From The Beast From The East to The Feast In The East. Well, whether it would be a feast was an entirely different matter.
This time the random number generator had picked a pub in Hackney called The People’s Park Tavern, on the outskirts of Victoria Park. A place recently recommended to me, though subsequently my accomplice was advised by her colleagues that it had rubbish food.
I tried to book a table online, but you couldn’t for less than 6 people. Occasionally I have vague strains of popularity (or maybe people are just doing that voyeuristic thing, like watching a car crash or driving through a council estate), but this week I just had one guest. So I e-mailed to request to book a table – if I’m travelling pretty much across the whole of London, then I kind of want a guaranteed table.
No problem, table confirmed. Except I realised in the morning that it was booked for a time of “?? to 12:00am”. Make of that what you will.
I arrived into Homerton station and walked towards The People’s Park Tavern. Some interesting housing, comparable to Buckingham Palace according to someone interviewed by the Hackney Gazette, yet I didn’t quite get that feeling of opulence as I passed through. Before you accuse me of being a snob, I sometimes shop in Tesco. So there. Though I have given up Tesco for Lent.
I arrived at the circus…oh wait a minute, just as I was leaving home, I spoke to some…wait for it…lesser-spotted Liberal Democrats. Yes they still exist.
Anyway, so I arrived at The People’s Park Tavern. Guess what? We were 2.5 hours late. Despite arriving within 5 minutes of the requested time, our table was booked for 12:00. PM.
There was one table left in the pub – it was a busy pub, so we sat down and pondered the menu. At which point we realised just how bloody noisy the place was. Children everywhere. Young children, noisy children, children running around. Can I get away with a Jimmy Savile joke or is that pushing it too far?
Erm…I am so not getting that TV deal to do Roast Dinner Roadtrip UK, am I?
Now then, now then. My point being, that it was noisy. It was like trying to have dinner in a MacDonald’s play area. Trying being the operative word – for when I went to the bar to order lunch, I was advised that they had stopped taking orders as the kitchen was overwhelmed. But I could do so in 15-20 minutes. Quite why I couldn’t place my order and I accept that I would have to wait slightly longer was beyond my level of comprehension – maybe there was some kind of bullshitty head office target of waiting times? And it wasn’t exactly as if there was a complex menu that the kitchen was preparing, with just 3 choices of meal; beef at £17.50, chicken at £15.50 and…some kind of vegetarian option at a lower price.
They did have a wider range of kids meals though. Kids…aaaaarrggh. Must not attach photo of 1970’s Top Of The Pops presenters.
15-20 minutes later, I did place an order for two beef roast dinners, and two sodding apple juices. I didn’t think this was overly complex, but the barman still managed to think that I wanted two chicken dinners. Maybe it was my northern accent that faded 10 years ago.
I guess that I should talk about the venue. The pub itself looked like it had been decorated by children – all many of random crap in the name of East London zanyness, yet were it not for the feeling of being outnumbered by primary school children, would probably conjure up a sense of fun (no I don’t know what “all many” means but I wrote it and it is staying because I cannot remember what I meant to say). Whilst it wouldn’t be first on my list of places to share a bag of ketamine in, if only for the upside-down toilet sign, let alone everything else going on, I can imagine it being a great place for a few beers on an evening.
The People’s Park Tavern seemed to be aimed at young people having fun (exceptionally young on a Sunday afternoon) and whilst I bemoan the decoration somewhat unfairly, I certainly appreciate the potential of the venue – the outside in particular with fake grass lawn, coloured wooden booths and crazy golf course, seems perfect for Saturday afternoon drinking in the sunshine, with a good group of mates.
We could even have been seated in the oversized plastic conservatory outside, which was apparently where our table had been booked for, and was an over-18 zone only. If only I had realised that when I had arrived. Alas, it was polluted by live music – what sounded like ukelele and harmonica jazz, though probably without either instrument – I only listen to minimal techno so I wouldn’t have a clue. It did sound utterly painful for my tastes. I am sure they were excellent if you like that kind of thing.
In conclusion – this is a dreadful place to have a hangover or have a Sunday afternoon ket sesh. Yet I didn’t have either excuse. I guess I am just old and boring. Oh to be 18 again and get an erection at the sound of a photocopier.
All very hard so far. Hard, as in difficult. But then, poof, as if I had just rubbed…erm…my magic lamp, my roast dinner appeared. Only my dinner, not my accomplice’s – but you know, progress. There hadn’t even been time to microwave it. So in the time it took you to read the paragraphs of garbage since writing about having ordered dinner, my roast dinner had been cooked, plated up and walked through the children’s play area formally known as a pub, to my table.
Unsurprisingly, some confusion reigned before the second roast dinner arrived, but it wasn’t too far behind – we even got some extra gravy (upon request), albeit in the most impractical small bowl – the type of which ketchup is served in.
