It was a sunny, solo-dining, sober-dining September day and I calmly headed out to The Duchy Arms in Kennington for a Sunday roast.
Why The Duchy Arms? Well, partly it was the first place that the random number generator picked that felt solo-dining safe. But also because – NEW SHINY TUBE STATION!
Yes, just two stops away from Kennington was the brand new Battersea Power Station station, and though I’m not geek enough to get there in time for the 5:28am first tube on the first day of operation, I was still keen enough to go on the first open weekend.
And, as you can see, it is not just food and menus that I’m crap at photographing:
Though at least my website design skills are half-decent – unlike the Duchy Arms’ website which seems not to have been updated since the fuel crisis:
Oh I didn’t mean this fuel crisis – I meant the one where the deputy Prime Minister was so useless that he made the lying Prime Minister look competent.
It feels like a bit of a conspiracy, doesn’t it? In the same week that Kier Starmer publishes a 11,500 word essay – the government tell people not to panic about 6 petrol stations being closed and suddenly you realise, when the fuck are all these people queuing for petrol going to get time to read his 13,000 word essay?
Pump it up
Whoa. I mentioned Kier Starmer. And his 14,000 word essay. I should clarify for my American readers, that Kier Starmer is the bloke leading the party that used to be more left-wing than the Tories but now just talks about cervixes and obscure membership voting rights.
Oh and for my British readers, Kier Starmer is leader of the Labour Party, who used to provide opposition to the Brexit Dictatorship Party prior to 2016.
I arrived at The Duchy Arms after another prolonged Metropolitan line journey to be greeted by a rope barrier at the entrance – for a minute I thought that I might have mistaken a pub for a petrol station. Someone attended to me after a couple of minutes and showed me towards my super unleaded plus plus table.
The Duchy Arms had quite a classic pub feel inside, though I decided to sit outside and enjoy possibly the last sunny, warm Sunday of 2021 – which feels like perhaps only the third sunny, warm Sunday of 2021. The garden was a nice little sun trap, quite a sizeable area with lots of sturdy tables and chairs, along with some slightly naff fake grass blanket on the floor.
They also had a one-way system which I thought was quaint – a bit like our immigration system in recent years – out you go, out you go, and you too. Oh crap we haven’t got any petrol – come back, come back.
Obviously this is absolutely nothing to do with Brexit as proven by the fact that the government are panicked into reversing the main reasoning behind Brexit by begging for immigrants to come back. Temporarily. I’m sure they’ll be jumping at the chance to sort out shit out.
Guess you want to see a roast dinner menu. Yep – roast dinners for just £15.00 in London. And you thought those days were gone.
I’m not keen on topside, I’d had pork belly the week before plus I don’t like red cabbage – so that left me with chicken. Which is the perfect sober solo-dining roast really.
I wanna pump
I sat there waiting for far less time than the average person waits for petrol in this crisis that has absolutely nothing to do with Brexit – though I see people on social media blaming everyone else for being selfish yet what do you expect the British public to do when the current government that is not especially well known for being truthful, says, “no need to panic”?
Granted I also told you not to panic in my review last week but I’m pretty sure one solitary petrol pump could handle every single reader I had last week, in just an hour.
Oh yeah, so it took around 20 minutes for my roast dinner to arrive. Don’t worry, there is more ranting to come. But on a different subject. Eeeek.
I still cannot believe Kier Starmer actually came into my brain. Anyway, the carrots were pretty good, somehow more orange than normal, they seemed to have been roasted and were plentiful. The highlight of the roast. Aha.
Actually maybe the broccoli was the highlight. It was just ordinary broccoli but it was the item least affected by the gravy – I enjoyed eating it. I should probably go on and talk about the gravy now but I’ve already written that paragraph and it does make more sense at the end. Let’s just say, it wasn’t complimentary.
The spring greens existed – they were respectable though didn’t add or detract anything to my life.
Pump up the jam on my roast
The cauliflower cheese was quite nice, and amazingly for London I didn’t have to pay extra for it as a side dish – though it did come on the side. Very creamy, quite cheesy – the cauliflower notably soft but not distressingly so.
Now we can talk about distress – starting with the roast potatoes. The smaller one was edible – a little tough but nothing too bad. The two larger ones were poor – one of them didn’t even seem like it had been inside an oven – still dry and very undercooked inside. I don’t tend to leave roast potatoes no matter how bad they are, but this one was close to inedible and I did leave it.
No surprises but the Yorkshire pudding was rubbery and tired. Again I questioned why I was eating it and ended up leaving a third. Not something I often do…I don’t like food waste and really try to avoid it.
Onto the chicken, and the parts of the chicken that are juicier – the thigh and leg – were pretty good. Still quite tender with crispy skin, I enjoyed it. But the breast was really dry – and the breast is the larger part. So dry, that…yes…I left some on my plate. And I don’t think I’ve ever left meat.
Finally, and with some sadness and distaste, the gravy was orangey-brown with bright orange oily spots in it, that tasted overwhelmingly salty. You could say that I wasn’t a fan. You could say that it detracted from an already below-average roast dinner. The more I ate, the more I disliked the gravy, the more salt accumulated in my mouth and the more I realised that I really wasn’t enjoying this roast at all.
Pump up the petrol in my car
Writing scathing reviews of near-independents (just 3 pubs in the chain) isn’t an especially joyous experience post-pandemic.
Yet The Duchy Arms was far too quiet for a pub on a sunny, Sunday afternoon – at the very least the garden should be full, if not half the pub too. It has very good reviews on social media, yet few mention the food. I’m kind of hoping that I’m doing them a favour – as they might not realise how poor their Sunday roast offering is. Granted, given that their website is stuck in 1999, they probably won’t read this.
And it wasn’t like everything was bad. The carrots and broccoli were good, the non-breast part of the chicken was good too. Yet the gravy was pretty bad – probably the worst that I’ve had since a virus didn’t escape from a lab in China – oily, orange, salty with an odd taste. Undercooked roasties, rubbery yorkie, very dry chicken breast – all the most important parts of a roast were, well, pretty crap.
It is quite easily the worst roast I’ve had this year – and worse than anything I’ve had since the pandemic started.
I’m scoring it a lowly 5.75 out of 10.
Given the amount of positive reviews on Google, they are clearly doing something right in terms of being a good pub, and keeping customers happy – one assumes there is a bit of a community vibe to it. It’s very possible that I caught them on an off-day – but also their Instagram mentioned a few weeks back that they had re-launched their Sunday roast offering. So maybe they knew something was wrong then?
And in between all the good reviews on Google (few of which mention food), there was one saying the food was atrocious.
Next Sunday I’m going to see mom and pops – assuming my driver can find some petrol by Friday. My mother did say that she was going to cook beef for us next Sunday, to which I replied, “I shall cook the beef”. My mother can only overcook beef.
So I’ll be back the week after. Apparently the place we are going to is normally excellent but occasionally crap, according to my accomplices. If you need to read something in my absence, there’s always Kier Starmer’s essay…
The Duchy Arms, Kennington
Tube Lines: Victoria
Fare Zone: Zone 1
Loved & Loathed
Loved: Well, the carrots and broccoli were decent.
Loathed: Most of the roast - orange, oily, yucky gravy, undercooked roasties, dry chicken, rubbery yorkie - ticked a lot of loathing.