The Abbeville, Clapham

Surprisingly until this week, I had never reviewed a roast dinner in yummy-mummy heaven, Clapham.

My guests this week had a requirement to be near the A3 and somewhere with parking – Clapham fit the bill perfectly and there were several venues on my to-do list. They chose The Abbeville, on Abbeville Road – a perfect example of upper-middle class white suburbia (I’ve got black friends, ok?) – all semi-posh delicatessen land, newly polished paintwork and all the ya ya chi chi oh how wonderful darling, that you could possibly ever want.

I have been to Clapham before. They have a giant overpriced silent disco on Clapham Common every August bank holiday – albeit without the headphones. I think they call it SW4. It definitely wasn’t chi chi.

Clapham is the kind of dull but exceptionally nice place that your wife might force you to move to when she becomes pregnant. Well, you wouldn’t want your kids growing up in Hackney, would you?

And guess what? No, I’m not pregnant. But my guests brought their 3 year old grandson.

I do not understand children. I get scared and don’t know what to do with them. Do I talk about politics? Dinosaurs as per the kind suggestion on my Facebook page? Or do I make animal noises like I do at work? Upon my arrival, he looked at me with the kind of suspicion that I normally reserve for somebody suggesting that I go to a Toby Carvery for a ‘great roast’. I stared back at him with measured scorn and pulled a face, similar as to what I do at work when someone asks me to change what I’ve spent hours coding.

It seemed like a good start.

The options on the menu were pork belly, beef topside and chicken. I had seen the pork belly go past and it looked awesome. Alas, I had eaten pork last Sunday so it was time for something different – I went for the beef.

There was and still is no Sunday menu on their website – though given the popularity of what was a busy pub, they clearly had no need to advertise their Sunday offerings. The pub is small and cosy (in estate agent speak) – difficult to get around at times with very limited space to get through near the bar – perhaps just too popular.  Or just too small.

It being middle class Clapham, I was expecting roast dinner pricing to be around the £18 to £20 mark. Sorry, I mean upper-middle. Yet beef was only £15.00, pork and chicken were £14.50 each – though didn’t come with a Yorkshire pudding, which could be purchased for £1.50 extra.

Dinner took quite a while to arrive, maybe 30 or so minutes, and I was gently practising my face-pulling techniques during the wait – moving onto the sticking my tongue out at the young child phase of entertaining.

The practice came in handy. Can you see la problema? FFS Temper all over again – who still haven’t bothered replying to my tweet, and I have a whole long e-mail complaint ready to send to them about the things missing in my life, such as blow jobs and Margaret Thatcher.

No fucking roast potatoes again. My accomplices had roast potatoes with their chicken roasts, so I wondered if maybe beef roasts didn’t come with roast potatoes. When I eventually grabbed someone’s attention (not easy), he took the plate away and swiftly came back.

Much better. Very much better.

Difficult to know where to start with this one as there was so much food on the plate.

Carrots. Oh glorified sticks of orangeness. These were sliced vertically in half, and roasted. Sweeter than usual, with a hint of honey to them. Good quality carrots, though I personally would have roasted them a bit longer – horses for courses. And we practiced our horse noises – perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised but we were on the same level. My horse noises were far more realistic though – since when does a horse go ‘neigh’?

You could definitely argue that the parsnips needing roasting for longer. Whilst still easily edible, and with the mixture of nutty and sweet that you’d expect, they were just a bit too al dente. I always find that roasting them longer brings out the flavours more. Good but a way off parsnip perfection.

There was a tiny bit of broccoli. Little I can say about it, though it tasted superb with the gravy.

Also tasting excellent was the kale. It has quickly become a favourite vegetable of mine, and the tastiest of the tasty vegetables on offer. A sprinkling more than a pile, it again matched the gravy most suitably.

Finally there were some tough stick things. One of my few childhood memories that doesn’t involve burning or destroying things, was looking through bushes to find stick insects. I never found any. Do the actually exist? I ate these celeriac stick things, but they were tough and only vaguely more appealing than eating stick insects – fairly tasteless and I could have easily left them to the side were it not for my psychological requirements.

Not only had my missing roast potatoes been salvaged, but I had extra. My accomplices had what would be a reasonable 4 – yet I had 6. 6 glorious roast potatoes. And you know what? They were actually roasted. Some were superbly crispy. They were nice enough inside, though did have a little bit, I stress the little, of a “cooked earlier” feel about them. Pleasingly with a hint of thyme on the outside. Very, very good roast potatoes – and just how often do I moan about roast potatoes? Just not quite potato perfection.

