This week I went to the York & Albany in Camden. As per usual, I had a problem.
First Europe didn’t give David Cameron everything he demanded in pre-referendum negotiations. Then Eurovision gave us nil points. And now UEFA arrange an important football game at Sunday roast time. THIS. IS . A. DIS. GRACE. Where is Liz Truss when you need her? What, she’s doing the weather on GB News? Topless?
I lied about Liz Truss doing the weather topless, FYI. However having an England game at the same time as requiring a Sunday roast was a problem. I could have had a midday roast then quickly scooted elsewhere to watch the game. I could have had one after the game. But 2pm is kind of my roast time.
I attempted trying a few places at random from my to-do list, to see if they were both showing football and serving roast dinners, but to no avail. Then I found a list from Time Out of pubs showing the football – so I worked back from there – there was only one pub I recognised on their list that was on my to-do list, which was the York & Albany. Which surprised me – I didn’t really expect a Gordon Ramsay restaurant to be showing the football.
Unbelievably, some places that do Sunday roasts every Sunday, don’t serve them on Sundays when England are playing. Peak English nationalism almost at it’s finest as much as Peak London mattress discarding is in my local shithole.
But I had confirmation from York & Albany, in writing, on an e-mail that they were doing both roast dinners and showing the football, and that I could have a table watching the football. You know what I’m going to write next, don’t you?
Castles in the sky
I had a lovely walk through Regent’s Park. It has to be my favourite large park in London.
OK, I’ll talk about the roast. So we arrived at York & Albany and they offered us a table in the corner (out of view of the television) or outside (also out of view of the television). I advised that we’d booked a table to watch the football and have a roast dinner. They advised that I hadn’t booked a table next to the screen and that they didn’t have any such tables free.
I hurriedly scrolled through my e-mails on my Chinese spying device, and showed them the conclusion of our e-mail conversation:
Thanks for your email.
I have made your reservation for you, please note I have made it for 1.30pm as you would only have a certain time on the table. This would be enough time to cover the full match.
Please let me know if this is suitable.
They found a table for us.
Oh tell me why
Panic over, we had a view of the one solitary television on the other side of the restaurant…once they had removed the obstructing lamp on the bar…and when none of the waiting staff were in the way, which they often were as cocktail making/collection point was right in the way. Let’s just say, York & Albany isn’t really set up to watch the football.
But is it set up to serve us a good roast dinner? Well, it is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and between the 4 of us, we’d been to a few and never been impressed. The only Gordon Ramsay restaurant that I’ve been to is The Narrow in Limehouse, which was for a roast and I scored it a 6.48. Which is a bad score. Which meant my expectations were as limited as they were for the England football team. Yeah, I backed Croatia to win.
York & Albany is a nice venue though – apparently it is a 19th-century John Nash townhouse – whatever one of them is, and is a really rather glorious building on the outside, and smart but not too posh in the inside. It had a clean, spacious feel – very suitable for covid times. Here’s a couple of photographs I stole from the internet:
I don’t remember the walls being green, but hey. It also would have been a great spot to sit outside and people watch – were it not for the football.
So I was hungry. I’d been to a BBQ the day before and eaten less than you might expect for reasons you might expect. I also really didn’t want beef, mostly because I’d had the most amazing steak on the Thursday night, and any form of beef was just going to pale into insignificance.
They only served beef. And at £25.00, albeit that is less than I’ve paid the previous two weeks. Were I cooking for myself on a Tuesday night, then harissa roasted cauliflower would be fabulous, especially if I didn’t charge myself £21.50 for the cauliflower.
There was only one choice.
Do you ever question your life?
Our roasts took around 30 minutes to arrive, and it was roughly 10-15 minutes into the first half.
That’s not an especially helpful photograph, is it?
Ignoring the obvious peril and starting with the carrot as per usual – half a long carrot, roasted and charred nicely, a bit more crunch than the photograph might suggest and a decent start.
The cabbage was decent – again charred nicely, perhaps a tad tougher than ideal but a minor thought.
