Bistro Union, Clapham

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Ahhh it’s Emergency Alarm Day. Or is it London Marathon Day? Or is it St Georg…no definitely not that, I’m too English. I’ll just tell you about Bistro Union in Clapham.

You know what it actually is? 2005. No, the emergency alert test didn’t take us back in time (as if this government would do that), but after last week’s ramblings, I started wondering what this blog would have been like if I was reviewing roast dinners under Tony Blair’s leadership. Look, we just haven’t implemented the search for WMD properly, OK? Remainers have been in charge of the search for chemical weapons and they don’t want it to be a success.

Ahhh 2005 was even a time when UKIP were thought of as a joke. You think I jest – but they were so much of a joke that Robert Kilroy-Silk left them. Who then went on to form Veritas, such a successful political party that the year after, in local elections, their candidates received an average of 98 votes. Looks like this Eurosceptic thing will blow over.

2005 was…sorry…is when this upcoming Jay Rayner bloke wrote about a lacklustre restaurant called Roast, complaining about roast potatoes, of all things, and “the inability of restaurants to serve me roast potatoes better than the ones I can cook at home, but it still flummoxes me”. Things can only get better, huh? Things…can only get…

Let’s hope future me doesn’t feel the need to write about loads of shit roast potatoes. Or UKIP.

So I had no plan for this week, other than to pretend Tony Blair was Prime Minister and also pretend that the Iraq War is still a success, much in the same way that UKIP might pretend leaving the EU was a good idea, should that ever come to pass. As if any future Prime Minister would want us to leave the EU.

Oh and I survived a corporate kick-off event – guess which word I managed to get voted onto the Slido board for describing the type of place I’d like to work?

Word Cloud about describing the type of place I'd like to work - with "gravy" in there.

Given that I had no plan, I just looked for the bookable place on the to-do list that had been on there the longest, possibly since 2017…I mean…since 1997, and that was Bistro Union.

Bisto Union

Bisto Union…sorry…Bistro Union…you know, I’m kind of tempted to think there might have been a Bisto Union in 2005, but then remembered that it was a Labour Party that people vote for, not a left-wing one.

Proper restaurant vibes inside, with excitable serving staff – so much so that I wondered if they were about to show me around yet another overpriced flat with an opportunity to put my own stamp on. Oh you do recommend 3 courses, do you? How about I’m already fat and roast dinners are a big meal?

Bistro Union, Clapham, Sunday Roast Menu

Despite the 3 courses for £45 being a must-see at that great investment price (and gosh how much I wanted a rhubarb and custard doughnut), I settled for the cornfed chicken breast roast – my accomplice for the rare breed sirloin – both priced at £25.00, despite the £5 supplement on the rare opportunity beef sirloin if having the below market value 3 courses for £45 deal not to be missed.

I’m being ruder than I should, as the service was very good – well, except for bringing me orange juice with ice and a straw, when I ordered apple juice with one cube of ice and no straw. But the service was friendly, affable and energetic – a far cry from the average “uh do I have to do my job” style omnipresent in London.

We got free bread:

Bistro Union, Clapham, Free Bread

Except, of course, it is never really free bread and you know that the roast is going to be more expensive for it – £25.00 for a Sunday roast, may I remind you – chicken at that.

And then we realised that it wasn’t even free in inverted commas:

Bistro Union, Clapham, Not Actually Free Bread

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? And, yes, I did vote Tory in 2005 but I was a bit right wing then. As in I read The Sun and shouted at Question Time kind of right wing. I might have even voted to leave the EU back then. And fuck me I loved going to a Hungry Horse for a mixed grill, or a £3.99 midweek carvery at The World Turned Upside Down. And the next year I took the blue pill (well, a half) and suddenly I had empathy. True story, Agent Smith.

Free Bread Union

Our roasts took around 15 or so minutes to arrive, whilst the restaurant became rather busy.

Bistro Union, Clapham, Chicken Roast Dinner

First thoughts had to be – what is going on with the plate? Or what is going on with the bowl? That isn’t badly poured watery, salty gravy splashing everywhere, but the bowl’s actual design has brown spots everywhere. Granted, I guess nobody takes photographs of their food in 2005 except me and Jay Rayner.

