He is the Lord of London's roast dinner reviewing scene. He is Lord Gravy. And he is coming to chuck peas on the carpet of a Wetherspoon near you. Here, we ask Gravy all the burning questions: London's best roast dinner, its most revolting... and that dreaded 12.5% service charge. You'll want a napkin for this interview. It gets messy...
What's your obsession with roast dinners, Lord Gravy?
Erm, I'm from up north. Though there is a bit more of a story. Back when I was younger, I'd go out for on a Friday night with my friends and the next thing I know, it'd be Sunday afternoon and all I would have consumed was alcohol and small bags of salt. There would be a realisation amongst myself and whoever still had more sanity than sobriety, that a roast dinner would be required. You know, to replenish all the lost vitamins from the weekend's activities. I lived in Reading back then, and sometimes we'd get a good roast dinner, other times a fairly horrific plate of uncooked anti-food. So I took it upon myself to start a blog. Given my, erm, active social life back then, I managed one review a year. Until I got old and started bashing them out regularly.
Then I moved to London, so the world's most amazing city could get to endure my dubious writing talents.
What's the best roast dinner you've had in London?
The George in The Strand. Or possibly Fleet Street. It isn't a place that is talked about, it isn't a trendy place. They barely use social media to promote themselves. It didn't look especially great inside. I expected a very average roast and I still keep questioning whether it really was that good, but everything really was very good. There were some real 'wow' moments, such as the parsnip mash and the amazing cauliflower and leek cheese. The roast potatoes were actually crispy, the chicken was the plumpest and juiciest chicken that I've reviewed, and it was a fairly thick gravy. I have been told that the pork belly there isn't quite up to scratch — my tip is the chicken roast.
Blacklock is supposed to be amazing, but I'm saving that for a special occasion. Like maybe after losing my virginity. Though you have to book weeks in advance... that'll be some holding out if I do find someone desperate enough.
And the crappest?
The lowest score I have given is to The Islington Townhouse. This was due to being served the most disgusting gravy ever. It was similar in appearance and smell to road-resurfacing tar. There is no way that anyone that worked in a kitchen and had tasted that would have sent it out. Truly disgusting. Ironically one of the very few times that there was sufficient gravy on the plate.
It was the most disgusting gravy ever. Similar in appearance and smell to road-resurfacing tar.
Special mention to The Bedford, in Balham, for serving up a true abomination of a roast dinner, to help myself and my fellow Codheads (as people from Hull are apparently known, according to Wikipedia) celebrate relegation.
Have you ever asked for your money back/defenestrated a yorkshire pud in sheer anger?
Only once. I tried to talk myself out of paying at the aforementioned Islington Townhouse — everyone else didn't care but I wasn't having it. The difficulty was that we'd eaten at least half our dinners (the pork was actually really good) when scraping as much "gravy" off as possible. We paid 50% in the end.
Also, I threw some peas on the floor at Wetherspoons in a past life (when I reviewed places in Reading). It was a total abomination — apart from the gravy which was decent enough.
When did the average price of a roast in London creep up to £20?
When are you going to stop peddling your left-wing fake-news media? It isn't £20. Well, not where I eat anyway, and I think you'd agree that I eat in a wide range of venues. At the time of writing, my average roast dinner price is just short of £16.
I feel that you are right on picking up on a significant price increase recently. Once I've been doing this for a year or so more (which will probably happen unless I get shot or girlfriended) then I should have some good statistics in terms of average prices.
As to why the price has risen, I suspect that this is down to a number of business costs having risen significantly. Firstly many businesses are facing increasing rents and business rates, particularly in central London. Also staffing costs have risen due to the increased minimum wage in London (bloody Tories and their higher minimum wage). Unemployment is very low so employees are harder to find — and retain, again putting upwards pressure on staffing costs. Finally, there was a totally coincidental fall in sterling on 24 June 2016 from some unknown event that has caused much higher import costs — though on the bright side, some of Nigel Farage's hedge fund buddies made a fair few quid (allegedly).
Brexit has absolutely nothing to do with it, of course. We are already infinitely more well-off thanks to Brexit, especially the post-vote drop in sterling and the increased costs of importing food, and the lower potential staff pool.
Brexit has absolutely nothing to do with it, of course. We are already infinitely more well-off thanks to Brexit, especially the post-vote drop in sterling and the increased costs of importing food, and the lower potential staff pool. All of that is nothing to do with Brexit, and you need to stop talking the economy down. It's your fault. Why did you even bring up Brexit in the first place? WILL OF THE PEOPLE.
A good recession would sort this out, but that's a good couple of years away still. Gosh that went all serious. Traitors.
Are you going to stand for it?
I'll probably be so famous soon that everyone will want to give me free roast dinners so the price doesn't matter to me. Also I vote Tory so balls to sticking up for the common man/woman/insert-other-gender-type-to-piss-off-a-Brexiteer. But even if that doesn't happen, I'm British, so I'll ask for a pay rise, get fuck all, and then just keep quiet and keep reviewing.
