Knife, Clapham

Coming back from holiday is not always the happiest moment of life – leaving the sunshine, warmth, happy people, copious cheap beers, infinite amounts of bread – and returning to rain, tossers blocking roads, signal failures and meals that come with vegetables. Thankfully, the random number generator had selected Knife in Clapham – something for which I was rather excited about.

So excited that beforehand I rated it a 2% chance of being better than Blacklock. The only place since Blacklock that I thought had even a tiny chance of beating it.

Knife in Clapham isn’t the most Googleable restaurant ever – their website isn’t the most user-friendly either, with a loading screen which makes you think that you should click the heading – and then promptly reloads the loading screen again. You have to wait patiently nearly 10s until it actually shows you the options that might interest you – namely booking and the menu.

Clearly they are doing something right with the food, as I had to book a couple of weeks in advance. I e-mailed to add a 3rd person which is when I found out that my original booking hadn’t actually worked. Alas, they only had tables for 2 people. Knife is a popular place. Apologies to the potential 3rd person. Ooooh maybe I should write in 3rd person?

So, after Lord Gravy spent…nah. After a week in Albania eating fairly limited cuisine – barely a vegetable on a menu anywhere, with fish and pizza constructing the bulk of all menus – except there was a resort-wide pizza drought, I was quite ready to come back and stuff myself with vegetables.

Ksamil in Albania didn’t have the most complex cuisine ever – a beautiful place, but limited in so many ways.

Some bread with your roast dinner review?

Every meal came with bread. Omelette – with 4 slices of bread. Fish casserole – 2 slices of bread. Steak – 2 slices of bread. Fish & potatoes – stale bread but with gorgeous garlic butter. The final night was a cracker – I ordered “green pepper sauce”, which I gathered included some form of meat – I hoped for steak but it ended up being mysterious – I’d suggest veal.

Whilst it was being prepared – this arrived:

Bruschetta - Albania

Then my meal arrived. With one gone-off slice of red cabbage and…yes…bread.

Meat with bread and one cabbage lead, Albania
Also comes with vegetables or fries. In other countries.

Which, of course, needs a side-dish. Of bread.

Sidedish of bread in Albania

And when I arrived at Knife in Clapham, guess what was waiting for me?

Idiot

No it wasn’t a trade deal. It was…bread!

Knife, Clapham - bread
Hello Albania

Not just one type of bread – but two. Potato and rosemary, and brown sourdough – replete with a tasty butter. It was like being in Albania again – except for tarmacked roads, beers that cost more than £2, dogs on leads, electricity and non-corrupt politicians. Oh wait a minute…

Helping your good friend/lover to get government contracts is not corruption, OK?

Knife in Clapham was a cosy restaurant – split into a bar area at the front, which was particularly cosy – in estate agent speak, using the most of the space. We were sat in the back, which I’d suggest was the nicer of the two sections – a brighter feel with white walls, a view into the kitchen (though very much a separate kitchen) and plenty of potted plants fixed onto a wall through rustic fittings.

Staff were welcoming – it was fully-booked and they were clearly busy, but we didn’t have to wait long to be able to order food or drinks – perhaps a little longer than ideal to wait for the card machine at the end to pay, but I’m being a picky twat and I’ve been on holiday so I really shouldn’t care, so much so that I was feeling positively excited for the severe delays on the Metropolitan line the next day.

Knife, Clapham - Sunday roast menu

The menu wasn’t the easiest to pick from – beef rump, lamb – both leg and shoulder, pork belly or chicken breast. I’ve only photographed the roast dinner section, but you could always check on their website. In 10 seconds time. Assuming you don’t click anything. In which case another 10 seconds time. Oh there was a vegetarian option but I’d had way too vegetables over the previous week to even consider it.

After a bit of deliberation, I went for the pork belly at £17.00…though I had a nagging thought in my head that I should have gone for the waiter’s recommendation, which was the lamb. At which point some mini yorkies came out. Nice touch.

Knife, Clapham - mini Yorkshire puddings
Hmmm tapas. Hmmm Spanish women.

Dinner arrived worryingly quickly after that – in fact we’d only had one yorkie each before the presentation arrived – and it was a presentation, with a good chunk of our meal on our respective plates, and the rest on a sharing platter to, erm, share. Why so quick? That’ll be explained later.

Knife, Clapham - Sunday roast
Also with a small pot of Albanian apple juice
Knife, Clapham - Sunday roast vegetables
Yeah, crispy roast potatoes are possibly after all, FAM

There was a veritable smorgasbord of vegetables provided – some of them in quantities too small to appreciate, for example the puree – possibly sweet potato puree but I barely even noticed it. More for decoration than culinary purposes.

