Coal Rooms, Peckham

They say never meet your heroes.

This week, after…oooh…minutes of clamouring for an invite, I graciously offered two of my favourite Twitter followers an audience with Lord Gravy, so I could explain the benefits of being a member of the European Union, and also more importantly enjoy a Sunday roast together with such effusively wonderful company.

They also know my full name and have threatened to dissipate my anonymity. Not that they did very well in keeping secrets, as close observers of my Twitter timeline will have established prior to this review exactly where I was going.

Then I made a mistake, in offering them the opportunity to choose from my to-do list. I should have mentioned that I was saving some for special occasions, and one of those places was Coal Rooms in Peckham.

They chose Coal Rooms in Peckham.

Shitting hell, I really do start a lot of paragraphs with words beginning with “th”, don’t I?

I’ve been intrigued by visiting Coal Rooms in Peckham since it opened, even before I realised that I realised they were doing Sunday roasts. Easy to miss (my guests both walked right past it), you come straight out of Peckham Rye station and you can smell it – take two footsteps outside the station, first left, Brexit can get fucked as your satnav might say.

Nobody that supports Brexit is thick. Repeat after me. Nobody that supports Brexit is thick.

Though I cannot exactly talk about intelligent moments, having accidentally agreed to go for a Gregg’s vegan roll with a friend. Thankfully she lives in Portugal.

Coal Rooms is larger than I expected, with a front cafe-style area, a walk-through kitchen with some seating around, followed by a more traditional dining room – well, as traditional as you can get in uber-hip Peckham. It was a brightly-lit room, with sunshine occasionally appearing through the south-London proofed windows at the back of the room. Tables and chairs were unusually sturdy for the amount of ket-fuelled hipster types in the area and decoration was as minimal as the local techno, with flourishes of flora.

Service was attentive and professional from the off, we were shown to our table whilst we awaited our very special guests. The drinks menu even offered something of curiosity to Dry January Twats like myself, with a carrot, apple, ginger, turmeric and other stuff I cannot remember juice arriving painfully bright orange, but tasting wonderful, at least on the non-alcoholic scale of wonder. The rioja smelled even better as the fumes arrived at my newly-working nostrils.

I often warn both my readers and myself (though given the state of my belly and bank balance you’ll appreciate that I tend to ignore my own advice) not to make too high expectations.  Alas, I had built this up in my head to be potentially challenging for that top spot.

The menu didn’t diminish my anticipation for the roast, with a choice of rump cap and ox cheek, pork coppa (apparently pork shoulder but cured) and smoked shoulder, lamb shoulder, cauliflower or a whole roasted chicken to share between two. The cauliflower was priced at £14, the meats ranging from £17 to £19.

I spent quite a long time deliberating over which non-cauliflower roast to have, as the menu was just that bit more interesting than normal. CAULIFLOWER IS NOT A STEAK.

I’m sure a while back when I looked, they had goat on the menu – but perhaps that was my imagination.

For quite some time now though, I have been craving pork belly – yet I have not found it available in any of the recent venues. I even bought a pork belly joint from M&S for NYE…hmmm back when I could enjoy a bottle of red wine…but that was pretty crap and an unnecessary 1,470 calories or something ridiculous. Well, it wasn’t crap, Tesco would easily do something far worse (my local Tesco Express has resumed smelling of turd/rotting animals), but I would have been scathing had I been served that.

Anyway, to get to the point, my accomplice checked their Instagram profile to see what the respective roasts looked like – the beef and lamb looked very impressive, but we couldn’t find any photographs of the pork. Or the goat, for that matter. I probably did imagine that, just like I dreamt the other week that I was holding hands with one of the women from Las Ketchup.

So to make a short story long, something that could really go in a sentence such as “I chose the pork”, we then asked the waitress which were the best meats and her recommendation was the beef.

So. What did you think of the Brexit vote on Tuesday? This is very much assuming that I don’t post this until Wednesday, and that Theresa May doesn’t chicken out.

I chose the pork.

Dinner took around 15 minutes to arrive – it wasn’t quite as busy as I expected despite us having to book 4 weeks in advance, but most tables became occupied over the time we were there.

