The Spread Eagle, Camden

A while ago someone asked me where the best roast dinner in Camden was. You’d have thought an expert on the subject of roast dinners, ie myself, would know the answer to this.

I didn’t.

The shame of it.

I’ve been to quite a few places in King’s Cross and quite a few in Kentish Town, but apart from a visit to The Enterprise – a respectable roast though I believe under new management or possibly even closed – I don’t really know anything about Sunday roasts in London’s second-most post-cool district.

In my defence, Camden is more well-known for men in leather being led around on dog leads, than its food scene, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself.

So when the random number generator chose…that’s a good question. Where on earth did I go today? Oh yeah, The Spread Eagle. Which brings up some interesting results on a Google Image search (private browsing anyway, as Google thinks for some reason I’m more interested in pubs than porn)

Apparently there is a website for Swimsuit bondage. Yep. Well I guess there is a website dedicated to roast dinners in London so I guess, why not swimsuit bondage?. Is there something particularly sexual about wearing a swimsuit? Am I missing something? Actually, I might finish this review tomorrow.

So when the random number generator chose…where did I go on Sunday? Oh yeah The Spread Eagle in Camden.

So when the random number generator chose The Spread Eagle in Camden (yes you are going mad – for a start you are wasting your time reading a load of shite about a roast dinner) I was quietly pleased that I would have a little more ammunition next time someone asks the question. And according to the blackboard outside the pub, The Spread Eagle do the best roast dinners in Camden. I mean, who needs bloggers when you have pub blackboards, perhaps the second-most important source of facts after memes?

So when the random number generator chose…

Four of us were supposed to attend, however only two managed it – one being stuck in Doncaster station, the other ill – anyone who has been to Doncaster will understand the envy towards being home and ill.

After a pleasant walk along the canal, Camden quickly announced itself to me with a woman gobbing into a bin, and two crackheads (or possibly Labour activists) chasing after each other with a mixture of anger and glee.

Some people love Camden but I’ve never particularly been enamoured by it – it has held a certain curiosity to me though being closely associated with a music scene that makes me want to stab myself was always a bit off-putting. Then I discovered the delights of Shoreditch, around 15 years ago – prior to it becoming the most post-cool district of London, nowadays being close to a replica of Leicester Square in places.

The Spread Eagle itself is a moderately sized pub, roughly half designated for drinking and assumedly the stand-up variety with plenty of space and minimal seating, then a semi-sectioned off area that felt much more gastro-pub. The former smelt of beer, the latter like a 1990’s “head shop”, both having the kind of miserable, bland piped music that would make most people want to slice off their ears.

The announcement of my arrival provoked nothing of note, and I was shown to my table of 4.

Once my remaining accomplice turned up, we quickly went to work and ordered drinks and food. An apple juice for me, a Hells for him. The food menu was no more inspiring than our choice of drinks, with beef striploin, lemon & thyme chicken or pork loin on offer, priced between £15 and £17.

Yeah I’ve no idea why I focused on the mains

I chose the chicken for no other reason than I was inspired by nothing on the menu and hadn’t had chicken for a little while – they had run out of beef too. There was some form of vegetarian but I stopped reading at the word “aubergine”. My accomplice chose pork for no other reason that the fact I didn’t.

Our respective Sunday roasts took around 20 minutes to arrive, giving me time to admire a scattering of attractive women, some with Spanish accents. Yeah I’m still single. These are my recommended programmes on the BBC iPlayer in case you want to know just how exciting I am:

Fuck my life. And definitely not literally.

Decent Portion Sizes

Their presentation, not mine

Although the way they presented it didn’t help their case, and that is almost always the first photograph that I add, there was quite a sizeable portion of food on the plate.

Starting with the carrots, which were in baton format and just slightly tinged on the edges – not an awful lot I can say on the flavour – nothing new there, but these were over-shadowed by the flavour of the gravy.  I did consider starting the review with the gravy as it was quite domineering.

Yeah, I’m going to talk about the gravy – I feel all Soubryesque here as I break with the establishment. The gravy was a good consistency and an appealing flavour, but it did kind of overshadow everything else on the plate. Quite a strong flavouring, almost along the lines of tomato and Worcestershire sauce, and just a hint of chilli. Interesting and broadly enjoyable.

More had to be ordered, of course, but at least there was more on the plate than the bare minimum – the extra gravy, alas, was minimal.

One thing that did stand out in terms of flavour were the parsnips – they had that proper nutty yet sweet taste that cheap parsnips forgo. Could have been roasted a tad longer.

The curly kale was respectable – mostly tasted of gravy. There were also peas but thankfully I spotted them on the menu so we avoided any kind of diplomatic incident.

Finally for the vegetables – 5 types no less, was celeriac puree – my accomplice’s highlight though I’ve never been keen on my food becoming that suitable for someone of Boris Johnson’s maturity. This looked more like the bread sauce that never arrived (not that I care any more than I care about the new Independent Group in parliament, which anyone reading in two weeks time will no longer understand the reference to), my accomplice’s apple sauce never arrived either.

Yeah, fucking apple juice again.

My name is Spud

I think there were actually 4 roast potatoes. I must write to the Queen. They were decent enough, they had been roasted nicely but had not quite managed the crispy edges yet tasted a tad overcooked. Overall though, I was pretty happy.

The Yorkshire pudding was nicely formed. A tad overdone but not particularly to the detriment, the walls were just a bit crispier than perfect, the bottom was a good soggy accompaniment to the gravy…and chicken.

On the menu was a suggestion that the half a chicken would taste of both lemon and thyme. Neither was any more forthcoming than a date was from my Valentine’s Opportunity – which is nothing unusual. Nor is the analogy outcome, however most times when I order lemon and thyme chicken, I don’t receive something closer to BBQ flavouring – almost close to a peri peri flavour.

It was appealing but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It was, expectedly, a bit of work to take the chicken from the bone, though it was mostly juicy, plump chicken – apart from the unexpected flavour this was good.

My accomplice’s pork loin was also good, though unspectacular.

This wasn’t the world’s most inspiring Sunday roast and is about as interesting as me advising that I am now a https website. However it was a solid performer. I’m not sure I can pick a highlight – maybe the parsnips. I’m struggling for a lowlight.

Looking back at my previous Camden review, of The Enterprise, I’m not really sure why I rated it a 7.6 out of 10. It was one of my first reviews, and I was unemployed at the time so maybe I was too generous.

This roast dinner overall felt better, and on the basis of having had two roast dinners in Camden I am unable to disagree that it could be the best Sunday roast in Camden.

Solid, reliable but not one to travel from outer space to. It scores a respectable 7.30 out of 10. Oh fuck, I just remembered that they had a poster of Engels and Marx on the wall towards the toilets, I approve of neither communism or fascism so I am reducing their score to 7.19 for dangerous propaganda. That’ll show ’em.

Next Sunday I have absolutely no idea where I am going. It has been booked for me and I’ll find out when I get there.

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