Welcome to the official, glorious, world-beating Roast Dinners In London awards for 2020. Fuck me. Where do we start?
I guess one bright spot of the pandemic is that I have less roast dinners to think about for the awards this year. Manually I counted 23 roast dinners, but my automated count on WordPress says 25. So either I cannot count or I cannot code.
And therefore with a bit of luck, I will have less to awards to write about, less contenders for each award to think about. For 2019’s awards, I wrote nearly 3,800 words from 47 roast dinners reviewed (or 48 according to my automated count).
By the way, I’m not counting any form of takeaway or cook at home roasts. Well I probably won’t get to the end of this blog without mentioning Blacklock’s delicious finish at home roast in some form or other, but for the purpose of these annual awards, it is for roast dinners in a pub or restaurant. In London. OK?
Speaking of which, time to talk toilets…
With thanks to everyone that told me to wear a mask to avoid a second lockdown, I feel that there is no more appropriate place to start the Roast Dinners in London awards for 2020 than in the toilets. Granted, I did for the 2019 awards also.
Rotunda in King’s Cross is worth a mention for having a wall of toilet rolls available in the peak pre-pandemic toilet roll shortage phase – before you ask, some of us were well-prepared for a no deal Brexit at the end of 2019 and had plenty of toilet roll, so no I didn’t steal one.
However, the winner of best toilet should always be one with pornography (except in 2019 where I placed it second), so with gracious thanks goes to The Hunter S in Dalston. Average roast, sexy as fuck toilets.
How Much For A Fucking Beer Award
In a way, it is a shame to give this venue a negative award, because they supplied a very good roast dinner – some notably gorgeous pork belly, but fuck me, The Bull & Last, £6.80 for a pint of beer?
Ouch. Plus a disappointing dinner when I went back on a Friday night. Very good roast dinner though and the wine was surprisingly good value.
£7 beers will be here after the next lockdown that we wore masks to avoid, won’t they? Sigh.
How much for a roast dinner award?
I was quite surprised when I realised that I had paid slightly less on average for a roast dinner in 2020 than the year before. Granted, that is through my automated calculations which seem a tad Chris Grayling. Gosh I wonder how he is wasting our money at the moment?
It would be harsh to say that I wasted my money at The Grazing Goat as it was another very good roast dinner but £27.00 for 3 bits of meat?
It was almost as if they thought I was a Tory trying to sell PPE to the government. Well, I was a Tory. Was. Oh London, what have you done to me? Next thing you know I’ll be voting Drillminister for London Mayor.
Carrot of the year
Yes, the culinary award that every chef wants to win, Carrot Of The Year, chosen by some nobhead with a blog that about 11 people read.
One problem with writing the awards is that every year I intend on keeping notes for the awards as I go along, and every year I forget to do this by the second roast of January. So I then have to read the reviews. I mean, how on earth do you cope with reading this gash? Some of you are even regular readers. Not many, but some are.
Anyway, I spent an hour (ish) reading them (ish) and forgot about carrots.
And the winner is – Wood Street Bar & Restaurant. Yay. Their carrot was excellent, roasted to near perfection with a hint or orange – or ginger. Or both.
Plus I need to give the chef an award as he was pretty much the only person to say that he wanted me to write some.
Cauliflower cheese of the year
Ah man, another award that I didn’t think about when I did my research. Let’s just give it to Wood Street again, shall we?
Ah fuck, no cauliflower cheese. And that beer in the corner is staring me out for doing Dry January. And Dry February. And Dry March…well…let’s see how we get on maybe.
OK, there is a clear winner for this one in my mind, and that is The Bull And Last. Yeah, I know, I’m going to be repeating the same names through the awards and quite a few places will get more than one award.
At least they’ll want this award. Well, in the grand scheme of my awards which really nobody gives a fuck about. Want to see the dish in question?
Cauliflower cheese so good that even I could take a decent photograph of them. Golden on top with a sprinkling of herbs, cauliflower cooked to the perfect balance and a thick, cheesy sauce. You don’t mind if I just copy and paste chunks from the original reviews do you?
I know it was 2020 but what the fuck is this doing on a roast?
I guess in future years I will probably rename this the “get on a 2020 plate” award, or maybe something a bit catchier.
There were quite a few places that served me red cabbage, which I don’t think belongs on a roast, but some might disagree with me.
