An e-mail arrived the other day, with a mission attached. That be to write an article about Yorkshire puddings in London — was I up to the challenge?
Of course, I replied, intoxicated by my own delusions of linguistic grandeur. I could make a speech by Theresa May on Brexit sound fascinating, so of course I can write about Yorkshire puddings, especially as I am the self-anointed Lord Gravy of London, expert in writing paragraphs of nonsense about the same culinary experience every single week, the wonderful Sunday roast.
500 to 1,000 words you say? Heck, if Boris Johnson can get a book published, then I can get an article published.
Arguably the least important part of a Sunday roast yet if you went to a pub that didn't offer Yorkshire puddings, you'd likely be more offended than a cakeism expert finding out that their car registration plate has an EU flag on it. Oh yeah, I fill my roast dinner reviews with nonsense about Brexit.
Yorkshire puddings almost always come in one size nowadays, unaffectionately known as "large enough for Instagram" — save for those increasingly rare pubs where both food and social media (and sometimes hygiene levels) tend to be an after-thought, you know, the kind of places that still have a sign in the toilets advising you that you will be reported to the police for taking drugs in there...yeah I can see the police heading straight there because you caught Johnny doing a line of bicarbonate soda, glucose and meow meow in the bogs.
I don't recall every venue doing extra large Yorkshire puddings prior to Instagram, nor am I that interested in ever-lasting expanses of dried batter on my plate, however, sometimes the humble Yorkshire pudding can be a marvellous experience.
So where's the best Yorkshire pudding in London?
I'm sure that I am not the only one with an increasingly dubious memory, so I guess it is easier to pick out one that I had just a couple of weeks ago. But The Little Blue Door in Fulham provided what I would class as the perfect Yorkshire pudding. It's not blessed with good looks, especially with my dubious photography skills. However it does exactly what you want a Yorkshire pudding to do — soggy on the bum, firm but flexible on the outside, and perfectly accompanied the meat.
Other particularly good Yorkshire puddings include the offerings at The Dove in Hammersmith, and Smith's of Smithfield in Farringdon. Both nicely risen, soft on the bottom — crispy but not brittle on the outside.
Sometimes Yorkshire puddings go the other way though.
And where's the worst?
Seemingly made at 7am then stuck under a heat lamp all day, Yorkshire puds can easily end up still looking great for Instagram, but being worthless lumps of stale batter by time you get there for lunch — heaven forbid you might want a yorkie in the evening.
The Grove in Balham is a perfect example of this; it may look good enough but in reality was just an over-sized lump of a dry, brittle Yorkshire pudding. Am I at the word count yet?
Occasionally they don't resemble Yorkshire puddings, but are like hollow muffins — this particularly dreadful effort from politico's pub The Red Lion near Westminster managed both the flavour and texture of a cardboard box. Maybe they mistook me for Nigel Farage — I did once dress up as him (badly) at a Halloween party full of Europeans.
Very occasionally, Yorkshire puddings don't taste like Yorkshire puddings. This effort from London Business School tasted like someone has poured a bucket of the North Sea down my throat immediately before — a rancid salt-overloaded effort. Not even served the right way up.
Or one that tasted like what I'd imagine a bald wig would taste like, at The Heirloom in Crouch End. Looks good enough for Instagram though. Oh for an Aunt Bessie. Sometimes.
Interestingly, one place that doesn't do a giant Yorkshire pudding was the effervescently stylish, Oblix, in The Shard. And that's a very good yorkie indeed.
And the weirdest?
Then sometimes there are the weird Yorkshire puddings.
The one that particularly sticks in the mind was a UFO-resembling failure at the otherwise-wonderful Smokey Tails in Bethnal Green. I couldn't quite work out whether it was trying to be a pancake or simply imitating my sex life (hence I have nothing better to do right now than write about Yorkshire puddings...would I be doing this is if I had a girlfriend sticking... oh wait a minute, my mum wants to read this) — either way, weird and dreadful.
For some people, having a whole meal wrapped in a Yorkshire pudding might be the very definition of culinary weirdness, however should you choose to, you can have a "roast dinner wrap". You've probably seen the famous one in York that went around Facebook in the post-poking era where Facebook became all about sharing photographs of what beige dinner you made, prior to becoming a gigantic discussion about Brexit (I actually read someone yesterday compare the EU to the Third Reich). However you don't need to tackle the vagaries of Network Rail to get one as we have our very own Yorkshire Burrito, which has relocated to Camden Market.
Finally, on the off-chance that you've made it this far (heck, maybe you are reading this in a post-Trump future year thinking "didn't I read this article last year... oh and the year before..."), there is a delightfully proper and British restaurant called Reform Social & Grill not far from Marylebone (I might have made the location up). They do a Yorkshire pudding menu — savoury or sweet.
I've only had the sweet: banana and custard, chocolate and caramel, and the delicious strawberry and cream Yorkshire pudding.Gimmick, sure. But actually really damn good. I'm surprised they don't serve them at Wimbledon.
So I've made it to the end and have absolutely no idea how to finish. I should probably think of some clever philosophical meaning to the Yorkshire pudding — our very own uniquely British, utterly pointless,
occasionally-impeding yet psychologically necessary part of a weekend.
In summary. Some are really good. Some are really bad. The end.
Follow Lord Gravy online, on Instagram and on Twitter, as @roastdinnersldn