Don’t mention the election. Don’t mention the election. Don’t mention the election. Don’t mention the election. Don’t mention the election. This week I took a few delightful accomplices to The Royal Oak in Harlesden.
The accomplices that were joining were keen on my choosing of somewhere that I thought would be good, for the last time they joined me they had to suffer the gastronomic cruelty of The Hand In Hand in Wimbledon (chosen by the people on the People’s Roast Vote…yeah). The random number generator’s choice was fully booked, so I sent a few suggestions over to the group, and we settled for The Royal Oak. In Harlesden.
Have you ever been to Harlesden?
The closest I had been was walking a little in the other direction from Willesden Station to a Galician restaurant called Centro Galego de Londres (amazing Galician tapas – but be warned that you would probably be the only non-Spanish person in there). Go especially for the octopus – and I have still not mentioned the election.
Anyway, we turned left, past Deals On Wheels (Frank!), past a restaurant called Dracula (really?), some dodgy looking pubs, some dodgy looking people – and made it to our destination. You could say that it felt like an up-and-coming area. Or you could say that it felt like a shithole.
The road reminded us of Spring Bank West in Hull (still not Tory). Or Hessle Road in Hull. Or Hedon Road in Hull. Or Beverley Road in Hull. With more Somalis than Hull.
Why am I not talking about the election? Well, it wasn’t very good for me. Website visitors were at their lowest since July and my Twitter followers dropped by 2%. Who would have thought that not metaphorically sucking Corbyn’s willy, which is possibly even smaller than mine, would be unpopular on my Roast Dinners in London Twitter account?
Well, to all those who unfollowed me on Twitter – enjoy your roast potato lottery. For the wise and intelligent people still follow me. Guess they won’t need my blog anyway as they will all be leaving the country, just like I did after the Brexit vote. I looked into leaving the country. Well, I looked at jobs in Spain. Then realised they were written in Spanish. I’m actually still here, but you know, Brexit hasn’t happened yet.
Once we waited approximately one orbit of the moon for a family with small children to leave the pub entrance, we entered to find a fairly empty main room – bar in the middle, chef on the far side.
Our table wasn’t even on the ground floor – we were seated upstairs. We were the only people to be seated upstairs in the upper seating area – there were a few people in the room next to us watching the football, and by “few” I do mean just a few. Well, it was only Man Utd playing – and Londoners tend to support Liverpool nowadays.
Still not mentioned the election
Once everyone arrived, one of the waiters gallantly strode over to take our orders with effusive charm – a charm and humanity greater than the norm, replicated by the other staff.
Alas, we had pre-ordered. We let him go check.
I wasn’t exactly amused about this pre-ordering business. How am I supposed to know what I’ll fancy two weeks before I eat it? Why am I not able to decide on the day? What if I don’t order a starter but then I want one on the day?
And why do I have to pay in advance? It was just a Sunday roast. There was only 6 of us. It wasn’t exactly overly busy. Was there any danger of the pub closing shop and losing my money?
Then we had the complication that only two of the six of us ordered before the deadline – and the online pre-orders closed the day before the deadline.
So others had to e-mail their orders…wait…this is boring isn’t it? You know, if it wasn’t for Brexit, everyone would have been well up for socialism. The election result was absolutely nothing to do with Saint Jeremy – simply all about Brexit. And we have the biased media to blame for that, all funded by evil billionaires.
Still barely mentioned the election
So this pre-ordering business…look, I think we need a period of reflection to decide whether this was right or not.
Thankfully there was a menu on the table to photograph – for there was no other reason to have a menu on the table given that we’d pre-ordered. The staff didn’t seem to understand why we had had to pre-order either – could it be just so DesignMyNight could guarantee their 10% commission? Fucking Russians.
I’d ordered the chicken – simply on the basis that it came with stuffing. Pre-ordered. Yeah I’m going to bang on about it like a broken election. Ahh fuck I’ve just spilt red wine on my imaginary ex-girlfriend’s white knickers.
Speaking of wine, they brought over a carafe, and then a large glass of red wine, because of the “long wait”. And because, “Merry Christmas”.
Well, that is one way to stop a pre-ordered rant about pre-ordering. We didn’t even have to wait that long for our meals to turn up either. Weird, but good weird like my Tinder profile of me in my imaginary ex-girlfriend’s knickers rubbing my nipples.