It wasn’t immediately obvious that both me and my beef-eating accomplice had different types of gravy, for both of our gravies had been infected with purple. Yep, UKIP wasn’t the only annoying purple thing back in 2005 (I wonder if it will still be annoying in 2023?), for this was a bitty portion that struggled to keep out of areas that Michael Howard didn’t want it to go.

Hell, it emigrated into the spring greens, and even onto the carrot. Bloody immigrant non-white cabbage, ARE YOU THINKING WHAT WE’RE THINKING WE ARE NOT RACIST BY THE WAY BECAUSE WE TELL YOU WE ARE NOT RACIST IN OUR POSTERS.

This is an even longer-winded than normal way of me saying that I didn’t like the red cabbage because it polluted everything else. It was strong on wintry flavour, and I guess it was good in the definition for those who like it.

Red Cabbage Border Union

Spring greens were decent – maybe a tad buttery but I’ve not much else to say about them.

We had two carrots also – probably roasted, they had a little crunch and were pleasant if no more memorable than the 2005 election. Gosh, the future of politics is really dull, isn’t it?

Bistro Union, Chicken Sunday Roast

The bit of purple slime you can see on one of the roast potatoes, was, I think, celeriac puree – pleasingly smoky, and of course, on the purple side because of the invader, but don’t worry, when Michael Howard wins the 2005 election, he’ll put a cap on asylum seeker numbers and that will totally stop asylum seekers wanting to come to the UK and no government will ever bang on about immigration ever again.

Three roast potatoes – two were exactly as Jay Rayner would have expected in 2005 and felt like the potato was stale, or maybe leftovers from the previous Sunday – so tough that I was glad I had a sharp knife, even though I didn’t realise I was holding it the wrong way around until I’d nearly finished the meal. Anyway, tough, chewy and stale.

However – one was excellent, with the perfect crisp on the outside – tell me this is the future?

The Yorkshire pudding was a bit burnt on the top, a bit dried out throughout and a bit tired, but I’ve had worse, far worse – I did eat it.

Considering it was supposed to be corn-fed chicken, I was surprised how small it was. I don’t really have much to say about it – it was just a chicken breast with some skin on. My accomplice had the beef – she rated it more than last week’s – and I really rated last week’s beef.

Bistro Union, Clapham, Beef Roast Dinner

Finally, the gravy was NONSENSE as Walter Wolfgang may have shouted – fingers crossed I don’t now get held under the terrorism act. Though thankfully government in the future will be much less draconian than New Labour.

Oh yeah, gravy. Well…water. There was a hint of flavour – I could just about detect chicken juices, but it was thinner than water which I’m not sure is physically possible – and rather salty.

Bistro Union

At the time, it didn’t feel like Bistro Union had served a bad roast dinner – everything was edible, but then again I try not to waste food, just in case this global warming stuff Prince Charles is banging on about isn’t actually a hoax.

Yet they did plenty to annoy me. Bowls, two stale roast potatoes, watery gravy, salty watery gravy, polluting red cabbage. Oh and it was £25.00.

In the positive section, one of the roast potatoes was excellent, the celeriac puree was nicely smoky and the other veg was pleasant.

2005 election advert - Britain is working, don't let the Tories wreck it again.


I didn’t really realise until writing that it wasn’t actually that good overall. Maybe the amenable service or it being a restaurant gave me a vibe of getting a better meal than I really was.

My accomplice was averagely unimpressed, though enjoyed her beef. She scored it a 7.10 out of 10.

In some ways it feels a bit harsh to score below a 7, but I’m going to give it a 6.74 out of 10.

They can probably do much better than this – Bistro Union seems a popular restaurant – or maybe what annoys me, doesn’t annoy the folk of Clapham. Very possible that they love a watery gravy.

Next Sunday I’m in Hull and not back until late, so I’ll see you on AOL, in the future. This was the future, once.

David Cameron - the future in 2005.
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Bistro Union, Clapham

Station: Clapham South

Tube Lines: Northern

Fare Zone: Zone 3

Price: £25.00

Rating: 6.74

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Loved & Loathed

Loved: One of the roast potatoes was excellent, the celeriac puree was nicely smoky and the other veg was pleasant. Effusive service also.

Loathed: Bowls, two stale roast potatoes, watery gravy, salty watery gravy, polluting red cabbage. Oh and it was £25.00.

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