possibly accidentally. I do love London. Is now a good time to tell you about the amazing sideboob view I had the other evening? Maybe I’ll leave it for when I am short of material…as she was.

Next week it’s my sister’s birthday and we are going north London. The pressure is on. It needs to be good.

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