This weeks review of The Blue Boar was a return to the scene of some of the greatest crimes that I’ve experienced – Westminster.
Don’t worry, this is not yet another Brexit special.
A few years ago, I went to politico’s pub, The Red Lion – it was actually a free meal because I’d rated a Friday night meal badly on a Facebook review, and they offered me this to apologise:
Which is the roast dinner equivalent of Nigel Farage taking up Morris dancing to apologise for Brexit
Ahhh man of the people. As you can see.
Oh gosh, maybe it is going to be a Brexit special. You know I don’t really plan what I’m going to write? I just sit here and write, see what happens. I do take a few notes. During the week, maybe I’ll conjure up some theme – usually there is something moronic that the government has done that I can take the piss out of, or maybe something happens on the way there, or maybe there is something that everyone is talking about that I can latch onto – “it’s just a little flu”, “it’s coming home”, etc.
This roast being in Westminster, there wasn’t really need to think of a theme. It’s Westminster. But also, Westminster has a surprisingly poor selection of pubs and restaurants – perhaps not surprisingly because of their possible political clientele – though also maybe the best restaurants are not on Google Maps and therefore are not meant for riff-raff like myself.
Who’s a blue bore?
I actually picked The Red Lion, home of two truly shite dinners that I had a few years ago, as the best in the area from Google reviews. I’ve also eaten at The Buckingham Arms, which I massively over-rated, but I was new to the roast dinner scene in London and expected it to be worse than it is (I used to have a blog about roast dinners in Reading – and they really were awful at times).
And I’m sure you’ve also been to some quite ropey, under-maintained pubs in Westminster, quite merrily picking up the tourist dollar without needing to worry about actually attracting customers. Oxford Street does this very well too – crap pubs that don’t need to improve because of the passing trade.
So I was intrigued when I found out that The Blue Boar was opening. They’ve got a very slick social media marketing set-up – it definitely isn’t an after-thought run by the deputy manager whenever he/she remembers, there is clearly a PR company in charge of this, albeit one that doesn’t understand that roast potatoes are not for dipping into some white sauce.
Inside the pub/restaurant/bar, I’ll come onto the classification in a moment or ten, was quite grand feeling – it was a large and kind of classy place – besuited waiters made me feel a tad riff-raff in my short shorts, until some sweaty obese types arrived and I realised my comparative elegance once more.
There were different areas of the pub/restaurant/bar that had a different feel. We were near the window, which was more bright and airy, but there are definitely darker corners where you could hide with a mistress too. Chairs and tables were solid – ours had Westminster green padded seating, and were quite elegant.
Yet there was still something about the pub/restaurant/bar that felt a tad inauthentic. Perhaps it was because it was struggling to define itself, “[a] modern take on a classic English pub in the heart of Westminster” or “dark wood & cosy chairs give this hotel bar, serving an all day bistro menu, a clubhouse feel”. But also perhaps because the wood panelling looked like it was from Argos.
Also they advertise someone called Sally Abé as their chef, who is apparently renowned. Well, I’m not really clued-up about chefs, but she’s worked at The Ledbury and The Harwood, so this was sufficient enough to make me hopeful of a good roast dinner.
Is it a pub, bore?
It was only afterwards that I found out that The Blue Boar was owned by Hilton – which is a whole theme in itself.
Another time, perhaps.
Though that probably explains the slick marketing campaign and good quality seating. Could the food and drinks actually be up to standard?
The beer choice was nothing special – various types of Meantime, which is fine but unexciting. One of my accomplices ordered the Blue Boar Lager, which he described as being a little like Foster’s – not the greatest praise you could have for a lager branded with your establishment name.
On the menu, they also offered “beer of the month”. I enquired with some hope as to what this might be. London Pride, was the answer.
Gosh, we really are still all in it together, aren’t we? I’m possibly the only person in the country willing to admit that I quite liked George Osborne. Not too much, but more than I like fucking “beer of the month”, anyway.
Let’s move onto the food menu before the internet lynches me.
Boar bore or joar jaw
Believe it or not, I did actually consider the veggie told in the hole – yes I considered the vegetarian option. Mostly because I’d consumed 6,755 calories the day before and was already feeling the need to go back to being healthy that normally consumes me on a Monday morning.
I actually had vegetarian sausages at a BBQ this summer, well, one sausage, and it was pretty good. Plus it comes with black garlic gravy which sounded tasty. But I’ve gone 173 roast dinners without a vegetarian roast – and when I do eventually succumb to societal pressure, it needs to be a “what the fuck are you doing” moment.