Then the broccoli, which I assume is causing the bookable offence. The broccoli itself – well, it’s nice to see an underrated and rarely-served vegetable on a London roast – it was a bit al dente, personally I would just have liked it a tad softer but that is very much a horses for courses thing.
But it seemed like either some cream had been poured on the broccoli, or maybe something creamy but solid had been left on it to melt – and this infected the gravy. Well,…it infected the jus. If this was proper northern gravy then I’d probably be hugely offended, but it was southern wanky jus and I think the cream probably improved it.
Do you ever wonder why?
Well, I’ve mentioned it so we might as well go onto the southern wanky jus – which as far as these things go was respectable. Gravy belongs on a roast dinner. But this was decent – not too rich, it felt complimentary and seemed of red wine origin.
GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL – we had roast potatoes!
Hang on, we need to check VAR (video assistant referee to those who don’t watch football).
Ah, no. On closer inspection this has been ruled out as baked potatoes.
Baked potatoes instead of roast potatoes – soft, perhaps fluffy but absolutely not roast potatoes. If these are good roast potatoes then the bar is very low – though if you are a regular reader then you probably understand that the bar is very low – too low for Chris Waddle, that’s for sure. Yet my co-commentators were a huge fan of these – I couldn’t quite understand. They were soft and fluffy, sure – but not even vaguely crispy, like no effort at all had been made to make these into proper roast potatoes. I kind of wanted to cut them open and put some butter, cheese and prawns into them. Good baked potatoes. Not good roast potatoes. Gosh this paragraph went on longer than I expected.
The yorkie was kind of cardboardy – it had that factory feel to it in terms of texture and dried crispness – yet wasn’t burnt, wasn’t totally dried out and was edible enough. Bar is also very low, but “edible” is progress. Again, my co-commentators were fawning over it for some reason.
Finally, the sirloin. Two slices, again – I keep coming back to this word, “decent”. It was juicy, but it wasn’t £25.00 roast dinner levels of good. Unless you ask my co-commentators who seemed to think they were eating Brazil.
Are the castles way up high.
By the end, I was confused. My co-commentators were over the moon with their roast dinners – one saying that it was the best roast he’s had in ages. Had they been watching a different game to me?
One scored it an 8.50, another an 8.00, the final a 7.90.
Broadly speaking, the roast dinner at York & Albany was decent. The roast potatoes were not roasted, but were nice baked potatoes. The yorkie was cardboardy but edible. The jus was…well…southern and wanky yet decent. Highlights were the vegetables, which were all nicely done.
Finding myself at odds to my co-commentators, I struggle to understand whether they were all over-rating it, or whether I was under-rating it. Maybe I was too hungover to appreciate it? Maybe they were all under the influence of too much sunshine? Maybe England not losing at half-time was just too much for them? Maybe it was actually rubbish and I’ve been peer-pressured into smoking Embassy No1s, oh and thinking it is a decent roast.
Looking at TripAdvisor reviews (after writing this) it seems that some people have their best meal ever – but others are really disappointed. Perhaps inconsistency is a theme at York & Albany? Yet it all seemed decent at worst to me – some weirdo’s on other tables ordered fish and chips and pizza on a Sunday – both looked and smelled fabulous as they went by. Service was really good, the venue comfortable, the outdoor areas both tres appealing – alas, beer choice very limited (Camden Helles, Camden Pale & Amstel – that king of thing), but wine was nice and the cocktail list is apparently really good – not that I would understand.
Will be interesting to see if any of you try it – maybe you’ll either think the roast is really good, like my co-commentators did – or just decent enough, like I did.
I’m scoring it a 7.03 out of 10.
Next week I’m going somewhere that costs less than £25 for a roast dinner. Much less.
York & Albany, Camden
Station: Camden Town
Tube Lines: Northern
Fare Zone: Zone 1
Loved & Loathed
Loved: Vegetables were nicely done, cabbage and carrots charred. Very good service.
Loathed: Yorkie edible, beef sirloin didn't seem £25 standard, was overpriced.