What is the most infuriating thing about roast dinners in London these days (apart from the price)?
Oh, where to start? Gravy that is just water with a bit of brown colouring. Roast potatoes that are barely cooked. There never being enough gravy on the plate and always having to ask for more. Waiting staff not understanding what "more gravy" actually means — i.e. not a thimble of gravy. Yorkshire puddings that are made more for Instagram than for eating. Roast potatoes. Blagging bloggers — those that just write infinite superlatives in exchange for a free meal — total bullshit. Get a real job. MATE.
But you know what? I'm going to go for service charges. Last year a few of us went to Oblix. It was expensive, but it was a special treat. There was a service charge of 13.5% (which came to £10 each) — but service was phenomenally brilliant throughout. This was the kind of service that one expects to pay a service charge for. And there is no way a tight-arse northerner like myself would stick a tenner on there without being told to.
Gravy that is just water with a bit of brown colouring. Roast potatoes that are barely cooked. There never being enough gravy on the plate and always having to ask for more.
Yet so many places add a 12.5% service charge for simply taking your order and bringing your food. What the fuck? I appreciate that it is "discretionary", but venues are asking people to go against their Britishness and I feel that this is unacceptable. It is not very British to argue against a service charge. Being an awkward sod, if I get good service and there is no service charge, I leave at least 15%. That'll teach 'em.
I was told last week that it was a tax avoidance loophole — make of that what you will.
What's the best meat?
Erm...well, if you look at my handy league table, and click "show meat", you'll see that lamb comes in the top 10 more often than any other meat type. That could be co-incidence. I love all socially acceptable meat — though I do wish there was more variety on offer.
What's the best condiment?
Gravy, durrr. What kind of stupid question is that? Some of these questions are really good, but others... are you expecting me to say "ketchup" or something? Pffft.
[Editor's note: gravy isn't a condiment, mate. We meant something like mint sauce. Durrr.]
Which beverage goes best with a roast?
If I'm having beef or lamb, then a nice glass of red wine, ideally a Tempranillo, if not a Malbec. Given that I'm an uneducated northerner (I am proud of going to the worst school in my area, Hull, and my area being bottom of the local education authority league tables at the time), I'll still have red wine with chicken or pork, if occasion takes me. A line of ketamine also goes down nicely after dinner. But that doesn't tend to happen nowadays. Career and shit like that. Plus I'd never make it out for dinner in the first place.
Are you worried that the roast dinner might become the culinary poster child for Brexit?
Funny you should say that, I started a sister blog called Tapas Or Crap As, mostly because I want a Spanish wife because I just love listening to Spanish women doing the rolling r's thing. However I have only reviewed one place so far — and that was last year. I'm quite good at starting blogs and not doing anything with them. My beloved RDLDN readers should be honoured that I care about them so much. Sometimes if I don't release a review, I get complaints about it. Well, occasionally I get one complainer. He voted Brexit.
Anyone know any hot Spanish women looking for a fat, ugly English boyfriend that loves farting in public places? Have I even attempted to answer your question?
What's the key to a good roast potato?
Chuffing. I used to go to university with a fellow Yorkshireman, but proper broad Yorkshire — farmer type. Everything was "chuffing this, chuffing that, budge up let me get into your chuffing bed, boy".
And there is a point to this, because you need to chuff up your potatoes after par-boiling them. I assume neither chuffing or par-boiling happens in most London establishments.
Don't you ever hanker for a curry on a Sunday?
If you could be one constituent of a roast dinner, what would it be and why?
Why the fuck would I do that? Maybe the gravy I could be licked off... actually let's just stick to why the hell would I do that?
The other Sunday I was going clubbing post-roast, and I dearly wished that I could have the salmon. However, us Tories take our public service commitments seriously. What would my 27 fans say if I had the salmon dish?
If you could share a roast dinner with anyone — living or dead — who would it be?
My mum, of course.
But you want someone more interesting than that, don't you? I appreciate that this will probably be deleted, given that all my none-too-subtle VOTE TORY references were accidentally missed from my original masterpiece that I did for you, but just on the off-chance that you have got bored and have stopped editing (let's face it, none of your beautiful and intelligent readers will have got this far anyway), then I'd love to have a roast dinner with Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps towards the end of her wonderful, game-changing regime, where she was just starting to lose it a bit through her own stubbornness. Can you imagine the scenes if they tried to add on a 12.5% service charge? We'd be getting a rebate, for sure.
It could make a great TV series "fat, ugly, northern tosser eats roast dinners in London with famous people".
My more realistic aim is Georgia Toffolo. I reckon that could happen. She's going to take a bit of stalking... I mean... persuading, but I'm hopeful. It could make a great TV series "fat, ugly, northern tosser eats roast dinners in London with famous people". Might need a more succinct name than that though.