Central London isn’t somewhere I tend to think about in terms of foodie destinations. It can be very hit and miss – places are going to get plenty of customers from tourists alone – and forgive me for being so rude but most southerners cannot tell what a good roast dinner is, let alone temporary immigrants. Even a friend of mine who I disagree with pretty much everything on, thinks central London is not the place for a good roast dinner (he also thinks Iceland is the second best supermarket in the country, and voted to leave the EU – I say no more).
Despite that…and Brexit, two of my favourite roast dinners so far have been in central London, Temper in Soho, and my long-time number 1, The Old Red Cow in Farringdon. Though perhaps Farringdon is pushing it a bit for a central London classification?
Then on the other hand, there is the abominable Red Lion in Westminster – of which I have eaten twice at and both times been severely disappointed (the second meal was free in apology for the first one being so bad).
It does feel quite rare having a roast dinner in central London, and this week when the random number generator picked The George in The Strand, I was pretty nonplussed about it. They don’t have an overwhelming social media presence, they don’t have many reviews on Trip Advisor for roasts (I try not to look beforehand but curiosity beat me) and I don’t recall anyone telling me that I should go there. I have no idea why it was on my to-do list.
Yet it must be on the list for a reason. And the outside of the building is gorgeous – a wonderful Tudor style building…or is it Viking style? Don’t ask me, I barely did anything at school, and history was soooo boring – though they did, of course, teach us how evil Margaret Thatcher was. Which probably explains why I vote Tory, as whatever my teachers said – I did the opposite.
And look how far I have got in life. I’ve not spent time in jail, I’ve never had a class A drug addiction and I don’t work in pea factory. My teachers said that I would never come to anything in life. Yet I am a roast dinner reviewer. Check me out and my small nob.
Speaking of which, I wrote to London’s premier media establishment and asked if they would like to do a feature on my blog, as next weekend is roast number 50. Were this Russia, Azerbaijan or Italy, I would have been shot by now. Yet making it to roast dinner number 50 in the UK is still a big deal. I have special plans, though I do feel that it is about time the major media covered this blog – even if perhaps I am not yet ready for a television show (I need a lose some weight and grow some proper boobs before I go on TV – I’ll never become famous as a straight, fat, ugly, white middle-aged man).
Back inside The George on The Strand – just where The Strand meets Fleet Street, going through the doors felt like going into a proper old-school pub, built with solid wood beams with not a fairy light, exposed brick or teal-coloured wall in sight. Yet it also felt a bit tired and a bit tattified, with an old TV in the corner showing the southern anti-rugby, and some questionable music overhead which occasionally made me feel like I was in O’Neills…which is a marginal improvement from being in a playground like last Sunday.
They also had a restaurant upstairs but alas, not open on a Sunday. Ominous?
It wasn’t overly busy either, a steady trade of occupied tables, but nothing to suggest a particular popularity – not even Mother’s Day seemed to have much effect.
We deliberated for some time as to whether to have one of the gorgeous-looking sausage rolls on the bar for starter, before deciding just to order our roasts – the options were beef rump at £16, chicken at £15 or pork belly at £14.50. I don’t recall seeing a vegetarian roast dinner on offer, but that doesn’t really mean much. I went for chicken – I was half-concerned that it might not be a great roast dinner, so I thought chicken was the safest option. We also ordered a side of cauliflower and leek cheese, to share between 3 of us, at a price of £3.50.
Dinner took around 20 minutes to arrive…hang on, I think we need some music to go with this.
It’ll help. Trust me, I’m a DJ (though so are most people nowadays).
Oh yeah – extended 12″ version as I bang on quite a lot. We’ll live it like in a dolce vita.
There was barely a dribble of gravy on the plate, so the first thing to do was ask for some more – not knowing if our Italian hostess would understand my request, “can we have lots of extra gravy to go around” sometimes means one small thimble for you all to share, but at The George, we received a jug each, small, admittedly, but enough. Kudos.
Starting with half a horizontally sliced carrot. This had been roasted nicely, was still firm but a little flexible, and pretty good.
Moving onto the greens which had come in one of those cute metal mini-saucepan pots that must be a nightmare for stacking in dishwashers. Mostly consisted of savoy cabbage, though there were a scattering of green beans, and one solitary pea. Yes a pea. However, I was in a forgiving mood. The greens did mix nicely with the gravy, of which I will talk more about later.
Then a bit of wow. Yes, some wow on a £15 roast dinner in central London – yes made from vegetables. Parsnips, in fact, mashed in texture though much finer that that, formed into a loose pattie shape, combined with what seemed to be mustard seeds. Delicately-structured and exceptionally flavoursome – this really was excellent.
Tell me that you are signing along?
I’m never entirely sure whether I should just rate what comes on the roast dinner plate itself, or I should include any specific sides into the rating too. If I’ve just ordered a plate of chips to go with it through some moronic spur-of-the-moment idea, then that is a clear no. But if as part of the roast menu, it specifically offers a complimentary side, then should I?
