The Happy Man, Egham

Yes I know Egham is not in fucking London.

I have a friend. A very good friend. A beautiful soul (he gave me my first ecstacy pill – obviously I kept it in my back pocket and pretended to be having the best time ever). But occasionally he is just slightly hard work. My mum doesn’t read this does she?

The first time he joined me for a roast dinner in London was actually the first review, at The Duke Of Wellington, in Notting Hill. He doesn’t quite know the underground network as well as I do, so I chose somewhere very easy to get to from Paddington rail station – just two stops away. He went the wrong way and ended up getting a taxi.

This time I scoured my to-do list for somewhere close and easy, finally managing to book a table somewhere close to Paddington. He then advised he would just drive to mine so I could navigate from there. So I could just have picked anywhere.

And then the night before, he requested a change of plan. To The Happy Man in Egham. Outside of the M25.

I repeat, outside of the M25. It doesn’t even have a fucking zone. It might as well be in Hull. Sigh.

Speaking of which, it was such a timewarp inside that it felt like I was in Doncaster. In 1997. It had the same wallpaper as the trendy pub I went to in Stockwell last Sunday, but it wasn’t in an ironic way – the wallpaper had clearly been there for decades. The Happy Man had the look and feel of a proper old school pub from up north, with a solid wooden bar, that shit-caravan sponge seating that was popular in the 1960’s, little stools that actually matched each other, and solid oak tables.

It really was a timewarp. So untrendy that it will probably be full of hipsters within the next few years. And as much as I like my mismatched chairs, fairy lights and comfort of zone 2 – I was enjoying the nostalgic feel. Seal of approval so far, and that is before we even get to the clientele who were mainly 18 year old female students – or the ones I saw were anyway.

By the way, if any students from the nearby halls of residence are reading, I would just like you to know that I finished paying my student loan debt back a few years ago. All £6,600 of it at very low interest rates. Haters gonna hate. Or is it haterz?

The Happy Man was sold to me on the basis that it was cheap and plentiful. Though if I wanted cheap and plentiful then I would have just bought two frozen dinners from Iceland. Or do I need three dinners taking into account shrinkflation? Just put your prices up FFS.

I did get ripped off on the drinks bill though, no way were the advertised prices adhered to:

So given that I was already out of my comfort zone, we decided that we should maximise discomfort by sitting at the bar to eat our food, in the vain hope that my face might be brushed by an a-cup breast trying to get a Strongbow and black, as I munched probably rock solid, hard roast potatoes.

Food time. Overall, the menu was as limited as the decor, however there were 4 roast dinner choices – chicken, beef, lamb or pork. For just £7.95. Maybe this was actually a timewarp? Maybe I actually am in Wakefield? £7.95. I’ve had well over 100 roast dinners in the south of England, and only 2 were cheaper than that – and both were abominations of the highest order. That fact in mind, I ordered the pork – I decided it was harder to get wrong.

Dinner arrived after around 15-20 minutes, resting nicely on a place-mat from around 1974, with a side dish of vegetables to the…side.

Vegetables first, which were all green and either steamed or boiled.

I’m not even sure I can be bothered to write about them. I think I have writer’s block. They were all pretty spot-on given their form of cooking. All green. All plentiful.

Quite a few small heads of broccoli which were marginally softer than crunchy.

Again the green beans were of similar stature, already cut into 3-4cm lengths, and again plentiful.

Some cabbage was supplied also, unremarkable but pleasant nonetheless.

Then there were two parsnips. They weren’t the most appealing looking things, and almost seemed as if they had been deep-fried, from texture and taste. I’m not sure they had – but they just seemed that way. Somewhat cheap, nasty and pointless.

Guess what? The roast potatoes weren’t great. They had been roasted (well, maybe deep fried – they had that oily taste to them, but I think roasted) and were quite challenging on the inside. Some would say al dente, I would just say tough. I’ve had worse. Often. But these weren’t good.

Two small Yorkshire puddings were included, both soft yet structured nicely – a little wider and overflowing – two good homemade yorkies.

I think I made the right choice with going for pork, as both the beef and lamb that my accomplices had looked more well done that I prefer. The pork loin slices practically covered the whole plate. There was that much of it (one could have had two meats for £9.95 but I was advised against that). It was soft and succulent, very nicely cooked – I couldn’t ask for more given the price that I paid for the dinner.

There was a little stick of crackling too, crunchy but not tooth-breakingly so, in fact it dissolved a tad and crunched up nicely. Tasty – worked perfectly with the juicy pork loin.

Finally the gravy. It was hard to distinguish a particular taste out of it, but it did seem to be a stock-based gravy. It had a reasonable consistency to it – like most of the dinner, it was very respectable.

Overall it had the kind of feeling of a mother-cooked roast dinner. Unspectacular but solidly respectable. My mum doesn’t read this does she? Roast potatoes were unsurprisngly a let-down but everything else was good. And just how cheap was it? £7.95 – just 40% of the price of Hawksmoor.

I’m giving it a 7.37 out of 10. Very respectable indeed.

If you want a solid mother-style roast dinner with no pompous shit, at a bargain price, and fancy spending loads of money and time on travelling to Egham like my friend that wanted to save money by not going to London and spending £20 on petrol instead, then this is your place.