I’d had beef the week before, plus I’m “meh” about rump, so loin of Berkshire pork it was, for £25.00.
Two of us also ordered cauliflower cheese at £6.00 each – we were advised (correctly) that it was not sufficient to share, and my other accomplice ordered the bone marrow – which is a rare offering. I was curious about the clapshot croquettes, but not enough to order them – apparently clapshot is mashed swede and potato, with chives and butter. I was expecting it to be something gamey until I did my research just now.
Our roasts took around 20 minutes or so to arrive, whilst we discussed my accomplice’s career change from chef to HGV driver, and his much improved working conditions. Why is it normal for chefs to work 12 hour shifts?
Shall we start with the carrot? It feels traditional, this was nicely roasted, soft, a little charred – just half a carrot. All good.
Tenderstem broccoli was pretty perfect in terms of a slight crunch and also had a slight wilting on the outside, as if it had 10 seconds directly on heat.
The parsnip, which you will see later and one day I might learn to photograph my dinners so that you can see what I’m talking about, was rather anaemic. Tough, undercooked – though possibly not really in season – this was a disappointment.
I’ll show you a blue bore
Just as a reminder we had to pay £6.00 for the cauliflower cheese, it was only a small portion in a teacup, but was pretty excellent. Gooey, cheesey, nicely charred on top – with the cauliflower soft to eat too.
We actually had 4 roast potatoes each. They were actually quite soft on the inside. The were actually quite crispy on the outside. No, I didn’t slowly dip them in some mysterious white sauce and yes they can very much be beaten – these are good, but not great.
Good but not great would also describe the Yorkshire pudding – both this and the roasties are regular failures in London so you’ve probably worked out this is a winning roast by now. It was quite crispy, I’d have liked a softer bottom, but it was good enough.
Oh fuck – I’ve just remembered what my theme was going to be. Guess it can wait until next week. I hope your well.
The pork loin was top quality pork – so tender throughout as if it had been delicately cooked, but the quality of the cut really shone through. A charred finish gave it an edge and some added complexity to taste. Really, really nicely done.
I was a tad perturbed to see something resembling a quaver (or perhaps a prawn cracker) masquerading as crackling, yet it kept the crackling flavour and had a more airy texture – long enough in my mouth and it may have melted. This was also good.
Finally, the gravy. The pork had different gravy to the beef – which looked better (ie thicker) but I’d say that my pork gravy was probably the tastier of the two. Quite a rich meat stock flavour, a little oily on the tongue – complimentary if not sexy.
Bored yet? I’m nearly done, don’t worry.
I still haven’t answered whether I think The Blue Boar is a restaurant or a pub. Well, I’m going to say that it is a restaurant pretending to be a pub. If the menu was Italian dishes rather than pub food, then you wouldn’t call it a pub.
Clearly they do their food very well, and have a top-notch chef on board.
This was a pretty excellent roast dinner. Top quality pork, good gravy, good roasties – the anaemic parsnip was really the only disappointment.
Service does need a bit of work. Twice our drinks orders went to the wrong table, one drink was brought to me a second time (alas I couldn’t keep it and I’m sure it will have been poured away), one member of staff seemed particularly surly, another wouldn’t let two respectable passers-by use the toilet when they asked – yet a different staff member let someone who appeared to be more “street drinker” style use the toilet.
It just felt a bit disjointed and like it needs a bit of smoothing over – though on the flip side, it is a new venue, mostly everyone was very good with us and it isn’t exactly easy to get staff at the moment.
There plenty to like about The Blue Boar, especially the food, though room for improvement too. It does feel the kind of place that could just revert to average, and coin it in through the tourist trade, but hopefully won’t – as Westminster really does need somewhere doing top-quality food.
I nearly scored it a bit higher, but have settled on an 8.46 out of 10, which is very much in the excellent category – 13th best roast dinner in London out of 173, at the time of writing. My accomplices scored it a 8.50 and 8.70 respectively. It really was very good.
Next week will be an unusually early roast dinner – afterwards I’m heading to Reading for an afternoon sesh there. To a pub that closes at 5pm. A pub that closes at 5pm. On a Sunday. On a bank holiday Sunday. On a bank holiday Sunday in a town holding a major festival that weekend. Yeah, it gets a bit weird when you leave London.
The Blue Boar, Westminster
Tube Lines: Circle, District, Jubilee
Fare Zone: Zone 1
Loved & Loathed
Loved: Pork loin was delicious and an absolutely top quality cut of meat.
Loathed: Parsnip was anaemic.