I don’t know what the first paragraph of this should be. I know what the second, third, fourth and so on paragraphs will be. I guess I just get on with telling you that I went to The Culpeper in Whitechapel.
STOP. We have a potential crisis on our hands. Have you seen the news?
No, I’m not talking about the heart-breaking takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban also probably called “deal of the decade” by the orange fuck-wit who used to run the world, at least where Xi and Putin allowed it, but you know, everything is fine in Afghanistan as long as we pretend women don’t exist and they pretend Al-Qaeda don’t exist, you know, 20 years of effort, $2 trillion, thousands of British, American and arguably more importantly, Afghan lives – yeah let’s not worry about it and pretend everything is fine.
Urgh, I really didn’t want to get into a rant about Afghanistan because it is going to make me look a dick when I complain about the problems in this country but we are where we are…namely paragraph four.
We enjoy the blessings of liberal democracy, as much as those around us may not bless us with what we believe is the ideal way forward, it is still a blessing to be able to choose our communal poison.
We chose a Tory government. We chose a cheating, lying bastard to “get Brexit done”. We once even chose Saint Tony…oh he wasn’t that great either was he? Hell, we even once chose the Liberal Democrats – so many of us that they ended up in government. Crazy shit. Alas, we then chose Brexit. And we chose…a lack of roast potatoes.
I think I just about managed that segue from heart-breaking Taliban takeover to the totally frivolous roast potato shortage without looking like a total dick. And who knows, maybe the roast potato shortage won’t happen. Though you can trust the Mid Sussex Times – it says on their website that you can trust them.
And The Yorkshire Post also has the same story, and you can trust them because it says so on their website.
Don’t forget the Leamington Spa Courier, you can trust them too.
Ethan Stone has a a lot of jobs, doesn’t he? How does he find the time to work for all these news websites that you can trust?
Anyway, so we’ve established the fact that there could be a shortage of roast potatoes this year, because several news websites that you can trust because it says on their websites that you can trust them, are telling us so.
So it’s obviously true. Wait…you mean we don’t already have a shortage?
Every single fucking roast dinner I’ve had in London, well bar a very small handful, have had just 3 roast potatoes. Up north, you’d have 5 or 6. Granted, they are so often so bad that I simply wouldn’t want to eat more than 3 but that isn’t the point. There is already a shortage. Given that I moved to London in late 2016…is it possible that Brexit has already caused the shortage? Can anyone remember how many roast potatoes you’d get in 2015 in London?
So this week the random number generator had picked The Culpeper in Whitechapel/Aldgate – I’m not entirely sure where you’d class it, but that kind of area, and I remembered that a colleague at work that lives nearby wanted to join me for a Sunday roast one time, so I enlisted him as my accomplice.
The Culpeper might have been rather conspicuous at one time, in an area that previously was more glum, than glam, but this area of east-ish London is going through redevelopment (or gentrification if you are jealous of those doing well in life), and the high-ceilinged upmarket vibe of The Culpeper now fits in nicely.
And when I say upmarket, I don’t mean Mayfair standards – but you know, toilets without copious graffiti or a mosaic of tatty stickers which is as rare as a lorry driver post-Brexit in this area, let alone the rarity of matching chairs and tables. My chair did have a slight wobble though.
Still a bit of caution at the bar, with plastic dividers – some staff wearing masks, some not – I didn’t notice anyone ordering from the bar, so I assume it was table service only, which suits me.
Tables still felt rather spaced out – most tables were taken, but it didn’t feel busy, if that makes sense.
The pub itself is split into 3 floors. Ground floor is the pub, which is where we were situated, on the 1st floor is the restaurant – there is a rooftop too which was fully booked well in advance, and imagine is a delight to inhabit.
Pork and beef were the choices, priced £18.50 and £20.00 respectively. I was 50/50 between them, until my accomplice suggested that he ordered the pork, and I ordered the beef, so that we could both try each other’s, which suited me.
Our dinners took around 20 or so minutes to arrive and arrived whilst I was using the bathroom. I came back and asked my accomplice if he had ordered extra gravy. “No, was I supposed to?”.
More gravy was forthcoming from one of the waitresses who were attractive throughout. I mean attentive. Yes I did fall in love. Yes she was probably half my age.
So the carrots which you cannot really see from my photograph were roasted softly, with a strong honey flavour – so much so that I thought I could taste it throughout the meal. It seemed like it infected the gravy somewhat.
The cabbage, which you definitely cannot see was quite chewy, and tasted very much of ginger with a hint of something close to star anise. Interesting but I wasn’t massively keen.
