I’m starting to think that we’ve passed peak Roast Dinners in London.
There was a clear peak when I was featured in the Londonist in April, however since then it has been declining, and continued to decline every week. Facebook followers are down. One person, but down is down. Instagram has stopped growing, though it doesn’t help that my Instagram manager keeps buggering off on holiday. Twitter is stable but I put a lot of effort into that – I am getting plenty of parasites that follow me (and thousands of others) for a day. For example, right this minute, a vegan place has just followed me. Of course you are interested in what I have got to say – I bet you love every single post of mine. And you are not just following people in the hope that they will follow you, then unfollow them the next day. Ooh look you’ve just followed another 150 people since I started this sentence (and close to 1,000 by time I finished writing this).
I get very few visitors from search engines – perhaps because I ignore most SEO rules as I’d rather write in my style than Google’s.
There really should be greater awareness of my brilliance by now, yet I’m barely getting any more views than I was in October. I mean, unless are people not interested in roast dinners when it is hot and sunny, or something? I feel like I am Jeremy Corbyn’s press officer. The peak is over. People are no longer singing “Ohh Roast Dinners in London”.
Yet I’m in no mood to stop. This feels like my service to the community…and this week’s most certainly ended up in that category.
Heirloom, Crouch End was the choice of the random number generator. One of the reasons why I’m not yet ready to stop my Sunday roast dinner adventures is that they are actually adventures. I had never been to Crouch End – it seemed to have a kind of village feel to it, and a healthy collection of young ladies in short dresses. Apparently some called Taylor Swift has a boyfriend there. I believe that she is a famous boxer.
Yet Crouch End was miles from life, and by life I mean trains or tubes, and by miles I mean just short of a mile. I made my way to the ominous-sounding Crouch Hill station on a tiddly two-carriage overground train – if it didn’t have the orange livery I may have given it a hug. But before I could get to Heirloom, Crouch End, I had a hill to get over. In the heat. With half a hangover.
I made it.
Upon arrival I noted just how quiet it was. Concerningly so. There seemed to be equal amounts of staff to customers. Two. It was quite a large venue, with varied seating, fake-looking wood panelling and a kind of not-quite-hipster middle-class lounge feel.
The young lady on the table near me, after complimenting my hair (weirdo) advised us that it was normally really busy during lunch – we were eating in late afternoon. She also advised me that it was one of the best roast dinners in London. When I let it slip what I do for an anti-living on a Sunday, she became tremendously excited – well, wouldn’t you? It isn’t every day that you meet the country’s leading roast dinner reviewer.
I invited my new best friend to join us in future, and we hatched plans to go travelling into the countryside to sample country roasts. I will likely never hear from my new best friend again.
The menu was limited to chicken or beef. Unless you are weird and don’t eat roast dinners on a Sunday. The beef sirloin was £19 – a tad more pricey than I was keen to pay, the chicken was £15 – but was chicken leg, albeit corn-fed. More of a hairy thigh man myself. I normally actively avoid chicken legs – I even ask Chicken Cottage to leave them out.
Dinner took around 20 minutes to arrive. I was expecting style over substance, but…
I grant you that my photography isn’t exactly that of a professional – the first image I show is normally how I receive the roast. The second after I have done some re-arranging.
And I’m going to do some re-arranging of the order – I shall start by describing the gravy. Which will give regular readers a pretty excellent clue as to what is coming up.
The water…I mean gravy (that was a Freudian slip…I did actually type “water” first) was pretty much browned water with huge amounts of salt in it. The amount of salt was quite overpowering, and took away the taste from the rest of the food. My new accomplice actually has a spreadsheet of roast dinners, where each component part gets its own score out of 10 (or whatever). I tried to persuade him that the gravy should have minus points, because this negatively affected all of the rest of the food.
It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as The Islington Townhouse, but the amount of salt in the browned water was deleterious to the rest of the meal. Shit roasties don’t affect the taste of carrots. Shit gravy affects everything. Including my sex life, sanity, sobriety and sexuality (totally a lesbian, but I go a bit hetro with bad gravy).
With that over, how was the food?
The one solitary, whole carrot was very good. A premium carrot with the green end, it had been roasted and kept its figure well – just before the point of being crunchy – this was very nicely done.
