The Holly Bush, Hampstead

After last week’s macabre roast at the Hand In Hand in Wimbledon, I was most unamused when the random number generator picked somewhere else in Wimbledon for my roast dinner this week. Instead, I woke up on Saturday morning to find out to my surprise that I’d booked The Holly Bush in Hampstead. It could have been worse – I woke up once to a vuvuzela being delivered.

I would have gone to Wimbledon, because it would have been jokes. It would at least have made a funnier introduction than this has.

There was good reason for booking The Holly Bush in Hampstead and that was down to a hero of mine. They do say (or I am making this up) that heroes come in all shapes and sizes (quite often with ginger hair and a cricket bat) – and this time a vegetarian saved me from going back to Wimbledon. She wanted to go to north London – so we went to north London. I LOVE VEGETARIANS.

After a long walk through the rather stunning Golder’s Green park on a boiling hot day, we arrived at the rather beautiful exterior of The Holly Bush in Hampstead, feeling rather clammy – fat me was anyway. Not often I get hot and sweaty in front of an attractive young lady…actually…that’s a lie, that happens most commutes. Even on the air conditioned Metropolitan line. I actually paid £5 for that vuvuzela too.

Want to be introduced to another one of my heroes? The greatest rapper ever to have existed in history – one fag one tea – MC Pitman.

I’m going to my mam’s to get a Sunday roast.

Wonder what he’d think of some of the wanky roasts that I’ve had in London…

I’ve got coal to dig at The Holly Bush. Tosser.

It was certainly a charming area to have a pub, just slightly off the main high street in Hampstead, quite adorably cute. Inside, there were at least three rooms, all kind of old worldy wood panel, though not that busy, despite it being a bank holiday – or perhaps because it was a bank holiday.

Then again, we were dining at 3:30pm which was the earliest time I could apparently book – I have a vague recollection of struggling to find anywhere in the area with a table I could book. So maybe everyone had left to go walk their ferrets and smoke drugs on Hampstead Heath by this point.

I know I shouldn’t have got my hopes up, given that it was 10 weeks since I’d had anything better than a half-decent roast, but I had a suspicion that The Holly Bush might just provide us with a good roast dinner – and not just because it was not south of the river (I will eventually launch a stats page). And when they offered us a table in an air conditioned dining room – I was won over. How could it not be a good roast dinner?

Apologies for the ‘c’ word appearing

They were perhaps a little too keen to take our order, coming over and asking if we were ready 3 times before we’d really digested our options…I was with a vegetarian and she clearly wasn’t used to having more than one option to choose from. Ahhh the wonders of London.

Options on the menu were sirloin of beef, slow braised lamb shank, chicken sharer or pork belly, priced between £17.50 and £21.

I must admit that I have had such a bad run recently that I was even getting to the point of going totally crazy and having a vegetarian roast dinner. At some point. A butternut squash and feta wellington would be the kind of thing that I could stomach. I wasn’t quite at this point of desperation though, and ordered the lamb. At £21. Ouch. My accomplice did order the vegetarian roast so I might even mention it.

Get a wash mate

I’d forgotten to mention something critical until our waitress asked us if we had any allergies. Peas. And there were peas on the dinner, so a pretty close call. Imagine if I finally had a good roast dinner, but there were peas on the plate?

Around 15 minutes later, our dinners arrived.

Only £129 each for a place on the Lord Gravy Food Photography course.

So, the carrots were carrots. The parsnips were parsnips. The cabbage was cabbage. Shall we just get onto talking about how bad the roast potatoes were? You get me? One coal one spade. Pitman’s me name. I’m digging coal while your digging Love Island. Tossers.

So, the carrots were nicely roasted. Soft and succulent. Yeah. Nice. Let me dig. I’ll get me spade and me helmet and dig some carrots.

The parnsips (I really cannot spell today) were the best I’ve had in some time – again, soft and succulent – but really flavoursome too.

Cabbage was cabbage. It was my accomplice’s favourite part of the meal, and I enjoyed it too. I like cabbage but there wasn’t much to say other than it was cabbage.

OK. Roast potatoes. They were crispy on the outside and had been roasted properly. Not recently though – there was a fair-sized gap between when these were prepared and when they were served. Tired, was a good description of them. At some point in the past, these were probably good roast potatoes, though I’ve had far worse.

One fag, one tea, no yorkie

The Yorkshire pudding was…oh. I don’t know. Where was the Yorkshire pudding? Answers on a postcard with a cup of tea and a battered sausage.

Lamb shanks can be amazing. However they can also be mass-produced in a factory and stored in a freezer for weeks, and be more of a cultural abomination than Love Island.

Thankfully, this was the former. The meat just fell off the bone – I’m using the word “succulent” yet again in this blog – I could use the word heavenly, at least in terms of texture and quality. I’m loathe to sound like I’m adding a note of criticism, but it could have been a bit more flavoursome – like, it had a proper earthy lamb flavour…but you know, a couple of fennel seeds or something could have made it outstandingly sexy rather than just pretty damn sexy.

And finally, I’ve found a chef that understands what gravy should be. Firstly, it came in a jug – not a thimble. TAKE NOTE, LONDON. And possibly in the largest jug I’ve ever been served – one of the only times that I have not had to order extra gravy.

Also, it resembled gravy instead of water. Gravy that wasn’t water with some flecks in. Who knew this was possible in London? It was thick, it was creamy, it was meat stocky. It wasn’t amazing in terms of flavour – but memorable for consistency and actually being gravy.

My accomplice was, alas, unconvinced about her vegetarian roast. She had no parsnips (unless they are part of an animal?) and also no yorkie, from what I recall. The mushroom gravy was nice – but more a creamy mushroom sauce than a gravy.

One coal, one spade, one good roast dinner?

A good roast dinner? Yes, it actually was.

Of course, the first time that I’ve had a pretty damn good roast in a while, yet there were still issues – this time in terms of things that were missing – namely the parsnips for my accomplice, and the yorkies for both of us. Given the high prices that we paid, I’d expect to get everything that we paid for.

However, there are far more positives than negatives, so let’s not dwell on what went wrong…although it has been so long since I’ve had a good roast dinner, I’ve forgotten how to write praise.

The meat was heavenly and the gravy actually was gravy. I hope you are also impersonating the open-mouthed emoji right now. The vegetables were pretty decent too.

Alas, the roast potatoes were tired from all the standing around that they seemed to have done.

I’m scoring it a 7.77 out of 10. A very good roast dinner though marked slightly down for not managing to plate up as per the menu suggested.

Next Sunday the random number generator has picked somewhere in the Twat Farm of London, though it does look really quite interesting. Not a solo dining place, so I might actually have to put some effort into finding someone to come with me.

On that note I’ll leave you with…Twat Farm.

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One Comment

  1. I would think the lack of yorkie and tired potatoes might not have been an issue earlier in the day? I have never cooked a roast dinner as the logistics would defeat me, but a friend from Lancashire does a brilliant version. When he is ready to serve we need to be all sitting down and holding our knives and forks.

    I have had thick gravy, and lots of it, with Sunday roast at the Delaunay. Quality control I will leave to you!

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