Ladies and Gentlemen.
This week, in the national interest, I set out to review a Sunday roast at The Foresters Arms in Hampton. Chosen by random number generator which apparently according to arch-Brexiter, Steve Baker, is a suitable way to choose a Prime Minister.
There are many ways I could start the review, though the most striking candidates are all rants – should I start with a rant about the buffoonery of leaving the EU? Or maybe I should start by reminding you how bad last Sunday’s roast dinner was? Or maybe I should talk about Piegate, and my insulting, unprofessional, disrespectful and unnecessary suggestion that Corbyn might nationalise pie shops, leaving people with only Pukka Pies?
But no, my long-suffering friends (aka people I met once whilst off my nut in a nightclub 10 years ago) on Facebook are tormented on an almost-daily basis with my rants about being delayed on the Metropolitan line, and I feel that I should start this post with a bit of a complaint about TFL.
Hampton isn’t the easiest place to get to, with just one train every 30 minutes from London or Richmond. I had two choices – either get the Metropolitan line and go via London Waterloo, or get the Piccadilly line and go via Richmond. Both were alleging a ‘good service’, so seeing as I had had so much recent pain from the Metropolitan line, I went and waited for a Piccadilly line train.
25 minutes later, one turned up.
Which meant I missed my connecting train to Hampton. There is a point to this story – I can see you reaching for the close button already (just wait until I stop taking the piss out of politicians and replace it with analysis of government tax policy, as my complainer requested). I was going to be late for my booked table.
Being a vaguely decent human being (and a Tory) I thought I should call the venue to advise that I’d be around 30 minutes late. Some slight confusion and near-consternation ensued, but after a short wait they decided that shortening the time that we had the table was acceptable. I was an hour into my journey and I wasn’t keen on having to find somewhere new!
I arrived into Hampton Wick a whole two hours after I had set off (why the fuck do I do this blog?), had a short walk down the road and found The Foresters Arms. At the time I assumed that this would thankfully be my one and only visit to Hampton, but I have since realised that I have another venue in Hampton on my to-do list. Have any of you ever heard of Hampton, let alone visited? Is there any point in me reviewing another place in the Jacob Rees-Mogg end of nowhere? Apart from the national interest. I know how Theresa May feels sometimes.
Inside The Foresters Arms seemed at first light (or lack of it) to be almost a proper Berkshire countryside pub – alas, it was the black drapes giving a false sense of senescence. Less obvious were the stripped brick walls and fairy lights – were it not for the black drapes you’d suggest a hipster designation for the decor, in what seemed more a popular small-town establishment.
I waited at the bar to advise of my arrival, to be told school-teacherly, “you’re 40 minutes late…” in a ‘we haven’t got a table for you’ kinda way. I quickly interrupted to remind of my earlier phone call, at which point it was, “absolutely, sir, please do come this way”.
Thankfully my tardiness was not a total embarrassment as my dining partner arrived shortly after me (approximately 7 train carriages and a cigarette after me). And I had a special guest this week – no, not Ginger Spice – a professional chef. So on the off-chance that I can actually remember what he said, you might actually get a little insight this week into what it tasted like.
On the menu this week was rib-eye of beef, leg of lamb, chicken breast or pork belly, all priced at £17.00. And some vegetarian thing. I decided to go for the rib-eye of beef – mostly because I felt inspired by the great unwashed closing bridges in London at the weekend, causing extra pollution – so I inferred from that inspiring movement that I should also damage the environment that bit extra and therefore ordered beef. I did mean to set fire to a box of plastic straws too, but totally forgot.
I also really like rib-eye.
Oh and we also ordered some cauliflower cheese at the sum of £5.00.
Dinner took around 10-15 minutes to arrive. It looked neither a winner or a loser, though I was confused by the lump of what appeared to be vanilla ice cream, which I immediately removed. I WILL CHOOSE WHETHER I WANT A CONDIMENT THANK YOU.
Our assumption was that it was some kind of whipped horse-radish butter concoction.
Chantenay carrots were supplied, and oddly were both topped and tailed – and then cut in half. A lot of unnecessary effort, and though nice, they were lacking in any kind of va va voom…or flavour.
The green beans were nice, on the squeaky side and you could tell that they were high quality. But they were just ordinary in a nice kind of way – something else could have been done. One thing that myself and my accomplice discussed, was the range of expectations that people have for their Sunday roast. It is a meal laden with expectation, which perhaps reduces a chef’s ability or daring, to do something different.
Pretty much everyone that ordered a meal in the pub that day would have had the green beans, and the carrots, and the roast potatoes…you get me. Nobody can escape them if the particular flavour isn’t to their liking – so maybe that is why chefs and venues do play it safe on Sunday roasts.
That said, the red cabbage was pretty tasty, and seemed to have both red wine and cinnamon (I totally got the cinnamon, honest) within it – then again, perhaps red cabbage is expected to have something more to it. I’d still rather not have red cabbage – the tiny bits of purple that infected the rest of my dish were a tad irritating to me. Ahh expectations.
I’d expect something more interesting and voluminous for £5 in terms of the cauliflower cheese – which came in one of those omnipresent small charcoal-black pots, and had limited cheese flavouring – probably cheddar or something similarly inoffensive. You could definitely taste the white sauce more then the cheese – but a dignified effort.
The roast potatoes were superb. Seriously flavoursome – a hint of rosemary, perhaps garlic and definitely sea salt, combined magically, along with crispy sides and fluffy centres. I’ve probably had better on my adventures, but these were excellent. So good that we ordered a sidedish (one word or two?) of roast potatoes for dessert. Which were unnecessary, and too salty for our needs by that point.
The Yorkshire pudding was well-structured, if feeling just a little bit aged and marginally over-done. It complimented the beef, as it should, but offered little other value than just additional calories, which a fat bastard like me doesn’t really need.
As I mentioned, the beef. I probably would have gone for the lamb, were it not for being inspired by the climate protest tossers closing bridges on Saturday, though rib-eye is a cut I can always be tempted by – and is my go-to choice of steak, every time.
This was perfectly cooked medium-rare beef though a little limited in volume with just two juicy slices. It was also limited in flavour, almost tasting like water at times. As is the theme so far, something more could have been done to bring out the flavour. It was good, but disappointingly good.
I don’t really remember much about the gravy, which is probably a good thing. It was advertised as a gluten-free jus, though in terms of consistency it was more like a gravy.
There was a definite theme throughout the whole Sunday roast. They were meeting expectations but never exceeding them – bar the roast potatoes. Good quality ingredients but generally ordinary flavour.
Reading back, it does read more negative than it deserves. I do want to stress that this was a good roast dinner (not that you are likely to go to Hampton anyway) – but given the quality of ingredients, I’d like to see more imagination and flavour. That time spent trimming carrots could have been used much more effectively.
Service was sufficient – a 12.5% service charge was added but…Chequers. Briefly speaking to one member of staff towards the end, it did sound like they had had a few issues during the day and things weren’t running as smoothly as normal – so given that neither of us noticed (bar the table nearly being cancelled) I guess mild kudos is due.
I’m scoring it a 7.41 out of 10 – and my accomplice agreed with that score.
Given the shambolic efforts of TFL recently, I over-ruled the random number generator around 25 times before finding somewhere relatively convenient (if anywhere really is convenient when living in zone 5) to go for a roast dinner next Sunday – also over-ruling expensive places and places without a table (damn you Smokehouse Islington).
I don’t expect anything too special for next Sunday. But sometimes a lack of high expectations can be victorious.