You aren’t going to bother though, are you? Would you even eat in zone 3?

This coming Sunday I shall once again be paying ridiculous amount of money for a roast dinner and shit roast potatoes – west London this time. Zone 1. Holy cow. Lick my hairy nipples…make me a Happy Man.

The Old Brewery, Greenwich

Sometimes I like to make an entrance. I like people to know that I have arrived, or that I am coming. Spread a little warmth, spread a little humour and spread a little love (or I would if the only girls that found me sexy were not on a lifelong audition for the part of a beached whale).

By the way, did anyone see that video of the girl being pulled into the water by a sea lion? How hilarious was that?

I hope they send it into You’ve Been Framed.

Anyway, so I booked a table at The Old Brewery, in Greenwich, just around the corner from some boat called the Cutty Sark.

And in the additional information section, I announced myself:

GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY. GRAVY.

I may not have remembered exactly how many times I put gravy down, so do forgive me. The above is not an exact replication.

Apparently this had them in stitches, and the little blackboard on our table said “Betty loves gravy” (not my real name).

A nice touch – I felt very welcomed. Plus the waitress blew me a kiss and called me ‘darling’. I was enchanted. Feeling the love – or maybe it was just the sunshine. Let’s give them a 9.9 out of 10 and be done with it. Have a good day – see you next week.

Yeah, as if a tight bastard northerner would give someone a score over 9.

There was a bit of an odd moment when ordering, when my accomplice tried asking for a Pimm’s. She was informed that they don’t sell it, even though the outside bar was specifically advertising it. The waitress then advised her to go outside to buy it. Hmmm. Not quite what you would imagine waitress service to be – though her supervisor overheard and a glass of Pimm’s was brought over.

Now I accept that northerners should not be drinking southern trash like Pimm’s, and were my accomplice not my most reliable roast dinner partner, then I may have disowned her for southernising too much. But still, it was an odd moment in what was, overall, very good service.

I guess I should talk about the venue. The restaurant part was impressive – huge ceilings giving this open, expansive feel. There was a substantial outdoor seating area – much of which was covered by umbrellas because, obviously, they don’t want to scare their customers away with that horrid sunshine thing in the sky. A beer in the sun? Not me, I’m British, give me some shade now. Why the hell do pubs insist on hiding the sun from their customers – aaaaarrrrgggh. There were no seats outside anyway so we sat inside. But in a city generally lacking in beer gardens – Greenwich has plenty – let it be noted.

Oh yeah, and if you are a woman and are a fan of urinating – this is probably not the venue for you. Just two ladies’ toilets. Two. Maybe they had some more hidden away, but there was a permanent queue and it wasn’t mega-busy.

The menu offered beef at £18, chicken or pork belly at £16, or the vegetarian Wellington at £14. I chose the pork belly – partly because it seems that anything other than chicken or beef is classed as an exotic meat in London. And partly because I love pork belly – when done right!

It took around 25 minutes or so to arrive – longer than normal but that suggests a freshly cooked roast. It was quite impressively presented too – but presentation means jack.

Firstly I tucked into the carrot and swede mini-cubes. It was a touch mushy and I thought more could have been done in terms of flavour, but overly a positive vibe.

There was just one fairly small floret of broccoli. Cannot really enlighten any more upon this.

The cabbage was perfectly cooked – a little crunch but not too much – this was spot on.

Then the roast potatoes. Only two, but on the large size, both cooked in goose fat and on the face of it, really quite tasty. However, it was a tale of two spuds – one good, one bad. The good spud was more rubbery than crispy on the outside, and a little too al dente on the inside, but was enjoyable due to being roasted in goose fat. The bad spud was rubbery on the outside, and tough – even a little cool, on the inside. There was a hint of rosemary, which always goes down well.

The Yorkshire pudding was on the large size, soft-bottomed and crispy on the outside. The double egg did give it slightly more a taste of a pancake – this was a good Yorkie.

So onto the pork belly. I had 4 slices of juicy, plump pork, with the fat on top. It actually seemed like pork loin to me – which is what the online menu states – but I swear it was pork belly on the menu. Hmmm. No crackling though. But the pork was definitely good quality.

Finally the gravy, which was rather thin and oily. In terms of texture, it wasn’t my favourite, but it was a meat-stock based gravy. But oily.

In fact, there really was quite an oily aftertaste.

This was a good experience overall. A great venue, good outdoor area, good though occasionally imperfect food, good service – and we left with a smile on our faces. There are better roast dinners out there, but I think you’d be very happy if you had a roast here.

I’m giving it a respectable 7.25 out of 10. My accomplice was even more satisfied than myself – with excellent beef and no dodgy spud, and she rated it an 8 out of 10.

We continued our cultural exchange afterwards, with a pleasant walk along the Thames Path and past this wonderful industrial building – they don’t construct buildings like this nowadays.

Then through an estate, down some main roads before coming out into Greenwich Village fete – and spent the next few hours admiring the colour-coordination of these pastel cranes. And maybe a drink. Or three. Oops.

I’ve had easier Mondays.

Next week I’m off to see Sharon and Tracey.