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All hail the northerners and their roast dinners. This week I ordered from Sam’s Chop Shop in Manchester.
Since moving down south a couple of decades ago, I’ve spent much time bemoaning southern roast dinners. Why only 3 roast potatoes? Why so little gravy? What the hell is jus? And that the hell is kale/watercress or anything green other than broccoli doing on a roast dinner?
To be fair, you lot down here do have some good roast dinners too. I’m assuming that’s because lots of northerners moved south since Labour’s Great Recession that their economic policies had absolutely nothing to do with – it just happened – who could have predicted it? Also, see pandemic. Nobody could have predicted that either.
I moved south to go to university – in other words smoke weed and assess the meaning of life from Howard Marks and other distinguished luminaries of the time. Others moved south to teach you what proper gravy is. Now northerners can actually send you a roast dinner, in a box. UNPRECEDENTED. Don’t let me down, Sam.
I think I’ve actually been to Sam’s Chop House – who are behind Sam’s Chop Shop. Yes, I occasionally still go back up north and try not to be punched for being too southern. I don’t talk about Brexit. I do moan about their beer – in fact, when I last went to Manchester it was to watch the cricket at Old Trafford, and I had the not so glorious choice of Fosters, Carling, John Smiths or Strongbow. Who knew London had better beer than Manchester? Dry February is going fine, by the way.
My memory of the visit to Sam’s Chop House in Manchester isn’t the best. I think I ordered steak and chips. I assume that I enjoyed it but I would always assume that most drunk, fat, hungry blokes would enjoy steak and chips no matter what, unless they were vegan, vegetarian or Hindu. Sam’s Chop House seem to be quite keen on the fact that they were first established in 1868, so they really should know how to make a roast dinner with that much experience.
Let’s start with a moan, and that is the prices on the website. See the sale price on the beef?
That’s the price for the children’s portion. For the chicken, the sale price is an accurate price for the chicken roast (children only like beef apparently) though the “previous price” isn’t a previous price at all, that is the price with dessert.
Other options included pork belly and a mushroom wellington – and you can add extra roasties, yorkie, cauliflower cheese, mash, sauce…and some other roast dinner stuff but most importantly you can order extra gravy. Blacklock, are you reading? You can order extra gravy. EXTRA GRAVY. To be fair, I’d happily just spend £50 on Blacklock’s gravy.
The roast arrived on the Friday, via DPD – the holy grail of delivery companies, although on this occasion I was “next delivery” for around 4 hours. Quite a lot of plastic wrapping – and loads of that supposedly compostable packaging which is quickly filling up my garden waste bin that never gets emptied.
It did look a bit…basic.
Bit of grot, Sam?
I am struggling to know what to write about other than the actual roast dinner this week – believe it or not, not a lot has happened in my life since I last wrote to you. Last week’s review of Jimmy’s Popups was the first of the year, so there was a backlog of verbal crud ready to seep out of my pores.
This week I’m like, well I cleaned the oven at the weekend, worked out how to set up a MongoDB cluster on AWS, and made a blueberry cobbler. How am I going to insert that into a review?
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you what I ordered. I went for the pork belly with the lemon posset dessert. It came to £27.40 including delivery – delivery charges probably roughly equate to TFL and service charges on a normal Sunday out so I didn’t think this too bad.
Sunday came around, which was another fascinating day in my fascinating life, and I decided to cook the roast for the evening. Instructions were easy to follow – the most challenging it got was to fry the pork belly to crisp it up – which I did for 2 minutes and didn’t really make it especially crispy. Actually I fried for 5 minutes and was supposed to do for 2 minutes. Maybe time to stop spending £10 on a frying pan every year and buy a top quality one?
The roast potatoes were slated to go in the oven for 10-15 minutes, but they did also suggest to put them in longer if you like them more crispy – which I do and I did. No instructions for the stuffing, so I just put that in the oven for 15 minutes, along with the pork belly after attempting to make the crackling crispy.
The carrot and swede needed heating up in a pan, according to the instructions, but there was no carrot and swede in the box. The vegetables needed heating up in the microwave, and the gravy warming up in a pan…very sufficient amounts of gravy.