Crispy roast potatoes and this child is not screaming at me?

The Yorkshire pudding was approvingly massive. Perhaps too much so as it was a little brittle and overly crispy near the top – but bravo on the size. Impressive. Soft enough on the bottom to make a good accompaniment to the meat.

The thinly-sliced beef itself was good. If you squint and use colour-blind glasses, you can just about see a hint of pink – medium would be a generous description. That said, it was a decent quality piece of topside. Topside can be a bit naff on occasion, but this was succulent if not overly exciting. The pork belly looked awesome – the chicken looked unremarkable.

We even had very good gravy. Quite a complex taste, perhaps a touch of red wine – don’t ask me what else. There was a decent enough amount on the plate for a rugby union poofter, but for those of us who appreciate proper try-scoring forms of egg-chasing, more was required. It also had a pretty damn good consistency too – not cement, but what you union softies would call ‘thick’.

And then it was time to play cars!

One of my accomplices also had an added extra to her plate – some grease-proof paper. Sadly it put her off eating the rest of her dinner – I wouldn’t have cared. I once had an opened paper clip inside a bacon and egg sandwich, which I still consumed. Once I had taken the egg out – which was the only reason I found the paper clip.

I had a bit of a FOMO moment and ordered the apple crumble for dessert, once I had eventually gained the attention of a member of staff, which was increasingly difficult to achieve. Cooked in a small pot with the crumble being burnt – and generally lacking in flavour. Very disappointing. If I were doing a London Crumbles blog then it would get a 3 out of 10 at best. I was fairly unamused by myself.

Thankfully for The Abbeville, this is a roast dinner blog and their roast dinner was very good.

In terms of portion size it was exceptionally good – twice as much as some wankier and more expensive places would offer. Much of the dinner was very good or excellent, though it certainly wasn’t unimprovable, albeit some of what I thought are mild aberrations would be to other’s liking. Kudos on the roasties and the gravy, in particular.

Alas there was another one of those “optional” fucking anti-service charges on there. I guess around 12.5%. It was tippable, but by no means was a service charge appropriate. As I have mentioned, it was difficult to get the attention of staff – not their fault as they were running around. They did at least give my accomplice a free roast for her added surprise, and sort out extra roasties on my plate for their initial lapse.

The roast wasn’t perfect nor was it a perfect experience. But I wholeheartedly recommend it – especially if you like large portion sizes. I’m giving it a very healthy 8.16 out of 10 – which makes it it the 5th best roast dinner from the 34 I’ve reviewed so far.

I’ll be back in Clapham before too long I suspect.

On the way out, I offered my very young accomplice a handshake. He refused.

He wanted a hug instead. I have a new friend. Though if any attractive South American ladies are reading – don’t get any ideas.

Next Sunday I’m away – like somewhere other than London. I’ll be back the Sunday after and I will most definitely be going somewhere cheap.

The Bedford, Balham

Regular readers will know that I am trying to combine culture with dining. Being, from Hull, the UK’s official City Of Culture, my cultural leanings should come as no surprise to you.

So this week’s attempt at pre-roast culture, was going to watch my football team, Hull City AFC (don’t forget the AFC), in south London. See – I told you I would make it to proper south London one day (Richmond doesn’t quite count). And yes, football is culture, you poncey Tate Modern twats.

Selhurst didn’t seem to have an over-abundance of dining establishments, and I thought it quite possible that we may need to escape the area, given that the last time I went to an away game in London I had a glass bottle thrown at me (ahhh the culture) – one can only assume due to my earlier mastication of a battered jumbo sausage (and you go to the ballet every week, do you?).

So I found a place in Balham, a few stops from Selhurst. Balham is apparently an up-and-coming area of London – our establishment of choice was The Bedford, in Balham – a venue with several floors and a beer garden that resembled a prison cell (the barman’s description and I certainly agreed). Apparently it does music, theatre, comedy and food, along with beer.  Overall it was rather ramshackle and apparently still celebrating being “pub of the year”.  In 2002.

Booking was not easy. No ability to do so on the very slow and glitchy website – I tried e-mailing but had no response. Telephone it was.  Ahhh, 2002, the days before the internet arrived.  At least in Hull.

