It’s roast dinner number 100! Some of you will have been expecting one of the big guns to come out like Blacklock – however I’d been given a hot tip about the food at Hackney Church Brew Co by the person responsible for half of my Twitter followers, who currently have Eat Lagom running their Sunday food offering – Lagom apparently being the Swedish art of eating harmoniously.
Yep roast dinner number 100. I’m probably going to repeat that phrase every paragraph, so get used to it. I haven’t been murdered, I haven’t been threatened by the chef mafia – I’ve barely had any abuse despite admitting that I vote Tory. I’ve scored a grand total of two free roast dinners and had a fiver sent my way.
Still yet to receive any knickers through the post from hot Spanish women, and I am nowhere near funding my dreamed-of TV production, Roast Dinners Around The World.
Maybe it’s time for a little reflection first – after all, roast dinner number 100 means roast dinner number 100.
What have we learnt?
Having been the expert on roast dinners in Reading a while back, and also had a reasonable share of roast dinners up north (and one or two in grotty Ibiza bars normally run by some northern bloke called Dave that has done way too much acid), I’ve noted a few things compared to elsewhere. Fancy a list?
- Generally the quality of roast dinners is pretty good. One assumes this is because London attracts plenty of very capable chefs. Roast 50 on the league table scored a 7.37 – anything above a 7 is worth checking out in my opinion.
- Herbs are a thing in London. Even some of the worst roasts still tend to have some thyme or something – herbs were much rarer around Reading.
- Instagram has ruined Yorkshire puddings. Yorkshire puddings used to be about having a nice, soft texture and batter-style flavour – now are only about being attractive for Instagram.
- Roast potatoes are my most regular disappointment – quality of potato used and freshness are key.
- There still isn’t enough imagination on the plate. Why can I not even have gammon?!
- Jus is normally disappointing.
- Gravy is often disappointing. Very few places make really good, proper gravy – not exactly a surprise down south though.
- The average price that I’ve paid for a roast dinner over the last 2 years is just over £16.
- The price on the menu is a lie. Always add 12.5% for the privilege of having your food brought to you.
- The average price that I’ve actually paid for a roast dinner over the last 2 years is just over £18.
What have you learnt?
I’ll say no more except 11% of respondants were clearly taking the piss.
The big day
The big day had arrived, so I put on my sequin hat, sequin dress and sequin shoes (one of those is actually true) and headed to Hackney Church Brew Co.
But why did I choose here? I actually wanted to go somewhere really shit for my 100th review but my Instagram manager blocked me from doing so as this would be her last roast for a short while. And I need an Instagram manager as I am waaaaaay too old to figure out that shit.
At which point it was too late to book Blacklock. I nearly decided to go somewhere a bit different – the Indian roast dinner at Kricket was considered, for example.
But I crumbled under the pressure of too much choice – there was just a week to go so I just plumped for a recommendation that I’d received recently.
Well that was a fucking interesting story. Do you want to hear about my Sunday night, where I stayed up until 4am testing a server move? Interestingly my reward for that seems to be a trip to Luton for an afternoon of sales training. Because every web developer needs sales training FFS. Rant over. Well, this rant is.
So, once upon a time there was a pretentious sequin-loving remoaner twat walking along the damp streets (did I bring my umbrella home?) of Hackney. He turned onto an illuminated road to nowhere, parallel to the railway line, which brought him/her/they/ze to a row of railway arches, where him/her/they/ze had probably been to before at some dodgy after-party years ago.
Hackney Church Brew Co are one of several independent businesses based in the railway arches – and are, believe it or not, a brewery. Their Sunday roast offering is by Eat Lagom.
The venue was quite a cornicopia of East Londonism:
- Exposed brickwork – check
- Unisex toilets – check
- Beer you’ve never heard of – check
- Old metal bathtubs that are now sinks – check
- Really fucking annoying seating – check
- Crap acoustics so you struggle to hear people – check
- Dogs with beards – probably
- Should I review in list-only format from now-on?
I felt at home. This was my kind of place and my kind of people. Yep, nobody voted for Brexit here.
Hackney Church Brew Co Oh Yeah
Annoyingly you couldn’t book a table for less than 6 people, so I had to invite some of my followers – hence there were 8 of us. And it was a good job that we had booked as it was rather busy…there were no free tables. Apparently a couple of months ago it was quiet. Word seems to have got out.
My hopes were nearly as high as our table – we were on a very high table, with benches that even the tallest amongst us struggled to get our legs over. Also there was no table service, so we had to work out how we were going to order for 8 of us, without losing our table or getting our meals at different times – little things that you don’t normally notice in a proper restaurant. Little things that you pay 12.5% service charge for.
Service at the bar wasn’t the quickest – no fault of the two cute young ladies working behind the bar, there just needed to be more of them, and not just because 69% of you think I appreciate cute young ladies.
The menu offered rump beef, chicken or pork belly – along with two vegetarian options. Prices varied from £13.50 for the pork belly (quite a bargain) to £19.95 for the rump beef (not such a bargain). I went for the pork belly as I like to imagine that it is my favourite meat, despite it not actually featuring in any of my top 10 meals (note to self, about time you started writing bullshit “top 10 roasts” type posts for SEO).
Whilst ordering, I incurred a point of perturbation that I will come back to. I was asked if I wanted any extra vegetables or extra gravy, so I asked for extra gravy. And then I asked if that was charged extra.