Attention southerners, the above is sufficient gravy as set out by Sam’s Chop Shop
It was all simple and idiot-proof enough – and chuffing heck, there was a lot of grub, lad.
Let’s start with the vegetables which were, quite frankly, basic. Warmed in the microwave for 2 minutes with two chunks of butter to put on afterwards – the butter didn’t melt easily and also kind of diluted the gravy somewhat.
There was nothing wrong with the vegetables – cauliflower, carrots and broccoli, with a tiny scrap of kale/cabbage/something green and leafy. Just steamed/boiled and ordinary. And I have even less to say about them than I do my fascinating life.
My parents had their first Blacklock experience this weekend to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday (he does read this so feel free to wish him a happy birthday in the comments!) – I’m probably going to have to re-review Blacklock this year in the company of said parents if and when we are finally granted permission to live once more, just to make sure that they are still the best. I’m sure you understand.
Anyway, my parents both loved it but my mother was surprised that there was only 7 roast potatoes to share between two people. O RLY?
This was not an issue from Sam’s Chop Shop. 7 roast potatoes for me and me alone. Fairly small in size, quite crispy on the outside, quite soft on the inside – I thought I detected the taste of duck fat but that could have been from the pork belly instead. These were good though they didn’t shine especially.
The yorkie was decent. Fair-sized but not over-sized, a couple of minutes warmed up in the oven was enough, and it was nicely structured enough to hold the gravy – and be nicely soggy at the bottom due to said gravy dumping.
Does Sam Cam Like Ham?
I’d ordered the pork belly because I miss it – I’m pretty certain to fuck it up if I attempt to make pork belly myself. Yet I’m not entirely sure it works long-distance roasting either.
It was a small piece of pork belly – in the context of a huge roast dinner it was notably small. It was also juicy and succulent – yet the crackling didn’t quite crisp up properly, which could be my £10 frying pan that really needs replacing and very possibly upgrading. Do these kits get tested in chef’s kitchens or ordinary people’s kitchens? Not sure that someone who spends about £2,000 a year on roast dinners and several hours a week writing about them is ordinary, but you get my drift.
So it was nice…but it just wasn’t quite there as a finished piece of crispy, gooey, gorgeous pork belly that it could and should have been.
I liked the stuffing. Onion with sausagemeat and a hint of sage, I think. It had a nice texture to it and was probably the best part.
And finally, the gravy. Yep, very sufficient amounts of gravy – so much that I had to lick the remaining gravy from Maggie’s face afterwards. Good gravy also – a hint jus-like, but reasonable consistency if perhaps not tasting as gravyish as gravy should be.
I’m staying down south, Sam
Well I guess we’ll all be moving back north at some point, as the government continues to level-down London, sorry, I genuinely mean level-up the rest of the country. I believe that they are truly doing everything they can and possibly could to level-up the rest of the country.
Yet Sam’s Chop Shop hasn’t done enough to persuade me to head back to the land of £3 pints.
Big and bland would be perhaps an unfair way to describe it, but it was my initial feeling. Yet coming a week after a roast dinner with almost too much flavour going on, it is easy to make that comparison.
If the most important aspect to you in a roast dinner is the volume of food, then get an order in with Sam’s Chop Shop now.
It was certainly good enough – the vegetables really were basic, but everything else was good in a northern mum’s roast dinner kind of way.
I’m scoring the roast dinner a 7.1 out of 10.
Oh yeah, there was dessert also. I didn’t like the dessert so I’ll refrain from scoring that. Lemon posset, which I didn’t realise was kind of like lemon soup – in my basic and bland thinking I was expecting some form of tart. It came with plums which were sour and quite horrid – and shortbread biscuits which were biscuit heaven.
Roast is ordered for this coming Sunday…well…it is for 2 people so I might have it Saturday and Sunday instead. Also comes with a dessert that I won’t like. I pretty much only like cheesecake. White chocolate cheesecake.
Sam’s Chop Shop, Manchester (Nationwide Delivery)
Price: £27.40 (for one person, with dessert)
Loved & Loathed
Loved: A huge amount of food - like a northern mum's roast
Loathed: A bit bland and basic - pork belly doesn't travel well in a meal kit.
Where now, sailor?
Random roast review: Guanabana, Camden