The Bull & Last (yeah, I know, them again…blame China) came a close second in this award by putting black pudding on a roast dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of creativity on a roast dinner as all the carrots do blend into one over the years. But black carrot on a roast…yeah I’ll keep that mistake…black pudding on a roast is just odd.
However, winner of the what the fuck did I call it again do I really need to scroll up award, is The Beast Of Brixton.
Yes, you see them. On a roast dinner. On a very, very good roast dinner but they are there. Baby sweetcorn.
GET OFF MY PLATE.
Well above expectations
Reading back my first post from 2020, it seems that my expectations for 2020 were not actually that high.
Oh man, gutted to have missed out on the Police & Crime Commissioner election. I’ve actually just changed my mind as to who gets the award for beating expectations and it is The Wheatsheaf, which was my first roast of 2020. You can tell how much research and preparation I did for these stupid awards, can’t you?
Back in 2019, I’d had a string of poor roasts from Young’s, so I wasn’t amused to start 2020 with the random number generator picking a Young’s pub. A good yorkie, decent roast potatoes, flavoursome pork and an impressive leek & bacon combo made this a damn fine way to start 2020.
Yeah, served in a tin but what I wouldn’t swap right now for the chance of a roast dinner in a tin.
And no, I haven’t wished anyone a Happy New Year. Not even my mum. Just a New Year.
Well below expectations
So we move onto the well below expectations award, sponsored by 2020.
Oh I’ve already used that. Hang on…
So delighted that we avoided that third lockdown, cannot wait for the roast dinner tomorrow. Gosh, random number generator wanted me to go to Galvin La Chapelle tomorrow too.
Your eyes are rolling, aren’t they? Don’t worry, this is the halfway point. Roughly. It will soon be over, you’ll have finished reading this shite by the end of March, by which point we’ll never be allowed to take our masks off and roast dinners will be squeezed up our anus in a restaurant.
Good job I’m not selling overpriced gimp masks. I should really do these searches on private browsing mode.
Shall we start this award again?
Well below expectations
So there is an award for worst roast dinner of the year, which this is not. This is for the roast dinner that didn’t come anywhere near expectations.
I have two places in mind. One is 24 The Oval, which several people recommended to me, many people rate and is the sister restaurant to the excellent, Knife. Yet I already suspected that it would be a bit wanky which it was – so it kind of was along the line of expectations, but worse.
The winner (or loser) of this award is The Gun in Spitalfields. I really thought this would be excellent, though I’ve just remembered that my first recommendation of The Gun was by an Instagram page that now does “generously invited” posts. Well…did do “generously invited” posts. Yes I do get invited for freebies. No I haven’t accepted any in the last two years.
Anyway, before I get too far off tangent, the chicken, roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage and gravy were all unimpressive – roasties tired and rubbery, chicken dry and gravy watery nonsense. They could have won the best cauliflower cheese award now I think about it, but too late now, I’m not re-writing that award.
It was my birthday roast too. Oh well, at least Boris has ensured that I cannot be disappointed for my birthday this year.
One day, my friends. One day…Priti Patel will replace Boris Johnson.
Best Yorkshire pudding
I might make myself some pigs in blankets tonight. Well, I will be making myself some pigs in blankets tonight. I have sausages and I have pancetta. It’ll be like Christmas all over again.
Except with slightly fewer presents.
You know what? Fuck Yorkshire puddings. I’m not giving any awards out for “Best Yorkshire Puddings” until restaurants and pubs stop making them hours beforehand and leaving them under a heat lamp. If you cannot make me a freshly cooked Yorkshire pudding, just don’t bother.
Even roast potatoes have had a higher success rate in 2020. Just.
Worst Yorkshire pudding
Believe it or not, there is not a shortage of entries for this award, despite the fact that I only had 23 or 25 Sunday roasts this year.
Yet somehow one sticks in my memory from that pre-covid era called February, which is from 24 The Oval.
It was shite. Dry, burnt and I hardly ate any of it. I don’t normally leave food.
Congratulations on having a Yorkshire pudding so bad that I actually remembered it over the others.
Best roast potato
Believe it or not, there are a few to consider here. The Alma stands out for providing not only good roasties but a shocking amount – 5! Chuffing heck.
One notch ahead in second place for this coveted award is Wood Street Bar And Restaurant. Two were pretty crispy on the outside, all were pretty fluffy on the inside – and they tasted really good…not like ordinary roast potatoes.
Yet the award goes to…Brasserie Blanc. Honestly. Yeah, I know you are reading, Matt, but you’ve already won the award for carrot of the year, what more do you want?