£2. Now, if you want to get my back up from the off, there are few easier ways of doing so than charging me extra for the privilege of supplying sufficient gravy (forgetting the fact that I’d paid less for this roast dinner than any dinner for a long time).
Whether that was £2 each for I was ordering two roast dinners, or £1 each, or I was getting one extra pot of gravy for £2 I had no idea. I still have no idea as I write now…but more on that later. Oh yes, you haven’t heard the last of me having to pay for extra gravy. Have I mentioned Brexit yet?
Roast Dinner 100!
Our roast dinners took around 15-20 minutes to arrive and looked half-appealing and half bloody weird. Well, 4 of our roast dinners turned up. You know where this is heading by now, don’t you? Fuck, if you’ve worked out my sexuality then you’ve worked out the ending. Or maybe just scrolled down already.
Starting with the vegetable medley, which included slightly buttered, thin slices of carrot, mixed with a cornucopia of cabbage. It also came with some black bits which I never ascertained what they were – burnt cabbage I guess?
I wasn’t especially taken by the medley but just like Google, it wasn’t evil. You scrolled down, didn’t you? Oh, I should mention that it was rather salty.
The roast potatoes…hang on…the crispy potatoes were overwhelmingly salty. These weren’t roast potatoes – and the menu does clearly say crispy potatoes – not crispy roast potatoes.
I’m actually not a massive fascist when it comes to roast dinners. You can give me different potatoes and I won’t slam the plate in your face. And these were different – deep fried new potatoes. Plenty of them too.
Alas, they tasted only of salt. A few of these would be enough to de-ice a train platform on a winter’s morning.
The Yorkshire pudding was more a tough muffin style. And guess what it tasted of? Yep – you’ve got it. Salt. I have never eaten a more salty Yorkshire pudding. On the bright side, it did have devil horns on it.
Anyone want some more salt?
Thankfully the pork belly was close to sensational. Arguably marginally under-cooked – very marginally but had perfect texture throughout from the juicy fat to the tender meat and the crunchy but perfectly edible crackling. And the flavour from the way that they smoked the pork was superb.
Yeah there’s a but. And even more predictably than me including a condescending anti-Brexit sentence – there was too much salt. Too much salt on the crackling to be specific. The least salty thing on the plate but I really didn’t need any more salt.
I tried both the chicken and the beef, and arguably both were even nicer than the pork. The chicken was so smokey and perfectly cooked – the beef rump…normally I avoid beef rump but it was cooked perfectly with so much flavour…flavour I didn’t know beef could have. Wow. Though it had way too much salt on top of it.
The gravy was fairly nondescript. It looked like a fair amount of effort had gone into it yet was quite watery and bitty. I’m fairly certain from the taste that some bog-standard gravy granules had been used. Was it salty too? Oh yes.
And for some reason I haven’t banged on enough about the extra gravy I was charged for. I’d ordered extra gravy at the bar but some of our group hadn’t ordered extra gravy. We all had none on our plate, yet we all got a boat of gravy. What gives? What have I paid for? If you are going to fucking charge me for extra gravy, then at least provide said extra gravy to me. Not that I wanted it by this point.
And then the other 4 roast dinners turned up.
SALT SALT SALT SALT SALT SALT SALT SALT SALT SALT SALT
At the end, I couldn’t work out whether I’d enjoyed it or hated it. I had immense satisfaction from the pork belly – yet all I could taste was salt. Writing this 9 hours later, all I can still taste is salt.
It doesn’t give me any pleasure to conclude that I didn’t enjoy this. I don’t mind giving bad reviews to faceless corporates, or careless chains. But this is clearly one or two people that are behind Eat Lagom, gone out of their way to risk bringing something new and special to people – it is with a heavy heart that I am giving a low score.
However, if I sit here and pretend that everything was ticketyboo – they aren’t going to learn anything. I’m not arrogant enough to think that they might read this, let alone give a fuck about what some twat with a blog thinks, but if I don’t give my honest opinion then I cease to be a northerner.
Maybe it was supposed to be that salty and I am just too uncultured to appreciate modern Swedish cooking. But please…for simple English palettes just a bit less salt…a lot less salt. We have a salt pot on the table…we can take this decision ourselves, though I appreciate that it may seem that British people are not particularly good at making decisions nowadays.
I feel heartless yet I feel like I’ve been eating the North Sea. One person didn’t give a rating, but everyone else scored it between a 5 and a 7.2 (he being a fan of salt). By the way, I’ve just found out that Brexit is going to be fine as “we’re the only country in the world with Great in front of its name”. Phew.
With deep, deep regret, I am scoring this a 6.01 out of 10. I stress that the meat was sensational – I could have lived with the potatoes had they not had more salt than the average bag of ket. The yorkie was duff. Had it not been sponsored by Paxo, then it would have scored around an 8. Then again, had the meat not been so sensational, then it would have scored around a 4.
Sort out the salt, and this would be a good roast dinner. I really want to check out Eat Lagom in different (ie less salty) circumstances, and the brewery itself is a mostly excellent place for a few good beers. Alas, I feel that I have not eaten harmoniously.
Ah fuck. Please don’t hate me.
Roll on roast dinner 101. Next week is just an ordinary pub with ordinary expectations.
Eat Lagom @ Hackney Church Brew Co, Hackney, East London
Station: Hackney Central
Tube Lines: Overground
Fare Zone: Zone 2