You may remember a while back that I didn’t post a roast review for rather secretive reasons that I didn’t at all keep secret in being that I was entering a competition in The Times for a new food critic. Lolz. Me. The Times. Yeah…
The one condition was that it had to be unpublished, hence I had kept it a secret until now. Did I win?
This isn’t the exact entry, I had to limit it to 1,200 words (originally I thought that would be generous but apparently not with the amount of shit I write) so I had to skip some things that I wanted to add. Plus there was this paragraph in the terms and conditions:
(ii) does not contain any content that is defamatory, libellous, racist, homophobic, derogatory, pornographic, obscene, sexist, illegal, and/or otherwise inappropriate;
Yikes. Here goes:
When I read that The Times were looking to find the next great food-related critic, I had a chuckle to myself and thought, “yeah I’m sure they want a occasionally-sweary common oik that writes about roast dinners in London every week, replete with tangential references to genitals, Brexit and drugs”.
Then I was like, fu…ohhh I mean “sod it” I’ll enter for the crack (of which a certain form was evidently in good supply in my chosen area).
Oh cool, Jeremy Clarkson is one of the judges – I’ve heard of him. You don’t get political interviews on the BBC like that any more.
Wait a minute, is he the noisy car bloke? Also known as the next leader of the National Front according to various social media snowflakes. That’s the vegan roast dinner struck off the potential list of places to review. A ha ha ha ha ha (had to get rid of a few ha’s to get under the word limit) as if it was on the list in the first place. Laughing at your own jokes is a sign of a prize-winning writer, no? Apparently according to the article in The Times, it is.
I guess it doesn’t matter which Jeremy, clearly The Times are huge fans of people with a first name of Jeremy.
Also it states on the article, “bold, insightful and witty”. I review fucking roast dinners – exactly how insightful can one be when talking about roasted carrots for the 200th week long-term economic plan long-term economic plan long-term economic plan in a row.
So where to go? I’m sure if the judges have actually made it this far they already have a few suggestions, and I’m not talking about names of well-renowned establishments. I could just have picked somewhere on my to-do list like The Spaniards in Hampstead Heath but there are less questions to answer there.
Then I had a brainwave.
Croydon. That is exactly the kind of place that readers of The Times would want to read about. Albeit the chance of any reader having dined in Croydon is as high as anyone from Doncaster being educated at Eton. And don’t look at me like that – yeah I am a pretentious remoaner but you try having a night out in Doncaster.
Is now a good moment to admit that I recently turned down the opportunity of an interview with the company that owns The Times because of Brexit? However I’d quite happily take the £5k prize money, despite Brexit. Just think of all the drugs, hookers and model railway carriages I could buy with that.
Like most readers of The Times, I had never been to Croydon before. I thought it only appropriate that myself and my accomplice had a walk through the centre, to try to appreciate the culture and architecture of the town. 3 fucking Wetherspoons. The first had clientele outside that definitely were not on the People’s Vote march the day before – I felt like I had “Revoke Article 50” written on my forehead and was about to get glassed as I walked past. However, the next Wetherspoons was a comparatively upmarket affair, The Milan Bar. I still didn’t dare photograph it. By the way, if my boss is reading, by recently I mean a long time ago.
Despite the high street looking like a cross between a night out in early 2000’s Romford and the morning after in 1990’s King’s Cross, there were occasional charms. I was more interested in the almost art-deco (yeah I’m from Hull, that’s just a posh-sounding word to me) buildings like the 3D version of the Blockbuster’s board.
Upon arrival at the Treehouse, we were shown to our table, which had a bit of printed paper with my name and the letters ‘V.I.P’ printed on it – yeah my eyes are rolling too.
The decor made me long to be sat inside a Wetherspoons…hell even a Walkabout (which is roughly what the train smelt like). It looked like my imaginary future alcoholic auntie-in-law’s garish fantasy.
Whilst the collection of bird boxes was cute (if marginally scary) and I want one of the sparkly reindeers (or whatever they are supposed to be)…the whole look was just…Romford…the sofas in particular look like they belonged in some form of naff nightclub…wait…they have a nightclub upstairs? With those sofas? And my future alcoholic auntie-in-law has her tits hanging out?
