The Lighterman, King’s Cross

Mad Saddam ready to attack: 45 minutes from a chemical war.

Next Sunday I won’t be back in London until late afternoon so there might not be a roast dinner.

Two of the modern era’s greatest lies. I was on the way back from another great weekend in the UK’s City Of Culture, which is now such a popular and trendy place that ever posh southerners and slow-footed foreigners go there now. I was tired, I was hungover, I was semi-drunk and I wasn’t even vaguely hungry. I just wanted to go back home, stick on some slow-motion lesbian porn (I’m getting old) and drift off into a pleasant slumber, dreaming about swimming pools of gravy.

Instead, I had a family emergency to attend to – my sister was hungry. And I didn’t want her to become hangry. Which is a word – enough to make one ululate at the abuse of the English language.

I did say ‘might not’. Which is a bit like saying that I’m going to a festival but might not do any illicit substances. Are you ready for some action? Somebody scream!

A simple decision on location, my train was arriving into King’s Cross, and there was only one King’s Cross venue left on the list. The Lighterman. All ravers massiv stick yer lighters in the air. Do you wanna go faster?

Alas booking a table wasn’t so simple. The lady struggled with the idea that we wanted a table for three people, yet only two were eating. We nearly ended up with both a table for 5 people, and a table for 8 people, and also a table at a completely different time.

Anti-service was a bit of a pattern. It took a good 10 minutes before anyone came and took our drinks order, at which point we also placed our food order. Prices were on the expensive side – £18.50 for chicken, £19.50 for pork belly and a whopping £22.50 for beef. Yes, a beef roast dinner was more expensive than Hawksmoor. Hold tight.

As I wasn’t hungry but I am exceedingly fat, I ordered the pork belly.

The Lighterman appears to be a new building – replete with long glass windows, wooden features with the modern pub standard teal walls. There are several floors, all of which were busy when we went, on a warm, sunny October afternoon – with two sizeable seating areas outside too. We were seated on the ground floor, which was a tad too warm, and it was becoming apparent that it was also understaffed – we asked someone for our drinks order but he advised that he didn’t deal with drinks. Helpful.

Yes, yes, yes, get ready let’s go. Our dinners arrived 10 minutes later. At which point our non-dining friend left, drinkless – though managed to cancel her drink before she left. Of course, when the drinks order finally turned up, her drink did too. I was beginning to wonder if the Brexit Ultras were running the show. #proudtraitor. Do I need a full stop after a hashtag?

I was however pleasantly surprised with how the dinner appeared – like when you go on a date with a blonde girl with big boobs and she turns up without fake nails, fake tan, fake hair, fake eyelashes, etc. You know, like a normal human.

First things first, where is the gravy? I’m used to ‘invisible gravy’ but this was also non-existent. The waitor who definitely was absolutely nothing to do with the bar said it was just coming over. I asked for extra gravy, explaining that I am northern. He told us not to worry, as it came in a big jug.

If that was a big jug of gravy then I have an average sized nob. I’m still single, by the way, ladies. Everybody scream.

The carrots were close to exquisite. Chantenay carrots with the skin still on, these were plump and eminently juicy – tasting so fresh and almost fragrant. How carrots should be – and so rarely are.

Several sticks of tenderstem broccoli were supplied too. Not an awful lot to say about them, but they had the right balance between tough and soft – perfectly balanced.

Finally for vegetables, we had a selection of roasted parsnips. Small and arguably slightly over-roasted, yet not to the point of being burnt, these were again high on satisfaction. Sweeter than your average parsnip – I thought I detected a tiny hint of honey but it was marginal, so possibly not. Time to order our next massive tanker of gravy. Also known as a small jug. Is Rachel Stevens still hot?

So far so good. But of course roast potato territory arrives. Oggi oggi oggi.

Before I move on, I think you need a tab of acid, and to immerse yourself in the Atmosphere Creator. Turn the volume up high – you will love this.


Still with me? That is what I subjected my two closest friends to on Saturday. Well, I subjected them to walking past it. Slowly. I think they are still speaking to me.

The roast potatoes were actually good. Well, three of the four were – and to get four fairly large potatoes south of the M62 is quite a miracle. Albeit at £19.50, which would get you at least two roast dinners up north. And a ride on the waltzers. Oi oi oi.

