The Lighterman, King’s Cross

Please note that this review is from October 17, 2017 and may be out of date...restaurants sometimes get better, get worse, employ a new chef or end up with new management.

Mad Saddam ready to attack: 45 minutes from a chemical war.

Next Sunday I won’t be back in London until late afternoon so there might not be a roast dinner.

Two of the modern era’s greatest lies. I was on the way back from another great weekend in the UK’s City Of Culture, which is now such a popular and trendy place that ever posh southerners and slow-footed foreigners go there now. I was tired, I was hungover, I was semi-drunk and I wasn’t even vaguely hungry. I just wanted to go back home, stick on some slow-motion lesbian porn (I’m getting old) and drift off into a pleasant slumber, dreaming about swimming pools of gravy.

Instead, I had a family emergency to attend to – my sister was hungry. And I didn’t want her to become hangry. Which is a word – enough to make one ululate at the abuse of the English language.

I did say ‘might not’. Which is a bit like saying that I’m going to a festival but might not do any illicit substances. Are you ready for some action? Somebody scream!

A simple decision on location, my train was arriving into King’s Cross, and there was only one King’s Cross venue left on the list. The Lighterman. All ravers massiv stick yer lighters in the air. Do you wanna go faster?

Alas booking a table wasn’t so simple. The lady struggled with the idea that we wanted a table for three people, yet only two were eating. We nearly ended up with both a table for 5 people, and a table for 8 people, and also a table at a completely different time.

Anti-service was a bit of a pattern. It took a good 10 minutes before anyone came and took our drinks order, at which point we also placed our food order. Prices were on the expensive side – £18.50 for chicken, £19.50 for pork belly and a whopping £22.50 for beef. Yes, a beef roast dinner was more expensive than Hawksmoor. Hold tight.

As I wasn’t hungry but I am exceedingly fat, I ordered the pork belly.

The Lighterman appears to be a new building – replete with long glass windows, wooden features with the modern pub standard teal walls. There are several floors, all of which were busy when we went, on a warm, sunny October afternoon – with two sizeable seating areas outside too. We were seated on the ground floor, which was a tad too warm, and it was becoming apparent that it was also understaffed – we asked someone for our drinks order but he advised that he didn’t deal with drinks. Helpful.

Yes, yes, yes, get ready let’s go. Our dinners arrived 10 minutes later. At which point our non-dining friend left, drinkless – though managed to cancel her drink before she left. Of course, when the drinks order finally turned up, her drink did too. I was beginning to wonder if the Brexit Ultras were running the show. #proudtraitor. Do I need a full stop after a hashtag?

I was however pleasantly surprised with how the dinner appeared – like when you go on a date with a blonde girl with big boobs and she turns up without fake nails, fake tan, fake hair, fake eyelashes, etc. You know, like a normal human.

First things first, where is the gravy? I’m used to ‘invisible gravy’ but this was also non-existent. The waitor who definitely was absolutely nothing to do with the bar said it was just coming over. I asked for extra gravy, explaining that I am northern. He told us not to worry, as it came in a big jug.

If that was a big jug of gravy then I have an average sized nob. I’m still single, by the way, ladies. Everybody scream.

The carrots were close to exquisite. Chantenay carrots with the skin still on, these were plump and eminently juicy – tasting so fresh and almost fragrant. How carrots should be – and so rarely are.

Several sticks of tenderstem broccoli were supplied too. Not an awful lot to say about them, but they had the right balance between tough and soft – perfectly balanced.

Finally for vegetables, we had a selection of roasted parsnips. Small and arguably slightly over-roasted, yet not to the point of being burnt, these were again high on satisfaction. Sweeter than your average parsnip – I thought I detected a tiny hint of honey but it was marginal, so possibly not. Time to order our next massive tanker of gravy. Also known as a small jug. Is Rachel Stevens still hot?

So far so good. But of course roast potato territory arrives. Oggi oggi oggi.

Before I move on, I think you need a tab of acid, and to immerse yourself in the Atmosphere Creator. Turn the volume up high – you will love this.

Still with me? That is what I subjected my two closest friends to on Saturday. Well, I subjected them to walking past it. Slowly. I think they are still speaking to me.

The roast potatoes were actually good. Well, three of the four were – and to get four fairly large potatoes south of the M62 is quite a miracle. Albeit at £19.50, which would get you at least two roast dinners up north. And a ride on the waltzers. Oi oi oi.

All crispy on the outside – chuffed up too. Not amazingly crispy but I really don’t want to complain. Well, I do want to complain – I always want to complain, so just a quick reminder that the service was poo. Three of the roast potatoes were nicely fluffy on the inside – again not perfect, but as good as I’ve had in months. The last, and largest roast potato was rather tough inside.

I didn’t get the Yorkshire pudding. It was a sponge rather than the traditional structure, and was yellow inside. Yes, yellow. At first I wondered if there was a hint of tumeric, but I couldn’t taste it. Perhaps they were made from duck eggs? A mystery, and not a compelling one to solve. And yes, I ordered another jug of gravy. The waiting staff didn’t pay us any attention so I had to vacate my seat and find someone. And I mean ‘get the Yorkshire pudding’ in a somewhat pejorative way, not in a where is the fucking gravy way.

The pork belly was very good. For £19.50 I’d expect so (yeah I’m a tight northern bastard and I bang on about how much everything costs in London), the succulence of the pork balanced the crispy crackling, though the crackling was arguably too salty. Quite overwhelmingly so. But we are talking margins away from perfection – this was very, very good. Juicy.

My accomplice was also impressed with her beef, stating that it was one of the best she had had.

Finally, the gravy was very good too. Quite thick – unusually so for down south, and a meat stock flavour to it. Proper gravy – none of this jus crap. One of the best that I’ve had in London – The Old Red Cow was by some way the best.

So after 7 very average roast dinners in a row, I need to work out just how good this was. It definitely reaches the 8’s. The service was poor – inattentive, unhelpful and frankly useless, bar the young lady going upstairs to get us extra gravy. The Yorkshire pudding odd, one spud bad. The rest was very good. Perfection wasn’t reached at any point, but nothing bar the Yorkie was anything other than very good or excellent.

It is a bit off the top 4, and the high cost does have to have detract from the score a tad, as does the poor service. I’m giving it an 8.06 out of 10. And yes, I paid the fucking 12.5% “suggested” service charge like a cocksucker.

Overall, if you don’t mind forking out this much for a roast, then I can definitely recommend it.

I was considering going to fabric this coming Sunday for a couple of beers, but despite attempting to channel my inner John Redwood and repeatedly telling my bank balance to be more optimistic and find that not existent money, it is still saying ecstaNO (as opposed to esctasi). That said, I can afford a cheaper roast, so I should be back next week, with a roast, from an area of London that I have yet to visit.


Go on, take pity on me and give this a share. Up the workers.

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The Lighterman, King’s Cross

Station: King's Cross

Tube Lines: Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan Line, National Rail, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria

Fare Zone: Zone 1

Price: £19.50

Rating: 8.06

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Loved & Loathed

Loved: Quite thick meat-stock gravy, succulence of the pork balanced the crispy crackling perfectly.

Loathed: The service was poor – inattentive, unhelpful and frankly useless, bar the young lady going upstairs to get us extra gravy. The Yorkshire pudding odd, one spud bad.

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