I was a little apprehensive about going to both the football and the roast. I don’t normally check Trip Advisor as I don’t want to cloud my judgement/expectations, but I was drunk on Friday night from playing beer pong (told you I am cultured) and decided to have a gander. The reviews were mixed – though next to no mention of what the food was like.

Possibly because nobody eats there. Upon arrival, we had the pick of all but one table. Ominous.

Signs were similarly ominous prior to the football. There were two games left of the season. We had to win both of our last games – firstly this one against Crystal Palace (we hadn’t won away since September), then against Tottenham who are second in the league. Oh yeah, and hope one of our relegation rivals lost on the last day of the season.

Hmmmm.

I got to the bar and ordered a pint of beer. There were two options for a roast – beef or chicken. Unless I wanted to truly punish myself with a nut roast, then the only available option was the beef – for I had had chicken the week before. For £15.00.  They brought over some ketchup and mayonnaise for us.

Yep.

And at the football, once the stewards had confirmed that I did not have any weapons on me, I made my way to the bar and ordered a beer. Actually, that’s a lie. I ordered a bottle of Carlsberg – without the lid, of course, for it would be likely that I would throw it at someone. Clearly I was not the only one disapproving of Carlsberg being the only beer available as many of the younger supporters deemed it necessary to throw much of it in the air and over each other.

The game kicked off. Our reliable Italian defender fucked up, they scored. Losing 1-0 after 3 minutes. Great start.

Our roast dinners arrived. Well, two of the three. It looked crap. I stabbed a carrot and it flew onto the rather stickytable. An equally good start.

The carrots were pretty solid. Either boiled or steamed, they were boring, plain and solid. Unlike our defence.

Then I moved onto the cauliflower. Nothing was wrong with it. But it really wasn’t spectacular or interesting. Just very, very ordinary. A bit like the game – we passed the ball around to very little effect, as if we were playing a pre-season friendly – or perhaps as if we were already down.

The Bedford did at least oblige with tenderstem broccoli. Again a bit too undercooked for my preferences.

Things got worse. We let in a second goal. And then I tucked into the roast potatoes. Only 3 small roast potatoes were supplied but this was more than enough. They were rubbery on the outside, lukewarm on the inside and generally rather anaemic. You could say stillborn – like my football team.

Half-time arrived and I was resigned to relegation. Half-way through the roast and I was resigned to finishing off a crap season, I mean, dinner.

There was some hope. The Yorkshire pudding was half-decent – homemade, and slightly larger than small – I was kind of expecting the ignominy of an Aunt Bessie to add to my misery, but it was a half-decent Yorkie – not quite a shot on target, but a shot, nonetheless. And yes, we had a shot. Not on target.

Then, bang. Goal number 3. A poor challenge and a clear penalty. Fuck. Which was my same reaction when I started eating the beef. Fuck. Well-done, tough, chewy. I was enjoying how shit it was in a kind of masochistic way. Just like I enjoyed the tonking at the football.  At least the beef had cracked pepper seasoning on it, whereas our season had just cracked up.

Just to top things off, the gravy was crap too. Thin, watery and virtually non-existent. Marginally preferable to Bisto but that says little. It might even have been Bisto. More arrived upon request – though barely enough for one, let alone three of us.

Oh yeah, and we let in a 4th goal.

All in all, a shit day. Enjoyably so though.

I can recommend not ever being a football fan. You are paying good money out for misery. We finished the season on 34 points and are relegated.

I also recommend not eating a roast dinner at The Bedford in Balham. You are paying good money for misery. I am giving this roast dinner a rating of 3.4 out of 10.

It could have been worse. We could have finished bottom. I have had worst roast dinners in my life, but this is the worst roast dinner that I have had in a London pub so far. I feel short-changed and would have been very angry were I already not so disillusioned after the football.

Having a shit roast dinner just felt appropriate.

However, I recommend that you avoid this place for roast dinners. I was going to scratch an abbreviated version of this review on the toilet wall, but didn’t feel it could compete linguistically with “FUCK MILLWALL”.  We left in search of dessert – as we certainly were not giving that place any more of our money.

Next week I’ll be having a better roast dinner. I assume. It doesn’t get too much worse than this.

ps If you are the really hot Portuguese woman in the confused bar near Victoria station with the cracking pair of boobs, then thank you for making sure I had some good memories from yesterday.