It wasn’t a great roast at all, so I wouldn’t say to make it your first choice Sunday roast when pubs re-open in September 2027 – however the roast potatoes were close to perfection. Soft inside, a crisp bobbliness on the outside with a pepper flavour. Superb. And this was pre-covid so I wasn’t quite so worried about giving places a slating back then.
Worst roast potato
Believe it or not, there are a few to consider here.
I should probably give it to the winner of “Worst Roast Dinner 2020”, which I am trying to avoid naming until said award. Which is a good couple of hours away. Two hours writing, that is – not reading. Chill out, I don’t have one of those sneaky ever-shrinking scroll bars that make you think you are reading a short article, then keeps getting smaller and smaller as you reveal more content. Possibly the second worst thing on the internet after Donald Trump’s Twitter account. A HA HA HA HA. See ya.
The Bridge in Greenford had good contenders – too large, too undercooked in the middle though probably cooked after lockdown and not before. The Bull And Last (them again) served me small, rubbery things featuring zero joy.
Yet the winner is from those pre-covid times where I actually used to go to south London, The Herne Tavern. That I didn’t finish a roast potato is probably everything you need to know, they were large, not properly cooked-through and one even had a hint of green inside. Gosh, this is starting to make me hope for a fourth lockdown.
He will go to prison, won’t he?
Hey vegans. Don’t get too excited, most of the meat that I had this year was stunningly gorgeous. Or at least good.
The dry chicken at The Gun is the runner-up for this award – though the vegan option was even more miserable.
However, this award again goes to The Herne Tavern – what a lucky pub, winning both worst roast potato and worst meat awards, in the world-beatingly worst year that was 2020.
It was actually really quite flavoursome and would have been really good had it been served in a time period close to when it was made. Alas it was tired and, away from the more juicy fatty parts, it was dry – it really felt like it had been cooked the day before or at least spent several hours under a heat lamb being dried out.
Gosh I love a good moan. Something that you might think 2020 has been great for, except that I’m more in control of my life as I spend 99.5% of it in my bedroom so there is less chance of coming across things to moan about that are not in my bedroom.
The only one that really comes to mind as a winner for the Brexiters doing Veganuary award is 24 The Oval. So little (raw) beef on my plate but the French people sat on the table next to us had 3 times as much on their plates.
Was this Brexit?
One that really sticks in my mind is the venison that I had from Mac & Wild – a Roast Dinners In London first – it isn’t often I get the chance to divert from the usual choice of meats. It was divine and the thinner slices almost melted in my mouth.
Yet the winner is The Draper’s Arms. The pork belly there rescued what was a fairly disappointing roast, replete with proper mask nazism (possibly a good thing to you?!) as the young girls were pretty damn strict on the rules, every time someone “forgot” to wear one to prevent the second lockdown. Or was it third?
Enforced condiment – annoying. But even that didn’t take the shine off what was a glorious, sexual lump of pork belly. The crackling was close to perfect, crunchy and gooey, and just melded into the pork itself. So, so, so damn sexy. Even sexier than a Spanish vaccine.
Phew, managed to segue that in eventually.
You know, this award is kind of difficult for 2020. I actually think gravy standards might have improved. Roast potatoes and yorkies have got worse (or are just still often dreadful), but gravy has improved.
There has been forgettable gravy in 2020, including the piss-watery inoffensive gravy at Palmer’s Restaurant earlier in 2020.
If I have to choose a winner, then I will choose the one in a mini saucepan, even though it had some decent flavour to it. Yet it was still watery piss nonsense in a mini-saucepan. Ahhh southerners. Ahhh south London.
Oh yeah, this was 24 The Oval. Again.
There are actually 4 places that served really damn gorgeous gravy in 2020, that actually stick out in my mind.
However Mac & Wild are instantly disqualified for charging me £3.50 for extra gravy. Granted it was the 3rd time that I had asked for extra, but don’t serve gravy in a fucking thimble and I won’t keep asking.
It was seriously sexy bone-marrow gravy though.
The Alma served a very good peppery red wine jus which was actually more like a gravy, and Wood Street Bar & Restaurant did a superb proper, thick, meat-stock gravy – seriously delicious.
It had to be something to beat Wood Street Bar & Restaurant, and it was provided by The Grazing Goat – so gorgeous that I asked for a pint of it to drink. Well, that isn’t anything unusual to be fair, and I have been known to do a shot of gravy in a pub on occasion.
