In the spirit of Donald Trump’s recent visit to the United Kingdom, I decided to do something disreputable this Sunday.
No, I didn’t grab the nearest woman’s crotch, and, no I didn’t insult all of my closest friends. But I did accept a free roast dinner.
You may have worked out that a few things really fuck me off. Peas, jus, Brexit, women’s trousers, yadda yadda. One that also really grates my goat is the blaggers that give bloggers a bad name. There are legions of people out there desperately trying to increase their followers so they can then ask brands for freebies (they work hard, you know), in exchange for writing dishonest superlative-packed “reviews”. A bit like local newspapers writing a great review for the local chicken shop that…oh happens to spend some money on advertising.
This is not what I am about. I have two goals – firstly to make you laugh – with me or at me, I don’t care. Secondly to help those in need of a good roasting, actually find somewhere to go on a Sunday – and reward a bit of free publicity to those doing a great job. I want this website to be the place in London where people head to, to find out where to go for their Sunday roast.
To do this, I feel that I must be trusted.
So when Ben’s Canteen messaged me offering a free roast dinner for two people, I hesisated. Who doesn’t want a free dinner? But could it have a negative effect on my trustworthiness?
Fuck it. My blog. My rules. I’m a skint-ass northern twat and I would be even more likely to get beaten up for turning down free food than I would for wearing a t-shirt saying “I Love Margaret Thatcher”. Though before I did, I went back to him and said, “Have you read my blog and do you realise that I am not the usual type of blogger (ie a blagging bullshitter) and am ferociously honest?”. Once that was cleared out of the way, I agreed.
Hey – free roast dinner – what’s not to like? Yet I was pretty nervous beforehand. I had no idea whether it would be any good. Could I really write a bad review if I received a FREE plate of tosh? Even worse, though, what if it truly was the best roast dinner that I’ve ever had? How could I square that with my 13 readers who value every word I say? Would anyone believe me if I gave it a 9 out of 10?
Therefore I just hoped it would just be good or very good – I desperately hoped for at least one deficiency.
Ben’s Canteen have two venues, one in Clapham Junction, the other in Earlsfield. However it is only the Earlsfield venue that does the roast dinner menu.
One of the bits that keeps me going on my adventures is that roast club is an adventure. Every week is a new venue, and often a new part of town. Earlsfield surprised me on the upside – quite a lot of cool venues, little start-up brewery kind of bars, small coffee shops – you know, independent places. Places with young people – not quite hipsters, maybe the kind of people that lived in Clapham 10 years ago before they all had kids and starting complaining about young people.
Ben’s Canteen was a pleasant venue too – two large tables outside the front of the restaurant – one in the sunshine which was most delightful to sit on for pre-drinks.
Inside was more a casual, bar kind of area with sofas at the front, and a quirky, bright room at the back – light flooding in from the skylights. And air conditioning. Yes – it was refreshingly pleasant inside. Let me just use those words again…air conditioning. Feel those words go around your hot, sweaty body. Hmmmm air conditioning.
Right that’s the review finished. Anywhere with air conditioning that actually works automatically gets 10/10.
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Actually, despite the brightness and the coolness, there was something quite horrid about the atmosphere.
It swerved between angry and morose, an indie-rock soundtrack which I tried my hardest to ignore. My accomplice was loving it – but she’s an indie kid. I’m a minimal techno fan and the sound of a guitar makes me feel violent. It didn’t seem the kind of music to accompany a roast dinner, any pretensions of a relaxing afternoon were stabbed in the front then chainsawed in half, with the remains burnt with a flamethrower.
I ordered as quick as I could, hoping for a respite from the angry rock music (which never came). The menu normally consists of beef, lamb and pork – all keenly priced at £14.00, however the beef wasn’t available. My accomplice went for the leg of lamb, and I went for the pork belly – for no real reason other than to be different.
Dinner took around 4 angry songs to arrive. I was perturbed. It looked really good. Fucksticks – who can I stab? Maybe the gravy will taste disgusting or something.
Before I go on any further, I would just like to announce that I think Donald Trump is an absolute fucking moron, a lying, cheating, misogynist, and that you should sign up to my newsletter, make sure you are following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and especially that all of your friends know about this page.
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Starting with the carrots, which had been sliced horizontally into two, plump and juicy, replete with a scattering of herbs. Good work.