And we have reached peak enjoyment.
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I am no hispi cabbage expert, it isn’t something I’ve ever cooked myself. However from my limited experience, I’ve always thought of hispi as sweet – yet this was really quite bitter. A slimy texture and bitter taste, not to mention the saltiness of the gravy. It was edible – it has to be truly disgusting for me not to eat something that I’ve paid a lot of money for – but think of it as the Donald Trump of cabbage. Vile, but not quite on the level of Assad, Putin or Duterte.
There was also a small slice of courgette. It pleases me to get something different on a roast, although I’m sure roast pendants really would not be amused. Alas, it just tasted of salt. And before you say anything, it was an ironic misspelling, you crown jewel. Pah – you didn’t even spot it, did you?
The roast potatoes were actually OK. They had clearly been deep-fried instead of roasted – they certainly tasted that way. They were verging on fluffy inside, and had that kind of deep-fried bobbly crispness on the outside. Given the preponderance of disappointment elsewhere, these were passable.
Don’t get too excited for an upturn in fortune as the Yorkshire pudding was dire. Neither fluffy or crispy, this felt like what I’d imagine eating a bald wig would feel like. A salty, bald wig.
And the chicken. It was allegedly corn-fed, and I guess from the size of it, that was probably true. However, by time I had finished cutting all the chicken off the bone, my accomplice had finished eating his dinner. Chicken isn’t well-known as a particularly difficult meat to cut, but walking up the hill with a hangover was far easier than this task.
Part of the reason why it was difficult to cut was that it was under-cooked. Not to the point of it being a food safety issue but enough to make it less pleasurable to eat than it should be, a weaker colour too – I like to think of chicken as being white when cooked. This was more grey. Also there was gristly fat where one normally wouldn’t see fat on a chicken.
On the bright side, they gave me an extra drumstick on top of the chicken leg.
Sadly, they gave me an extra drumstick, on top of the chicken leg.
Oh yeah, and it tasted of salt.
Did I mention the gravy? It tasted of salt. It WAS salt.
Although I’m pretty good at banging on about things (note that I haven’t mentioned Brexit yet), even if I did manage to forget about the pretty dreadful attempt at gravy, it was still a poor roast dinner.
Only the carrot was good. Did I really pay £15.00 to only enjoy the carrot? There is tough competition for the worst part of the dinner, from the bitter and slimy cabbage, to the rubbery yorkie and of course, the brown salted water. I thought I had settled on a score but the more I think about it, the lower I think it needs to go.
The other aspect that unsettles me about scoring was that everyone else seems to love it. Some people on Trip Advisor say that it is the best roast dinner ever. My new best friend sat next to us that I’ll never heard from again said it was one of her favourites in London.
Also I did go quite late in the afternoon again, so that could be a factor – although I’m pretty sure gravy doesn’t get thinner and saltier the longer the day goes on.
Maybe I just got unlucky. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe you need to take my score with a gravy boat of salt. Or maybe this place ain’t as good as Trip Advisor makes it out. Or maybe there is a certain type of person that goes to fake middle class restaurants in Crouch End – a type that doesn’t actually know what a proper roast dinner is like. Up north, we call them southerners.
I feel uncomfortable in doing so, but I’m only giving it a 4.88 out of 10. This was a badly executed plate of beige – neither style, or substance. As always, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts if you have been here.
Service charge of 12.5% was added yet service was a little questionable. The manager of Heirloom, Crouch End didn’t seem to want to entertain me (not that I blame him), though at least the barmaid gave me a smile. I do have to ask why restaurants ask you so early in the meal how your food is? I’d had about two bites of cabbage so was clearly unable to give a judgement at that point. Maybe that was the reason.
Service charges do seem to be a way to add to company profits in an underhand manner, and I must get into the habit of asking whether the service charge actually goes to staff. Interestingly the group behind Barrafina are doing some crowdfunding at the moment, and 15% of their revenue is in the category of “other”. Other is then broken down as “Membership, Sponsorships and service charge”.
Next weekend I am away again, however, I do have a little special that I’ve prepared in advance, so you won’t be missing out on my charms.