Starting with the carrots, a mild collection of baby carrots, skin and tops on (one of our guests cut the tops off…not at all weird so please don’t reveal my identity) – they were on the soft side and decent quality carrots.

It also came with cabbage, January King apparently – don’t ask me, I’m not a food reviewer, I just write a load of shit about a roast dinner. The cabbage was…no more inspiring than a Theresa May speech.

Things stepped up a gear with the mashed swede – perfectly mashed with the swede having a counter-balance with a hint of Parmesan, and it was a hint. Whether we’d have picked out the taste without reading the menu I don’t know, but it was there and it was good.

3 roast potatoes were supplied – any more is apparently against the law down south. These were magnificent – truly fluffy inside with an almost crumb-like crispy outside, these were simply melt-in-your mouth roasties, helped with the fairly subtle beef dripping that they had been roasted in.  Tell me you’re horny after reading that paragraph?

My Yorkshire pudding was perfectly circular, most impressive in structure. However it was a tad brittle on the outside and almost unnecessarily large. The bottom was reasonably soft and generally it was enjoyable…it just didn’t quite hit the spot. We had varied luck between us, nobody else had one quite so perfectly structured but one of my accomplices was softer than mine, another more overdone. My other accomplice is one of those gluten-free types so didn’t have one – which reminds me, I had a chicken wrap the other day, but with buckwheat. What the fuck is that about? I could have just wrapped it up in cardboard.

So the pork, of which I was not convinced of my choice. This came with both a thin slice of pork shoulder (the coppa) and pulled smoked shoulder. The coppa was perfectly cooked, still a hint of pink in the middle and a tiny bit of fat around the end. It was nice but it wasn’t quite as flavoursome as I’d hoped. The smoked shoulder had a much more fulfilling flavour with the smokedness coming through nicely – though not as much as it could have done. Quite well done too.

I tried the beef and it was really nicely smoked, really quite strong and almost exotic in feel. I didn’t try the lamb, but it looked, and was apparently excellent.  Yeah, I wish I had chosen the beef.

Finally, the red wine…hmmm…jus. It at least had a tiny fragment of consistency, and was rather strongly flavoured – without being overbearing. However, a roast dinner with a jus rather than a gravy is never going to become number one roast in town to a common northern oik like myself. This was probably about as good a jus as I’ll ever taste, but I’d far rather an average meat stock gravy for my personal tastes. You wouldn’t get a jus up north. Nor remoaners.

You’ll have worked out that this is not my favourite ever roast dinner. Coal Rooms is an excellent venue, with must-visit toilets, attentive staff (except when we wanted to pay the bill – a minor abberation), a creative and intriguing menu and a very good roast dinner.

The roast potatoes are an early contender for 2019 Roast Dinners in London Best Roast Potatoes Awards (not that I have done the 2018 awards yet…don’t hold your breath), and nothing was any less than acceptable – the cabbage being pretty ordinary, the yorkie being a little brittle and the jus being, well…jus.

Had I had the beef, I probably would rate it a little higher and I’m sure Moggites might moan at my unfair choice of pork as I’m clearly not respecting the democratic vote back in June 2016 by choosing pork. I’m scoring it an 8.01. My two regular roast-munching accomplices scored it an 8, the rare-roaster a 9.

Don’t take Coal Rooms off your to-do list. I’m intending to go back, if perhaps only to use the wonderful listed toilets, and to re-read the advice about venereal diseases on the door. Oh and to sample their delicious-looking brunch – and I’m no brunch fan. Not even garage music brunches with unlimited fried chicken.

Will my guests join me again? I was on my best behaviour. I didn’t flash my hairy nipples (Januhairy is going great), hell I didn’t even mention Brexit (or maybe I did but only subconsciously). I’m actually still in that early post-alcohol phase where socialising is still a little awkward – though meeting fans is always an interesting experience as they fawn over being in the company of such brilliance. Maybe you’ll get to meet me one day? Though I am not going round to your house for a roast dinner unless you are female and of Mediterranean vintage.

Next weekend is my birthday roast. Yay! Happy birthday to me!

Again, it has the potential to be excellent, but very few of you will have heard of this place, let alone have been there. I might have the week off from writing about it though, it is my birthday, after all. Can someone else do the writing for me please?

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