And the parsnips which you also cannot see…oh fuck it I’ll share the second photograph earlier than I planned.
These were a bit ying and yang – they were really flavoursome, yet were dry and tired too. And I think the dryness overcame the flavour for me. Is it parsnip season already?
There were no roast potatoes.
Fuck me, even the Galloway Gazette predicted this. Did I mention that George Galloway blocked me on Twitter once for responding to him with a fact?
Anyway, there were no roast potatoes. No roast potatoes. Yep. No roast potatoes. I was warned of this fact when ordering by the waitress, and I did reply at the time that this was controversial – yet I was also thinking that it would work perfectly with my planned Brexit special. However, its replacement was an improvement from roast potatoes (that fucking is not an analogy for Brexit) – at least the roast potatoes that my accomplice had with his pork, which really were dry and tired too…albeit nearly crispy on the outside.
This potato dish was called Pommes Anna, and was basically layered potato with a heavy buttery texture and taste. I did like it a lot – is this the answer to the the roast potato crisis? I pointed out this crisis to one of my Brexit-voting friends last week, and he advised that he now grows his own potatoes. I guess that is the answer. Though it might be quicker to get a HGV license.
There was no answer to why I got another burnt Yorkshire pudding. It would have been nice, had it not been cooked too long – it was too crispy, and tasted burnt.
I quite enjoyed my bavette steak, it had a coarseness that appealed and was juicy inside. It did feel perhaps it was better suited to a traditional steak dinner rather than a roast dinner, but it was still quite enjoyable.
My accomplice’s pork was actually really, really good (we didn’t swap much!) and more enjoyable than anything else on our respective plates.
Finally, the gravy. Well it was quite consistent when poured, but there was quite a lot of wetness from the cabbage and perhaps the carrots, so it came to resemble a more watery consistency – and was quite sweet and fruity in flavour, almost apple-like. Not really to my tastes, but not offensive or bad.
The gravy was a good metaphor for the rest of the meal. Mostly, the quality was there and you could tell that the chefs are good. Yet it didn’t quite work for me.
Fruity gravy? Nah. Overly-honeyed carrots? Nah. Gingered cabbage? Hmmm…not sure. There was nothing wrong with these elements, they just didn’t work for me personally on a roast dinner, all together, as a meal.
The Yorkshire pudding and parsnips were the only real disappointments, though my accomplice’s roast potatoes were as equally dreadful. My Pommes Anna was really good – an expression of novelty that I appreciated – had the roast potatoes on my accomplice’s plate not been dreadful then my envy would have skewered said appreciation.
Thinking about it, the roast dinner at The Culpeper fits a little pattern this year, and I include both The Quality Chop House and The Guinea Grill in this. All three I had high expectations for. All three have very good reputations. All three didn’t quite delivery on their roast dinners.
And like both The Quality Chop House and The Guinea Grill, though their roast didn’t meet my expectations, I came away with an appreciation of an excellent establishment, with very good chefs and a desire to eat there again – albeit not on a Sunday. Maybe you’ve experienced it – you’ve been somewhere for a meal, didn’t really rate the meal, yet rated it as a restaurant still?
Cull the reviewer
Bar the burnt Yorkshire pudding and dry parsnips, the quality was there. It just didn’t work for me as a roast dinner. I suspect had I gone with a group of friends, we would have ended up with a wide range of scores.
My score is a 6.95 – really not an easy one to score. My accomplice, who very rarely eats a Sunday roast and hence didn’t know to ask for extra gravy, scored it a 7.50.
Other things worth mentioning are that the beer choice was unimpressive, though perhaps there was some mask translation issues going on, service was delightful and attentive throughout and my accomplice wanted a mention for the lack of tomato juice for a Bloody Mary – we can blame Brexit, can’t we? Oh and we shared a dessert:
Yes they are sausage rolls. The pastry was suffering a touch of the yorkies, in having been baked a bit too long, but not tooooooooooooooooo long – the Merguez filling was just delightful.
Which if a sausage roll can prove a point – The Culpeper is likely far better than its roast dinners suggest.
I’ll be back next week – planning on a trip to a repeated crime scene.
Finally, here’s a charity to donate to if you also want to help people in Afghanistan in a tiny way. There isn’t much else we can do. Inshallah.
The Culpeper, Whitechapel
Tube Lines: Circle, Metropolitan Line
Fare Zone: Zone 1
Loved & Loathed
Loved: The roast potato replacement - Pommes Anna - was good.
Loathed: Gravy too fruity, yorkie burnt, no roast potatoes