All crispy on the outside – chuffed up too. Not amazingly crispy but I really don’t want to complain. Well, I do want to complain – I always want to complain, so just a quick reminder that the service was poo. Three of the roast potatoes were nicely fluffy on the inside – again not perfect, but as good as I’ve had in months. The last, and largest roast potato was rather tough inside.

I didn’t get the Yorkshire pudding. It was a sponge rather than the traditional structure, and was yellow inside. Yes, yellow. At first I wondered if there was a hint of tumeric, but I couldn’t taste it. Perhaps they were made from duck eggs? A mystery, and not a compelling one to solve. And yes, I ordered another jug of gravy. The waiting staff didn’t pay us any attention so I had to vacate my seat and find someone. And I mean ‘get the Yorkshire pudding’ in a somewhat pejorative way, not in a where is the fucking gravy way.

The pork belly was very good. For £19.50 I’d expect so (yeah I’m a tight northern bastard and I bang on about how much everything costs in London), the succulence of the pork balanced the crispy crackling, though the crackling was arguably too salty. Quite overwhelmingly so. But we are talking margins away from perfection – this was very, very good. Juicy.

My accomplice was also impressed with her beef, stating that it was one of the best she had had.

Finally, the gravy was very good too. Quite thick – unusually so for down south, and a meat stock flavour to it. Proper gravy – none of this jus crap. One of the best that I’ve had in London – The Old Red Cow was by some way the best.

So after 7 very average roast dinners in a row, I need to work out just how good this was. It definitely reaches the 8’s. The service was poor – inattentive, unhelpful and frankly useless, bar the young lady going upstairs to get us extra gravy. The Yorkshire pudding odd, one spud bad. The rest was very good. Perfection wasn’t reached at any point, but nothing bar the Yorkie was anything other than very good or excellent.

It is a bit off the top 4, and the high cost does have to have detract from the score a tad, as does the poor service. I’m giving it an 8.06 out of 10. And yes, I paid the fucking 12.5% “suggested” service charge like a cocksucker.

Overall, if you don’t mind forking out this much for a roast, then I can definitely recommend it.

I was considering going to fabric this coming Sunday for a couple of beers, but despite attempting to channel my inner John Redwood and repeatedly telling my bank balance to be more optimistic and find that not existent money, it is still saying ecstaNO (as opposed to esctasi). That said, I can afford a cheaper roast, so I should be back next week, with a roast, from an area of London that I have yet to visit.

Exciting.

Go on, take pity on me and give this a share. Up the workers.

Bar & Block, King’s Cross

Air conditioning.

You know when you do those Facebook word clouds at the end of the year to see which words you have most used? (and to give some dodgy app you have never heard of access to your whole timeline and then you wonder why you have offered friend requests to 50 ladyboys in Thailand).

I get the usual words that you all probably use lots – love, think, beer, lesbians, roast dinner, gravy, rimming, etc. But ‘air’ and ‘conditioning’ would also feature prominently. For I used to work in an office without air conditioning, which would reach 31’C in the summer – and sometimes 26’C even in the depths of winter. So I appreciate air conditioning.

Therefore when I walked into Bar & Block near King’s Cross yesterday, and was met by the cooling tones of their air conditioning on the hottest day of the year so far, my soul was filled with a church-like sense of deluded love.

Is now a good time for a Jimmy Savile joke?

So we sat down at a surprisingly quiet restaurant, especially given that it was Father’s Day. Maybe people don’t think about going to King’s Cross for a roast dinner on a Sunday, Bar & Block does seem arguably to be more of an evening venue – it specialising in steaks. Maybe I am about to change your world?

That said, I should have changed your world long ago, such is the depth of my intelligence, insight, writing ability, beauty and penis size. One assumes that you spend all week longing for my pearls of wisdom and the inebriation of my linguistic wonders – oh if only I could eat and review roast dinners every day and be paid for it. One day someone will see my talents.

Not complaining though. I have air conditioning in my new job. And loads of hot women. Now then, now then.

As Bar & Block specialises in steak, the only roast dinner offering they had was the steak roast dinner – and it comes for two people at a rather bargainous price of £13.50. Well, a bargain for London, anyway. You can look at the menu if you want, but surely you are only here for the gravy?

Dinner arrived around 20-25 minutes later, on a drool-inspiring wooden tray. It was immediately clear that we were onto a winner. Except that they gave us the world’s smallest plates. Perhaps not the world’s smallest, but too small to fit a roast dinner on sensibly. Heated plates though, so it was quickly forgiven.

