After a hectic two days of full-on London tourism, 30,000 steps walked, some good and not so good food eaten, and plenty of beer and wine consumed, what I really needed was a 1.5 hour trek across London, accompanied with a hangover, to The Hand In Hand in Wimbledon.
Who’s fucking idea was this?
Actually. It was yours.
I wasn’t planning on such a hangover when I booked it, nor did I realise that this involved 2 tube trains, 1 train then a 25 minute walk. Half of which was uphill. With a “why the fuck do I have a roast dinner blog” kinda hangover. Am I swearing more than normal recently? Oh, I should probably point out that there are potentially NSFW images below…though not mega unsafe – will depend on your HR department’s policy.
Why do I do this to myself?
Two of us arrived 20 minutes early, at which point we were advised of a 40 minute wait for food. Nice to be advised – I can handle that, especially if it increases the chance of freshly roasted roasties.
We sat there, drinking our Neck Oils (in Estrella glasses…erm…) and briefly discussing the merits of the establishment which we had seemingly travelled the length of a small country to experience.
The Hand in Hand is just across from the common, on a rather picturesque spot of land in Wimbledon. Everything about it said “you are not in London” – not just the ridiculous mission to get there. Bizarrely, it was just a few doors away from another pub, the Crooked Billet – also owned by Young’s – but despite the competition almost all of the tables insides and outside were taken.
It seemed very much a locals pub – affluent locals, and one assumed many of them were locals given the ballache to get here, even if you live in the centre of Wimbledon.
There were not huge amounts of people eating roast dinners when we looked around, which is always a slight note of concern in a local’s pub, though still a slight majority eating them. Plenty of burgers spotted, despite a far more interesting non-roast menu.
We were sat to the right as you enter, in a room which had one of those ceilings which seemed even lower than it was – it felt like a really good winter’s afternoon pub. The pub was also trying to make full use of the space, which involved cramming tables a little too close together, as exemplified by a waitress struggling to squeeze past two tables and managing to drop some gravy – the horrors – and little more than 2-3cm away from my shoulder. Yikes.
Also, it was now an hour’s wait for food, which forced my accomplice to order some bread – which came with a fairly solid block of beef dripping. Whilst I admired the ingenuity – butter would have been sufficient – and preferable to a taste-free solid block of beige.
Away from the roast dinners, the menu seemed intriguing and like some thought had gone into it. In other words lots of ingredients that a basic northern twat like myself hadn’t heard of.
For the roast dinners the options were sirloin of beef, duo of pork – belly and shoulder, half roast chicken or lamb shoulder, all priced between £16 and £18. You could also add a side-portion of pigs in blankets for £4.75, which greatly excited me until I remembered that I had given up bacon for a month. Given up bacon. What kind of twat gives up bacon for a month? There is reason behind it but I have no idea why you read this nonsense (certainly not to find new good roast dinner places), so I don’t want put you off and bore you any more than I already have done.
I went for the pork at £16.50 as who doesn’t want two types of pork? It also advertised itself as coming with a “homemade Yorkshire pudding” (I should probably cry that people feel that they have to advertise that it is homemade), along with goose fat and roast potatoes. I’d prefer the roast potatoes to be cooked in goose fat rather than just offering goose fat on the side, but hey. Before you say anything, there are no stray commas in ANY of my reviews. So yes, I can be a patronising remoaner towards stray punctuation.
Homemade roast dinner reviews
It was a bit less than an hour before our roast dinners arrived, whilst I enjoyed my second Neck Oil, this time in a Peroni glass. Well, two of our roast dinners arrived and right on cue, the fire alarm went off. Yes, a fire alarm at the exact moment that my food arrived.
I’m just going to build up the suspense by inserting a homage to Lola Ferrari.
I thought she was more attractive than that? At least that’s what my memory paints from my teenage years. Hmmm.
Anyway, nobody moved and after a couple of minutes of silence where the whole pub was frozen in the moment, waiting for VAR, the alarm then stopped and we went back to talking about how good it would be to go back in time to before we were a member of the EU. Because everything was better back in the day. Right?
I feel like I want to tell you about the liquid on the plate first, but I’ll start with the next step up. Swede mash was sweet and a bit watery. A missed opportunity.
Cabbage was cabbage. Fine. I liked it but it didn’t really do much.
By the way, I had a brilliant idea. What we could do is test the government’s no deal preparations. We could all get together, all 67 million remainers (inflating numbers is de rigour nowadays), block all the ports and then very slowly let in lorries with the paperwork that we deem to be acceptable. We could call it Extinction…Blockade. Yes, Extinction Blockade. Anyone unemployed enough to want to organise this for me?
There were two over-roasted slices of carrot, kind of flavourless but inoffensive. And one very much overdone slice of parsnip which was offensive. But by no means the toughest thing on my plate…just wait until later. You know where this is going, don’t you? Fucking democracy.
The roast potatoes were totally crudtastic. Thankfully small, yet they seemed like they had been roasted long in advance – goose fat or no goose fat, these were fairly solid and dry. Yet even they were not the toughest thing on the plate.
