This was the board on my table at The Star by Hackney Downs as I sat down to wait an hour for my accomplices to get out of bed/resolve logistical operations and arrive.
Amazing Sunday roasts? I shall be the judge of that, thank you.
We needed somewhere close to a festival that we were attending as a meeting point, and The Star by Hackney Downs looked a wise choice, albeit still an Uber away from our final destination…black cab mafia ain’t gonna approve but bollocks to your war on the 21st Century.
Speaking of black things – don’t worry, I don’t need a milkshake throwing at me – Black Star Kitchen are in currently in charge of the food at The Star. This is a residency and one assumes that it won’t last forever, so this is more a review of Black Star Kitchen than of The Star by Hackney Downs.
Speaking of black things – don’t worry, I don’t need a milkshake throwing at me – Black Star Kitchen are in currently in charge of the food at The Star. This is a residency and one assumes it won’t last forever, so this is more a review of Black Star Kitchen than of The Star by Hackney Downs.
I have no idea how I just duplicated that paragraph. I also have no idea why I am leaving it there. I do know that I have a hangover. And I do know that I have no linguistic inspiration…this might be a struggle to keep you interested. Or perhaps more importantly, to keep me interested. I might go for a lie down.
We do need to discuss The Star itself though. An intensely charming pub, The Star is a triangular-shaped venue – not the largest ever venue though it does have a sizeable function room upstairs.
Tables are set around a central, triangular bar and it manages that East London scruffy yet relaxed look – and does it without being annoying like People’s Park Tavern – who definitely do not have an amazing Sunday roast.
It’s a pub that I could spend a long time in, the service is quick, beer choice is very good, the clientele are my kind of people (ie nobody here voted Brexit and nobody here is quite twattish enough to put a bow tie on a dog) – it is a pub that I feel very much at home in. If I didn’t live on the opposite side of London, it could easily be my local. I wish it was my local. Alas, my local is an under 18’s Irish pub, though it is the best gaa pub in town.
Nothing on the menu stuck out as a must-eat and I have no idea why I focused the photograph on the anti-food options. My accomplice that hadn’t mysteriously ruined his appetite asked me what was on the non-roast menu. Cocktails, was my answer.
I was particularly excited to see cauliflower cheese offered – it was January since I’d last had it, even if most places do tend to do cauliflower cheese without the cheese. After two beers of consideration, I decided to go for the beef rump – not normally my favourite cut of cow – priced at £16. There was no more logic behind my choice than concluding that votes for political parties that want to stop Brexit is a sign that we should get on with Brexit.
Dinner took around 15-20 minutes to arrive.
Starting with my favourite, red cabbage. I do like red cabbage more than I like Brexit – however I’d rather have neither on my plate. It was palatable, I didn’t hate it, it didn’t pollute what amazingly little gravy I had on my plate. If you like red cabbage, then you’d approve.
The carrots were thinly-sliced and roasted in honey. Without wanting to turn this into a “what food doesn’t Lord Gravy like” post, I am also not keen on honey. However, these were nicely done even if the flavouring wasn’t to my personal tastes. Oh, if you want to cook for me (before stripping off), just avoid pasta, peas, sweetcorn, noodles and rice and I will willingly have my tongue out.
The broccoli was broccoli. There’s nothing else to say – you know what broccoli is and it amazingly didn’t divert from expectations. Perhaps boiled or steamed a tad too much for some but I was happy enough.
All that excitement about the cauliflower cheese and there was none on my plate. Yep, of all the roast dinners being served, you chose my plate to avoid cauliflower cheese being added. Amazing. Especially gutting seeing as I hadn’t had any since January. I did have a bite of my accomplice’s, it was mushy – but it was cheesy.
Four roast potatoes were supplied, going against the Roast Dinner Trade Union’s requirement that no more than three roast potatoes are allowed. They weren’t quite crispy on the outside and weren’t quite soft enough on the inside, but were on their way to being good roast potatoes. Just needed a bit more time. Definitely not amazing.
The Yorkshire pudding was small and acceptable. It worked as a nice accompaniment to the beef but wasn’t anything to write home about…or anything amazing. Thankfully on the small size – I am soooo over giant yorkies.
Nothing had been amazing so far. But the beef was amazing. Thinly sliced, rolled (or perhaps folded) and rather rare – perfectly cooked for my preferences, but even better, this was beautifully smoked. Seriously good.
The gravy did little more than exist – and even that it struggled with at first, coming in a tiny milk jug designed for southerner’s requirements. More was forthcoming upon request, though I had to take the initiative in my gravy-influenced passive-aggressive stance as the staff didn’t seem to remember who had ordered extra gravy and just left it on the bar in confusion.
I couldn’t distinguish much flavour other than some cornflour though perhaps my lack of taste buds from having a cold didn’t help. Then again, I could taste the amazing smoked beef without issue.
There was also a little splodge of goo on my beef. I guess this was the celeriac horseradish cream – though I’d have expected something more substantial – not that I want something more substantial in the way of condiments, unless it is in a pot.
This was not an amazing roast, though it isn’t exactly the only inaccurate sign in recent times.
The beef was amazing – everything else was in that hinterland between acceptable and quite good. Amazingly, there wasn’t really anything for me to complain about. Oh, except what I didn’t receive – the cauliflower cheese.
I’m scoring it a 7.30 out of 10 – bumped up by the beef but knocked back by the missing cauliflower cheese – a fairly elemental mistake.
It’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the area – The Star by Hackney Downs is a great little pub, and Black Star Kitchen won’t disappoint, will impress with the meat, and with some improvements could become a very good roast dinner in time.
Next Sunday I shall be heading somewhere central, and I’ve got pretty high hopes for this one.
Black Star Kitchen @ The Star by Hackney Downs, Hackney
Station: Hackney Central
Tube Lines: Overground
Fare Zone: Zone 2