Word of warning – the dinner comes with peas. Thankfully the waitress (yes she had a cute ass) understood my situation and brought the peas out separately in a pot so I didn’t have to go all Donald Trump on her #fakepeas.

So the carrots were roasted. Thin strips of roasted carrot, and pretty much spot on. Around 4-5 each though more for me as my crazy friend is allergic to carrots – of all the things.

The parsnips were tasty. A slightly more nutty taste to them than normal, again nicely roasted, and plentiful.

Also a generous helping of tenderstem broccoli was provided. There was a fair crunch upon delicately placing them within my gob – again expertly cooked.

Sadly not so generous was the excellent cauliflower cheese. So many times cauliflower cheese is just cauliflower cream, but this time there was actual cheddar involved, which was distinctly noticeable. Perhaps even a mature cheddar. Though with just two small florets worth each, it left me internally screaming for more.

The roast potatoes were not quite so up to standard. Shock horror. Pleasing that they had a scattering of herbs on top, and they seemed freshly cooked enough, however still somewhat too al dente inside, and absolutely no freaking trace of crispyness on the outside. Acceptable.

This was however a return to good Yorkshire puddings. Really soft and spongey – and very large too – perfect for sitting meat in. The only minor discretion was that they had not risen quite enough, with next to no crisp on the outside. But though not perfect, this was the best Yorkie….hmmm probably in London so far.

And the beef? Well, you’d expect it to be excellent. It was. Around 5 slices each of exceptionally tender sirloin, medium-rare on the inside with a gorgeously slightly burnt and crisp outside. Tastetastic.

The gravy…existed. A very thin and watery, slightly oily texture – it neither added to or subtracted from the dinner. More was forthcoming upon request, though I’m not entirely sure that there were not more suitable gravy receptacles than very hot metal pots with hot handles.

This was an excellent experience. Very well presented, enough food (I even left one piece of tenderstem broccoli), a charming yet professional waitress – and mostly top notch food, especially the cauliflower cheese and the sirloin beef.

And the price too – just £13.50 each which is truly excellent value when considering the quality. Perhaps it won’t be so quiet on Sundays going forwards!

I am going to give it an 8.34 out of 10. My second-best roast dinner in London so far. Definitely recommended.  I will be going back at some point.

I also had a fine pint of Brooklyn Lager, a reasonably good glass of merlot and a pretty storming brownie.

No definite plan for next weekend yet – I don’t even have a dining partner (so far), though my default pick if nothing/nobody else interesting turns up, reckons it is one of Time Out’s top 5 roast dinners.

The Harrison, King’s Cross

Dining partners. It is good to have them. I thought I had a dining partner/nutcase for this Sunday but alas, he couldn’t make it (and for the first time ever had a forgivable excuse). I could not find a replacement either. Not that I tried any harder than a tweet and a Facebook post.

So then I had to decide, does one go by oneself, or does one cancel and let down my 17 readers? Yes, 17 readers – my readership is growing exponentially. Ish. Go on, tell all your friends.

I don’t mind eating by myself and I quite like the mission, especially if it involves a bit of an adventure. And I definitely had an adventure, thanks to Google Maps.

I got the tube to St John’s Wood – it saves me £1.60 by not going into evil zone 1 and I am a tight bastard. From there I walked through Regent’s Park. Wonderful, just like goose fat roast potatoes in gorgeous, thick gravy, over and over and over.

And then, past some absolutely gorgeous housing, just like the most magnificent rare rib of beef.

And then, someone gave me peas – Wetherspoon’s peas at that. Google took me through this council estate. Thanks, Google. Picture courtesy of Google as I was…too scared…actually no I’m a hard Northerner…I was…hmmm, aware of my surroundings.

Thankfully, I then made it into London’s most polluted street and all was good. Or is that the UK’s most polluted street? Europe’s? All by myself.

I arrived into my destination – The Harrison at King’s Cross, again on the edge of an interesting estate – part pub – part hotel. Also a live music venue – my fears were raised when some kind of musicians plonked themselves and some equipment on the table next to me.

And it claims to have the “Best Sunday roast in town”. Quite a claim. Was this going to be my best roast dinner so far in London? Though being the 9th roast dinner I have reviewed, it wouldn’t be so difficult.

The options were beef, chicken and lamb – with two vegetarian options for short-haired lesbians (which actually sounded really appealing, in a “if they didn’t have any meat left” kind of way). The meat priced at a reasonable (for London) £13.95, vegetarian at £13.00. Menus can be viewed here. I ordered the lamb, a beer and went for a piss.