I was starting to like the The Royal Oak – the feel of the venue was warm and spacious, the staff were quirky and friendly, the furniture was solid with a classic wooden style – and they gave us free wine. Corbyn won the argument, you know?
Still almost no mention of the election
Let’s get started with the carrots. Roasted. Quite soft. I don’t have much else to add.
The savoy cabbage was nice – really rather peppery. At first I thought it was the gravy that was peppery, until I ate a mouthful of food without cabbage.
There was a little swede too (the preferred sexual choice of a good friend of mine) – this seemed overly soft and a bit mushy. It had lost too much context to be enjoyable.
A nice touch was the cauliflower cheese – of which a small bowl was complimentary between two people.
It was pretty top notch too – the cauliflower the right balance of soft yet structured, the cheese sauce mixed with the grilled cheese on top – perhaps no need for the amount of cheese sauce in the bowl but at least it stayed there and didn’t pollute the gravy. Yeah, this was really good.
Still barely mentioned the election that clearly was stolen by Russian hackers
We each had three roast potatoes and they were properly crispy on the outside – arguably too crispy as they were a little tough to cut through too. Inside fairly soft – again a touch of the “made earlier” about them, but these were lower Premier League roasties. I’d be very satisfied if this was the usual standard. Unless I was an Arsenal fan in which case I’d continually moan. I backed them to get relegated the other day at 250-1 – you won’t get odds that generous now.
It’s increasingly rare that I come away without thinking that the Yorkshire pudding was utterly pointless and this pot-style of dried batter was a waste of effort – might as well not have bothered. Alas, Roast Dinner Nazis like me wouldn’t let them get away with it. Yeah chill out, I voted Liberal Democrat this time. At least it was edible.
A full half chicken was supplied – a proper grown-up, plump chicken – a juicy breast, no sign of dryness which is often an issue. Skin still intact and a decent leg portion too.
The stuffing was a bit cylindrical and looked factory-made. I’m in two minds as to whether it was, but it didn’t really add much – and given that I decided to order this just because it came with stuffing, didn’t give me great confidence in my decision making abilities.
And finally, the gravy.
It wasn’t bad gravy.
It just wasn’t my type of gravy. It was very rich – it overpowered everything else on the plate, and most importantly it really didn’t go with chicken. Those eating beef were more effusive, though the correlation between how much people enjoyed it seemed to depend on how far south people had been born. I didn’t enjoy it.
It wasn’t especially thin, it was notably rich and had a kind of tomato flavour – which always seems like a weird thing for me to suggest. But hey, Diane Abbott could have been home secretary. OH MY GOD I AM RACIST FOR THINKING ONE PARTICULAR BLACK PERSON IS USELESS.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
A bit of an odd one this. There was plenty to compliment about the venue and even more about the roast. Yet I was sat there afterwards unconvinced.
And it was all down to the over-powering, overly rich gravy. Which would have been much more suited to something not a roast dinner – like a beef dish. In particular, it really didn’t work with the chicken roast.
But apart from that, the musings afterwards were all positive. Two scores of 7.5, two of 8 – and one of 8.5.
There was plenty to compliment – plump chicken, top notch cauliflower cheese, yet not much to criticise – the pointless yorkie, the mushy swede. Oh – the gravy.
I really wanted to rate this higher than I am going to. I expect that had I ordered the pork or beef, I would have scored it higher – as all of my accomplices did. I shall compensate slightly due to the free wine, the charm of the staff and the feel of the venue – I rarely rate on anything other than the roast itself, but I’m going to add 0.2 to the score.
Which gives it a score of 7.35 out of 10. Make no mistake, this is a recommendation. I liked this place. We liked this place. Just the gravy was not at all my style of gravy, and didn’t work with the chicken.
Next Sunday I’m going somewhere a little less stabby. A little. And guess what? They’ve asked me to pre-order as well. Oh don’t you envy the choice that residents of Uxbridge had?
Don’t worry, commies. You might win the Police And Crime Commissioner elections next year.
The Royal Oak, Harlesden, West London
Station: Willesden Junction
Tube Lines: Bakerloo, Overground
Fare Zone: Zone 2