There was a little bit of joy – at least in my eyes, as the Yorkshire pudding, sorry, homemade Yorkshire pudding was soft and squidgy. Neither too large or too dinky, it was much preferable to those suffering with heatlampitis. Though not all of my accomplices agreed, one in particular hated it – then again she won’t eat vegetables that her father may or may not have pissed on. In joke – don’t worry about it.
So the toughest part of the dinner was the pork. Much of it could have done with a steak knife, for whilst a minority of the shoulder was relatively tender, the majority was tough and hard to cut, seeming that it had been cooked for far too long and possibly was leftover’s from last Sunday. It was hard work cutting the meat – exactly what my hangover also didn’t need.
The pork belly strand was worse – this was way overcooked and dried out. There was one bite with some nice gooey crackling, otherwise this was really tough, chewy, turgid meat.
And then there was the gravy. For which I helpfully wrote in my notes, “water was water”.
You know, a nice, thick meaty gravy could have hidden the blandness and over-cooking of the vegetables, and perhaps have partially disguised the turgidity of the pork.
Yet it seemed like the chef was running out of gravy and just diluted it with water. It isn’t like The Hand In Hand is the only place that has served watery gravy this month, let alone in the life of this miserable blog, but it was what I imagined must have happened. You could at least taste some meat stock going on, though this is similar to me defending Prince Andrew for sticking with his sex offender friend. STOP THIS PISSY, WATERY GRAVY, LON, DON.
Young’s head office, if you are reading and I know that this is more possible than me ever listening to any of the voicemails that are left for me, please send your chefs to gravy school. I know that you have a training centre – I think you need to train them how to make proper, thick, northern gravy.
Finally, I also shared a side-dish of…erm…a leek and cheese crumble type thing, which was actually delicious. I kept thinking that I was about it eat rhubarb crumble from appearances, yet the cheese was particularly gorgeous. Alas, you had to pay extra if you wanted to enjoy any of this roast dinner.
Democracy. What is it good for? Yes I am a sore loser. No I won’t get over it.
Why did you make me go here?
My accomplices that ordered the pigs in blankets didn’t even finish them. Yes, two pigs in blankets were left uneaten. If that isn’t a good enough summary, I don’t know what is. Maybe I should add that this side-dish turned up towards the end of the meal.
They clearly can do good food at The Hand In Hand, as evidenced by the leek and cheese side-dish. And it is a very popular pub, with pretty much no free tables when we arrived – my upcoming poor score here is highly unlikely to affect their business. My assumption is that they are doing something right that I did not get to experience.
Though continuing to serve dire roast dinners like this would assumedly be detrimental in the long run.
Scores around the table varied; 3, 4, 5, 5.5 and a 6. At first, my thoughts hadn’t sunk in properly (I was too hungover to think in time for conversation) and I was like, “well it was kind of average”. Yet no part of the Sunday roast was good – maybe at a push the yorkie. The vegetables were either bland or way over-done (bar the side-dish which cost extra), it was probably the toughest pork I had ever had with typically crud roasties and water masquerading as gravy.
The roast dinner itself had no redeeming factors. Yes, the pub was gorgeous, but that isn’t worth a 1.5 hour journey each way (well, it took me longer on the way home…don’t ask).
I’m scoring it a 4.98 out of 10. Ouch.
It should be noted that the 3 higher scores were all by people who had the beef, which was complimented upon. Those of us rating it under a 5, all endured the pork. At least it was better than the restaurant at London Zoo:
The experience ended by the waitress coming over to clear our plates just as we were discussing how dreadful we thought it was, “was everything good for you?”, came the question (or similar). She looked at me and I went quiet and I fumbled in a British manner, “well some was good and some was, erm, not”. “The beef was good”, qualified an accomplice. The waitress had paused, as if the fire alarm was still going off, waiting for more comment, so I mentioned that the pork was really tough.
Death to Cleisthenes
She came back with 10% off our bill, which was a mildly redeeming touch – I do wonder what she’d have offered had we then mentioned the gravy, the roasties, etc…yet we just wanted to escape the embarrassment and go for a beer elsewhere. Service was polite and effective – we just about managed to scrape half a tip together once we’d paid and realised that there was no service charge. No service charge – unbelievable, Jeff. Maybe we really weren’t in London, after all?
My luck didn’t get much better, as I subsequently ended up going the wrong way home on the Jubilee Line. I went to exactly the same platform as always. Why on earth TFL thought it appropriate to completely change both platforms at Waterloo over the last week I have no fucking idea. Yeah I know you didn’t ask for this story.
Which then also meant I was in time to get soaking wet in the pouring rain on the way home – a delight I would have missed had the platforms not been swapped.
For next weekend, the random number generator has chosen somewhere in Wimbledon. The random number generator can go fuck itself as much as the British public’s recent voting record.
South London – you are dead to me on a Sunday now.
Before I go, nominations are open for the People’s Roast Vote 3. Because more democracy is really what I desire right now. And Freddie, if you are reading the fruits of your recommendation, you owe me a pint!