Are you expecting an effusive review of the roast dinner after all of this?! Take a seat children, and let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I went to a pub called the People’s Park Tavern, in Hackney, and ate some red cabbage. As far as it goes, this was perfectly decent, fruity red cabbage but I really am getting sick of it. It is more a pollution thing – I’m fine with eating red cabbage although it isn’t my favourite vegetable, but this is another vegetable that gets everywhere on the plate – something so stand-out in taste should be able to behave itself and stay in its corner. Also, red cabbage takes over way too much gravy by time one has corralled it into one area. I accept this is just me – the red cabbage was perfectly decent, as I said.
Also getting in places it shouldn’t was the carrot and swede mash. Not far off puree-like such was the consistency, this was very bang average and unspectacular. A complete opposite to the true delight at The Selkirk last Sunday.
We were pleasantly surprised to get some broccoli – it seems a while since I had it – though with my drug-addled memory it was probably last Sunday. Sorry mum – I have bought you a Mother’s Day card already though. Check me out. And I haven’t trespassed on railway lines for some years now. How do I segue that back into broccoli? I really should be able to spell broccoli without a spellchecker by now…so…the broccoli was nearly as tough as a railway line. Quite why the completely solid stem had been left on other than for presentation or laziness, I do not know. If you like your vegetables tough, then you’d be happy.
The parsnip was under-cooked and lukewarm at best. Mine was chunky yet with a mark through the middle, as if they had thought about cutting it but couldn’t be arsed. It really was quite unappealing, and I did even consider not eating all of it. But I wanted my money’s worth – did I mention this was fucking £17.50?! Sorry, shouldn’t swear in front of the children.
Roast potato time. Those of you that read every review (and why wouldn’t you?) will know this is as perennial a problem as Arsene Wenger and isn’t going away any times soon. We had two home-cooked roast potatoes each – each of us had one reasonably good roast potato – not crispy on the outside, but close enough to resembling one. The other tasted old, cold and tired. I don’t know why I bothered with it.
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This isn’t going well, is it? I’m actually starting to realise that it was worse than I thought. And my Yorkshire pudding was burnt. It had risen nicely, like my 18 year-old penis near a photocopier…oh yeah…done that joke already, erm, did you hear about the magic tractor? It went down the roast and turned into a field. I mean, road, not roast. Yes I did only catch that from my proof-reading. Thank you for my coat. Alas, no thanks for the burnt Yorkshire pudding – it tasted of burntness. The bottom was soft and fluffy enough. My accomplices Yorkshire pudding was not burnt, much softer and apparently very good.
There was a lot of beef, though it was a little bit tough to cut with what was barely sharper than a butter knife. A little fatty in places, but nothing overly bad – the slices were probably too thick, the beef was way overdone for my tastes – and tasted a bit grey at times. I wish I had had the chicken.
The gravy was really good. Surprisingly really good. A fair consistency, nothing too complex or overpowering – had the food been much better, this would have been a very good compliment. By a long way the best part of the dish.
Who the hell recommended this to me, again? I should write down the names of the recommender!
It actually felt like I had had a roast dinner in a circus. LITERALLY. If you like a mediocre roast and children, or like a mediocre roast and live jazz, then this place is for you. However, this was not the venue for me – nor the roast dinner for me. I was stuffed yet unsatisfied, and I was emotionally and mentally scarred.
It took an 80-minute walk along the beautifully-frozen Regent’s Canal to calm the senses.
That said, I really like the pub. I think it would be a great place to go on a Saturday afternoon in the summer with a group of mates, and have a few beers. But I cannot recommend it for a roast dinner going on my experience. Maybe I was unlucky – there must have been a reason for two separate people to have recommended it, and when I walked past some tables and the playschool on the way to the Australian toilets, I thought their roasts looked reasonably good. Also my accomplice thought it more average than mediocre – she suffered less disappointment that I.
Thankfully no service charge – it was order at the bar. Service at the bar was quick considering how busy it was, and it was unusually well-staffed – minor bonus.
Though £17.50 for a roast dinner in east London is pretty damn pricey. Expensive, in fact. Especially when it isn’t that good. Add in the noise of the children (yes that is going to affect the score) and the general difficulty, this wasn’t a great experience at all.
I’m only going to give it a 5.52 out of 10. Perhaps harsh, but there was so much wrong with the meal that it gets one of my lowest ever scores. I’m arrogant enough to think that this shitty blog is some vague inspiration for at least 6 people – please don’t let it put you off going to the venue in general. But have a roast elsewhere.
It is clear from Trip Advisor that the venue does actually care so I’m not happy about giving a low rating, but it is what it is. I want to apologise, but nah.
Next Sunday is Mother’s Day, so if you want to take your mother somewhere decent then you need to get booking now. I don’t want to, I just want to snort some crystal meth and go cry in a child-free corner, though I think the plan is somewhere central. Almost kind of…tourist central.
At least tourists don’t have so many frigging children.
ps Mum – any chance you ever had of me having children…gone. Soz.
The People’s Park Tavern, Hackney, East London
Tube Lines: Overground
Fare Zone: Zone 2