As soon as I came back from urinating, my dinner arrived. Now, I do not have the largest bladder in the world, but that was quick. Which could only mean one thing…

HELLO MICROWAVE.

Well, I was not expecting that to come up on a Google search. Maybe Corbyn is onto something after all – down with capitalism.  Down with choice.  Down with being well-off.  Down with having to work.  Down with having a strong and stable economy.  Let’s make every day a fucking bank holiday if that really is the solution.

I digress.

Despite the microwaving, the roast dinner looked…strong and stable.  So I tucked into the carrots first.  Only a few of them but really, really good, soft carrots – plenty of herbs and garlic, possibly a hint of honey too though I’m no taste-magnet.

There were two little bits of broccoli – rather strong and stable – spot on in terms of texture.

Hidden away under the meat was one tiny piece of roasted parsnip, though so small that…

Whoa…peas.  Peas on my fucking dinner.  But there is no need to worry – these were peas locked inside a strong and stable safety case so they couldn’t go wandering like I did as a 5 year old on holiday, worrying my parents sick.  I really was not a well-behaved child.  I still am not.  My mother wants to be a grandmother.  I do not want children, or even a girlfriend.  I find it difficult enough to have a relationship with a cardboard cutout.

Though having a girlfriend would mean no more solo-dining.  So there are advantages of having your freedom to fart in public curtailed, but I’m not sure I have a particularly good offer.  “Hi, I’m, fat, ugly with a very small penis, I like farting in public and I am obsessed with lesbians.  I offer you my love in exchange for occasional blow jobs – oh and very importantly, you must join me for a roast dinner every single Sunday”.

Any takers?  Despite being happily single, I would quite like a European immigrant wife as my way of saying FUCK YOU to everyone that voted for Brexit.

Any European takers?

Shall I just get back on with talking about peas?  Oh, I haven’t even put a photo of the roast in, here goes.

So, peas.  Sugarsnap peas -strong, stable and crunchy with that alien-splicing pea taste.

So far good, the opposite of my sex life.

And then I had the roast potatoes.  The microwaved roast potatoes.  No matter what you do, roast potatoes will always be fairly crap at best once microwaved, and these were no exception.  A shame, as they were arguably the best microwaved roast potatoes ever – delicately crispy on the outside, but cold and quite hard on the inside.

I accept that if you are a small pub, doing roast dinners for 9 hours, you are not always going to have freshly cooked roast potatoes.  It is what it is.

Thankfully the Yorkshire pudding was back on standard, a fluffy, slightly sponge-like creature.  Not perfect, but very good, strong and…you’ve got it…stable.

And the lamb was excellent.  Leg of lamb, nonetheless – probably my favourite cut – either that or a good ol’ shank, this was tender, plump and a touch juicy.  But, and this is a fair-sized but – not quite Beyonce size but reasonable.

There was just one slice of lamb.  Now I know I have “only” paid £13.95 for my strong and stable roast dinner.  I know, I know, zone 1 yadda yadda.  I get it.  But it just felt a bit 0.7 gram dealer stingy.  It was really good coke, I mean, lamb, but a little more really would have made me happy.

Finally, the gravy.  Predictably top-notch, a mint-infused thick gravy – better than most I have ever had, I was really, really impressed.  Very strong.  Very stable.  Long term gravy plan.

Overall I am very disappointed.  Because this could have been the best roast dinner in town.  Well, the best I have reviewed so far.  If there was more meat and the roast potatoes had not been microwaved (or I had booked a table for shortly after they had come out of the oven) then this would have been in the mid to high 8’s.

I’m going to give it a 7.99 out of 10.  Just to show how it has missed out on greatness – just how close this came to being a great roast dinner.  Which I guess means I have to mark all roast dinners to 2 decimal places now.

Ahhhhhh.  Such is life.  So I do very highly recommend The Harrison for a roast dinner, if you are in or around King’s Cross.  Speaking of which, there is a little Italian place called Casa Tua just around the corner (they have one in Camden too) which you must, must visit.  Not for a roast dinner, sadly.

Next weekend is review number 10.  My two most reliable accomplices are in place and I might just go somewhere special.  Though I might not.

Oh – bathroom tiles.  Pretty ordinary.  Yet strong and stable.  I’ll get my coat.