The cauliflower and leek cheese dish, was hard to ignore in terms of ordering, and is even harder to ignore in terms of scoring. This was the best cauliflower cheese dish that I’ve ever had in London. With leek, though the leek was more a hint. The cauliflower was perfectly cooked – not rock hard, not squidgy soft either – right in the middle. Enough cream, but thick enough not to pollute the gravy, and the cheese was really tasty – I’m no cheese expert, I’d guess at something close to a mature cheddar, though it wasn’t far off a Stilton-type taste either.
And you are not going to believe the next bit.
C.R.I.S.P.Y R.O.A.S.T P.O.T.A.T.O.E.S
OK, they were small – a couple more wouldn’t go amiss. Being roasted in goose or duck fat could have enhanced the flavour as could some herbs, but these were actual proper crispy roast potatoes. Shit a brick, London, you can do crispy roast potatoes after all. We’re living like in a dolce vita.
I see your hips swaying with me, now.
The Yorkshire pudding was very good. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside – it had a good consistency. I’ve had larger – but I’m starting to see through the oversized yorkie game, as quite often the larger ones can end up brittle. This was very good though not exceptional.
None of the top 10 roast dinners have been chicken. I like to think that I spread around my meat types, so it isn’t down to my not ordering chicken often enough. I guess if I suspect somewhere is going to be excellent, then I am more likely to order pork belly, or leg of lamb – or one of my favourite cuts of meat. Chicken can be so tasty if you season it nicely – it can be so interested, yet on quite a few of my chicken roast dinners, it has just been dry.
Not so here. This was the plumpest, juiciest chicken that I have had for some time – one very large breast with a small leg, still some skin on the outside (I’ll choose whether I eat the skin, thanks) – plentiful meat, and it just worked perfectly combined with the yorkie, stuffing and gravy. Mmm, gonna dream tonight.
The chicken was so good that it will make me rethink my whole roast dinner meat decision-making process going forwards.
Say you’re gonna love my blog. See you are signing along with me, aren’t you?
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Finally, the gravy. Thankfully, it didn’t let the side down, and was a fairly thick yet quite rich gravy – not too rich to overpower everything, though not one that you would want to totally drown your food in…not even I would.
Have you ever known me this effusive? Our love is made in the dolce vita.
This was so good that I was even tempted out of my dessert detox. Three stood out – apple and rhubarb crumble, chocolate fondue and banana and ginger cake. I chose the crumble, forgetting that nobody makes as good a fruit crumble as my mother (well, except me). It was good but not a patch on the roast – and not a patch on the gorgeous chocolate fondue.
Thankfully, dessert doesn’t come into the roast dinner reviewing equation.
Now this is a big moment. Easily my best ever chicken roast dinner in London. Best ever chicken roast dinner eaten in a pub/restaurant. I spent some time in disbelief afterwards – I was totally sober (I have been utterly boring since 1st January, not even a crack pipe) yet I wasn’t sure if I had had the best roast dinner in London, or not.
The carrots and cabbage were just good, but everything else was very good or excellent. Even reaching wow standard on the chicken, cauliflower cheese and parsnips mash thing.
Ladies, transsexuals and gentlemen. And bi-genders. And cis-genders. Non-binaries, neutrois, demigenders, agenders, intergenders, pangenders, cisgenders, trigenders and androgynes – have I missed any of you out? For this is not only the best roast dinner that I have ever had in London, it also reaches an incredible score of 9.02 out of 10.
Yes I have used the 9+ category for the first time in 49 roast dinner reviews of London, not to mention the 70 or so that I did when I run Roast Dinners Around Reading.
And for just £15.00. Plus 12.5% service charge – but again, unusually, service was actually worth the service charge. We were very well looked after by the compelling yet pretty young lady from Florence – always there for our requests, making appropriate recommendations, asking many a time if we wanted tea and coffee, and having brief chats with us about how wonderful tourists are. Or something like that. For all the charm that the pub itself may have lost on the inside, she more than recompensed.
I enjoyed this so much that I am really tempted to book myself into the restaurant one evening. Don’t let me down, George. Now is not the time to go wobbly.
Can you believe what I’ve just done? I’ve talked effusively for pretty much a whole blog, without any moaning. I’ve barely even mentioned Brexit.
I should mention that the beef rump wasn’t anywhere near as good as my chicken. It was tasty, it was rare, but rather fatty – my accomplice had leftovers and I couldn’t be bothered with a chewing marathon.
I don’t know where to go from here. Maybe…
Wipe all your fears away
We’ll live it like in a dolce vita
A game of yesterday
I’m so alone in a dolce vita
Oh baby, telephone
This magic’s gone in a dolce vita
Nobody else than you.
As I mentioned, next weekend is review number 50. There are a few places which I think could be even better – Blacklock, Pig & Butcher, Bull & Last, Tredwells… well, I’ve bolded them on my to-do list, you can look yourself. Though being the obnoxious moron that I am, I could just going to Morrison’s cafe for a roast.
You’ll find out in a week. Bye, love you – feel free to send me a picture of your boobs (erm, except you, sister). Say you’ll never leave me now. Say you’re gonna love me. And follow me on Twitter. And Facebook. And Instagram.
Live in a Dolce Vita.
You’ve just bought it on Discogs, haven’t you?