Always wanted to use that word

The carrots were excellent, absolutely packed full of juicy flavour – coming in all three different colours. I particularly enjoyed the slight tartness of the purple carrot. Slow-roasted, according to the menu, and all the better for it.

I wasn’t overly taken by the cauliflower cheese but it was a pretty decent effort. I couldn’t particularly notice the cheese – a name of Stinking Bishop would suggest that perhaps I should have – it was more creamy with a nice, soft texture to the cauliflower.

The red onion was tasty though my accomplice wasn’t convinced about it belonging on a roast (fine by me).

Cabbage was cabbage – the parsnips were more interesting, a hint of honey about them, though perhaps need a bit longer in the oven.

Guess what? The roast potatoes were actually freshly cooked. Not first thing in the morning. Not the night before. Not even from the previous fucking week. Genuinely freshly cooked – crispy on the outside, fluffy if a tad dry on the inside (my accomplice raised an eyebrow when I suggested that) – a decent amount of gravy would have extinguished that.

Guess what? The Yorkshire pudding was actually freshly cooked. Not first thing in the morning. Not the night before. Not even from the previous fucking week. Genuinely freshly cooked – a little crispy around the top, fluffy through much of the bowl – a really good yorkie, though a decent amount of gravy would have helped.

Is the chef Jesus?

How did such miracles occur? Well, they’ve organised the restaurant into 3 sittings – one at 12/12:30, one at 2/2:30 and the other at 4/4:30. Which means, and I am assuming here, that they have organised this so they can concentrate on ensuring freshly cooked ingredients are prepared in time for each sitting – unlike in your average Young’s pub who seem to make huge amounts of yorkies/roasties early in the morning and leave them sitting around all day, who incidentally unfollowed me on Twitter this week and I am not bitter at all, and don’t feel that I should take this moment to point out how many poor roast dinners I’ve had at their pubs recently.

Alas I did see the blackest Yorkshire pudding ever on the plate of someone who was on the latter part of our sitting – this review could have been a little different!

Knife, Clapham - Roast dinner
I miss Albania

Yes I was obviously going to write this

Getting right into the business end now, and the pork belly was very good. Not the largest amount of pork ever – cut into three chunks, but each had a good texture, just a tiny bit of rubberyness going on at the top of each slice. I also prefer the crackling to be part of the meat, as opposed to separated – maybe I’m just weird. Well, I am weird – who else fucking writes 122 roast dinner reviews and counting?

So the crackling was plentiful though separated. Crunchy – not to the point of destroying any more of my crack-addled teeth, but more than would be my preference. I feel that there is a fine balance to get for crackling, where it should still have a balance of squidge and crunch – being too crunchy is certainly far better than being too squidgy though.

I didn’t like the gravy. STABBED.

All reading pretty good to this point, wasn’t it? For some people, perhaps the type of people that live in Clapham, a red wine jus is the dream. For me – it ain’t.

It seemed to dissolve into the plate, even the extra gravy wasn’t sufficient (though that is no more unusual than watery gravy itself). I really should be calling it jus because it looked and tasted like one – that slightly earthy, dirty cooked red wine jus taste.

I mean, it wasn’t horrid but I didn’t like the taste – and certainly didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t anywhere close to proper gravy. I prefer a piss-watery gravy to this, though I stress, horses for courses.

Get off my roads

I’m not happy to finish on a down, as it doesn’t represent my experience – I feel that it is time to un-superglue ourselves from the proverbial road and behave in a positive manner.

This was a good roast dinner. The meat, roast potatoes and yorkie were all very good. The carrots were superb and the rest of the vegetables were varied and decent.

One of the comments on my Twitter feed was that it was trying too hard. I get that – however lots of places really don’t try hard enough, so I’m happy enough with the pendulum having swung in this direction.

Service was generally good – it felt like they were human, if a little busy trying to ensure everyone was served. The venue was lovely – an endearing little place, the kind of independent restaurant that I want to support on this blog – the kind of place that I want you to take note of. The kind of place that I fear having to give a bad review too – and thankfully that wasn’t the case.

Worth noting that during the week they specialise in steak, and I’ve added it to my list of places that I want to go to again, that I probably never will get around to. But you know, the thought is there.

Despite – or because of, the red wine jus, I’m scoring it a 7.85 out of 10 – which is a very healthy score from me.

Had there been gravy that I enjoyed – then it would have been well into the 8’s – so if you are a little more forgiving than I, on a lack of proper gravy, then do bear that in mind. My accomplice who is a little more forgiving (a little – she is my sister, after all) scored it “around an 8”.

Next Sunday I’m going somewhere very different. Not quite as different as Albania – but on those kind of lines.

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