It was just super silky, proper northern, glorious, thick meat stock gravy in a large jug. So, so superb. Only a shade ahead of Wood Street Bar & Restaurant – sorry, Matt, but you did win Carrot Of The Year.
Worst Roast Dinner In London 2019
Oh boy, we are here at last. It feels like it has taken even longer than the Brexit negotiations to get to the roast dinner that I went to to commemorate Brexit being completed in January.
Why? Why did we vote for Brexit? Why did I do this to myself? Why did I take people here? Why on earth did 3 people actually come with me? Why have they not disowned me? Why has my mother not disowned me?
Well, I think the story goes was that I was thinking ahead to having a crap roast dinner to mark this, and whilst having a fair few beers with the editor of Londonist (also buy his book about all the London pubs that you cannot go to for the next few years…I mean, months), he suggested that I go to a greasy spoon for a roast.
A bit of research and one Brexit deal later we were sat in Poplar Cafe, watching as a crazy man actually wearing a mask as if the coronavirus was coming over from Wuhan, tried to get in through the window then started shouting at everyone for looking at him. Oh and we were eating this roast.
You know, this could have won many awards above, including the better than expectations award – as I was expecting a 1 out of 10, and gave it a surprisingly high 3.85 out of 10. I guess I don’t need to go into details, but it was every bit as miserable as it looks.
About time Londonist gave me some free publicity, isn’t it? Hmmm. You can pay me in exposure. Seriously. I just want everyone to see my metaphorical breasts hanging out everywhere.
Best roast dinner in London 2020
Here at last. Have I mentioned Blacklock at Home yet?
I actually had 7 roast dinners scoring 8 or higher in 2020, which is a decent amount in any year, let alone one that was so predictably fantastic for Britain.
Wheatsheaf, The Bull and Last, Rotunda, The Beast of Brixton, The Alma, Mac & Wild…and one more.
People occasionally message me. I know. I do find human communication without writing a 2,000+ word article rather strange at times. One seemed a decent fellow, a chef and manager at an establishment which I will shortly mention – and prior to China absolutely not at all being responsible for a pandemic (or even a genocide) we nearly even managed to arrange to go for drinks.
But he reckoned he made a damn fine roast dinner, and I insisted on reviewing it first before I could introduce myself. Well…
First, he got me to enjoy beetroot – golden beetroot with a malted honey flavour. The kale had garlic with it and the carrot won Carrot Of The Year 2020.
The roasties were very close runner-up for best roastie of the year, the gravy was an even closer runner-up for best gravy of the year. The yorkie was…well…fine, but the beef was sooooo flavoursome, mustard, pepper – perhaps a tad too rare but rareness of beef is very much a personal thing (though many people are wrong).
He wanted an 8.8. I scored it an 8.65 which made it the 6th best roast dinner in London. And the best roast dinner of 2020. You better retweet this now, Matt. Oh and every other idiot that made it this far. I mean, you haven’t made it all the way this far down without having a desire to send this review to your family, friends, mistress, MP and doctor’s surgery have you?
Oh yeah. Wood Street Bar & Restaurant in the Barbican. Do go. Do put it on your list for 202…1?
Phew. I can go make my pigs in blankets now.
Roll on 2021
Yeah I know, it is already 2021. I needed some form of title to introduce this final section.
I’ve said for some time that I don’t expect to be back in a pub, eating a roast dinner until April. At the very earliest, the second half of March, but that would need everything to go right – and our government to get the vaccination program spot on. Don’t laugh. There are signs that they might actually be on top of something for a change. You know me, credit where credit is due – criticism where gravy is jus. Wow. That’s my best line since I spilled too much ketamine on a toilet seat.
I’m finishing this now on a Sunday morning, a morning where I should be getting prepared to go for a roast dinner. Gosh I miss it. Oh and now I’ve just read that the government think pubs will be closed until May. FFS.
But I will be back. You will be back. We will all be back. These awards might even be back come the end of 2021 (or beginning of 2022), though I seriously hope that I keep notes this year.
Fingers crossed that London chefs keep up the improved standards of gravy that I’ve noticed this year, and find a way to serve freshly roasted roast potatoes, along with smaller unburnt yorkies. Not asking for too much, am I?
See you soon. Ish.
Oh yeah, he’ll be back also. Be afraid, Boris.
Where now, sailor?
Random roast review: The Junction Tavern, Kentish Town