Similarly there was a pleasurable parsnip, sliced horizontally, plump and juicy – oh I should really have concatenated this into one sentence, shouldn’t I?
There was also a small coterie of sliced, creamed leeks – having been placed on top of the parsnips gave some added creaminess to them, the leeks were a delight when mixed with the other vegetables. Very, very nice.
I wasn’t quite so into the kale. Garlic and salt protruded through the flavour (though maybe more due to the gravy than the actual kale). My kale-hating accomplice was enamoured by it, I was just happy.
Guess what? It’s coming home…oh that was last week. Well maybe this being roast number 66 actually did mean something lucky as we actually got roasted roast potatoes. Not the world’s crispiest outsides – in fact barely crispy bar one but resembling the idea that they knew what they were doing, and fairly fluffy inside. Not perfect, but given the dearth of proper roasties in London, close to maximum kudos points.
We may not have won the World Cup, but we got near-crispy roast potatoes.
We had also ordered a side of cauliflower cheese (invented by Donald Trump, so I understand) to go with it – I had been tempted by the maple and mustard pigs in blankets too, but I’m way too fat. My accomplice who seemed so overladen with superlatives that I think she needs her own blagging blog said it was the best cauliflower cheese that she’d ever had. I wouldn’t go that far, but the cream was thick, it actually tasted of cheese – Parmesan being scattered over the top too (it should come with almonds but said accomplice is allergic to them and I was quite content without a trip to hospital), the cauliflower florets were large and just not quite al dente – enough bite but not too much. One of the best cauliflower cheeses ever!
Sadly…or thankfully, the Yorkshire pudding wasn’t quite up to the standard of the meal so far. A little overdone, and I’d argue a little old – it didn’t degrade from the meal in any way, it was just OK.
I was impressed with the meal so far, plenty of thought had gone into it – it was almost as if they had read my blog and decided to conquer what most regular goes wrong.
The pork belly, however, was just a bit ordinary. Pork belly can go badly wrong – and it most certainly wasn’t the case, but it should be a delight, and that wasn’t the case either. It had a bit of the “sat there a while” feel to it in terms of texture, again it seemed a little overcooked, and it really was overly salty in parts. It was again, just kind of OK.
My accomplice had the lamb and that was close to sensational. It was leg of lamb – arguably the most succulent and meaty part of the animal, it was quite gamey – really damn flavoursome, and I was utterly even more jealous than when Donald Trump was holding Theresa May’s hand.
Some other roast dinner Instagram account called the gravy insane. It did not meet my definition of insanity – believing everything that Donald Trump says would meet my definition of insanity (or maybe just anything he says). It was still really good gravy though. A good level of viscosity, it felt like proper gravy. A tad too salty again, but not enough to cause consternation – a good, solid meat stock gravy, hints of garlic too. It really was tasty.
And look at what it came in…Instragram heaven.
I haven’t been too kind, have I? I’ll leave it up to you as to whether to believe me – it was, after all, a free dinner – oh and I got a bottle of Bloody Ben’s too, which is a unique Bloody Mary mix…whoa product placement too. Send me to Trumpland for you no longer deserve me.
Advertising aside, this was mostly a very good roast dinner. Without doubt I recommend it – though the ordinariness (is that actually a word…I thought I had just made it up?) of the pork belly and Yorkshire pudding let it down – the rest of the roast was very good, verging on the excellent. I mean, I even got near-crispy roast potatoes. 4 of them too! INSANE.
My accomplice was amazed. Best lamb of her life (though she has beef almost every week so there isn’t too much to compare it to) and her best roast dinner of the year. She scored it a 9.
Had I had the lamb, I would have been likely to rate it around an 8.5, maybe a tad more. Alas, the pork belly wasn’t great – good enough to satisfy, but not good enough for a super-high rating.
There is, of course, the possibility that the freebie means that I am over-compensating and being too harsh here. It was a really cool venue, the staff were nice (one sassy nice, the other sweet nice), the prices are low – for London standards. Yes there was a service charge, and if you don’t like indie rock then you might want to stab someone…alas my original knife was quite bendy until I swapped it.
I’m going to give it an 8.05 out of 10. Does that sound fair? I debate my ratings with myself more every week, it really doesn’t get easier. Someone get a table booked and tell me whether I was realistic please!
Next Sunday I have no plans. I might even take the week off due to being a fat bastard. FAKE NEWS?