With the latest last entry time in Croydon of 2:00am you would be mad to go anywhere else.
Service was no more hastily forthcoming than me getting around to talking about the food – we waited 20 minutes to be asked whether we wanted a drink, before my accomplice’s patience broke and out came the wonderfully passive-aggressive, “do we need to order at the bar?”. Though one of the waitresses did compliment my hair during the wait.
The beer choice was hardly exotic, consisting of the likes of Amstel – but the apple juice was decent. Albeit the self-imposed ban on plastic straws which has saved the oceans, hasn’t quite made it to Croydon.
Sunday roast options included beef, corn-fed chicken, pork belly, neck of lamb and a “posh dog” roast, which sadly was a roast dinner for dogs instead of a hot dog roast dinner. Also nut roast…a ha ha no.
Food was forthcoming in around 15-20 minutes, and was reasonably well-presented but I couldn’t give a stuff.
Thankfully I don’t have too much to say about the rather ordinary vegetables given that I have used 75% of my word count already. The carrots were functional, sliced vertically and roasted – I detected a slight honey flavour. The green beans were simply too voluminous even for a Guardian reader…and had no charm or flavour.
It seemed as though my future auntie-in-law had forgotten about the broccoli whilst boiling it, for it was so soft that it could have been pureed. Even PETA would have been upset about the killing of this. On the bright side, there was a hint of butter involved.
Despite Brexit, there was no joy to be found in the anaemic parsnips.
And things managed to get worse. Yep, the roast potatoes seemed like they had been cooked in the early 2000’s (probably in Romford) – all chewy and very much roasted a long time ago. The one stray strand of thyme not helping.
Old school club bangers
Yorkshire puddings are nearly as pointless as Theresa May’s post-Brexit plans (I feel this sentence may age badly), this had all the signs of a day under a heat lamp – brittle and chewy.
The one vague sign of joy was the lamb. It felt a little tough yet still felt over-cooked, however it had a nice earthy flavour…and being the only item on the plate that had much flavour, it deserves some vague form of compliment.
Finally, the gravy. Well. The brown water with absolutely no flavour, no consistency – just a vague after-taste of salt. Preferable to gravy that tastes of road-resurfacing tar (yes it happened once), just quietly abominable. Suspiciously boiling hot on arrival too.
At least the extra gravy came in a proper jug.
Given that I was writing a proper food review, I did want to have more than one course – however, thankfully for the sake of the word count, we skipped dessert – despite the exotic-sounded offer of “vainilla”.
This was the worst roast dinner that I’ve had for some time. I don’t want to be giving such a low score out – I dearly wish that I was introducing you to a hidden gem in a much-maligned area. I’m scoring it a 4.5 out of 10. One of my accomplices rating it a 4, the other a 7 – albeit a rating based on volume instead of quality…and he did dip his crisps in the left-over gravy.
Playing the absolute best in all genres for a wicked party atmosphere
All that was left was to go walk in the lovely sunshine, past an ever-increased amount of crackheads and watch someone nearly die. Yes, a woman stepped out in front of a bus after looking the wrong way when crossing the road. I was so convinced that I was about to see a death that I shouted “noooooooooooooooooooo”…thankfully the bus broke in time – arguably an even worse scene than what was on our plate earlier.
Oh yeah and we had a dry donut in the weapon-free Boxpark. Meh. But at least it wasn’t £6.50 like the desserts at The Treehouse…seriously since when did desserts get so expensive?
See you on the dancefloor next Friday night?
Over to you, beautiful and intelligent judges. By the way, I’ve never heard of AA Gill – but you’ve probably never heard of my Dad. I’m sure he was very talented. My Dad can sing The Way To Amarillo with all the words pronounced backwards. How about that?
[I didn’t win]
[I didn’t even get in the final 25]
[Fuck The Times]
Treehouse, Croydon, South London
Station: Croydon South
Tube Lines: National Rail
Fare Zone: Zone 5