Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond gets stuck in a cocktail-infused timewarp at Roast – but in a good way
Really, I hadn’t meant to stay for so long, but after the ‘SW19’ cocktail at the beginning and the unspecified, but very alcoholic cocktail at the end, I suspect that my sense of time was somewhat impaired and it was a shock to look at my watch and see that the big hand was on the 2 and the little hand on the 4.
My excuse, however flimsy, is that this was a deal celebration lunch and that to clock-watch would have been churlish if not rude, not that I was tempted to do so, mind you, in the company of Mr P, who may turn into a regular partner in eating crime. My current mission is to steer him away from the ABC path – you know, Anything But Chardonnay. I had the whole – “yes but it’s not the oakiness that you don’t like, it’s just badly made Chardonnay” and the – “do you like Chablis? – yes – well, what do you think that is made of?” – conversation, but I could see he wasn’t convinced. As a compromise, I suggested we try a Gewurztraminer – one of my favourite wines. I think he was being genuine when he said he liked it.
And the food? I had ‘heritage’ tomatoes on warm bread, with water celery and shaved Berkswell cheese. I can’t say that I was particularly aware of the celery or indeed the cheese, but it worked and was pleasant, in an inoffensive way. Tomatoes, on a bit of toast with olive oil is what it is.
My companion had salt beef croquettes, which looked much more interesting. Shreds of salt beef, rolled in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. Mmm. Cholesterol central. Served on a bed of whipped peas and garnished with chicory, there was a lot going on flavour-wise and it was eaten with deep enthusiasm.
Then, I ordered fish, albeit this was a Monday. Given that the menu has this down as a ‘weekly special’, making a big play of the provenance of said fish, I’m assuming they have a supplier who delivers on Monday. If not, it’s probably just a ruse to use up leftover fish from the weekend.
Notwithstanding my cynicism, I thought it sounded good, especially with the fennel and sea purslane (look it up), so I threw caution to the wind and risked it. It came in a black earthenware pot containing a rich and intense broth, a couple of big chunks of fish – salmon trout and something white and unidentifiable and some clams and mussels. It was similar to bouillabaisse and tasty, but I’m not sure it was £27.50-before-service-tasty, mind you. I was asked whether I wanted some extra bread with that, to mop up the juices. They clearly don’t know me.
Obviously, we had to have extra side dishes and obviously they had to be potatoes, so we had mash and roast potatoes in beef dripping. I know, not necessary, but I wanted to know what they were like, so that I could share. The roast potatoes were not quite as crispy-gorgeous as they should have been, but we still managed to polish them off. Mr P chose duck, which came with a coleslaw and apple salad, on a bed of endive. He said it was good, but I thought it looked slightly anaemic and a bit fatty and that he was being polite.
Having had rather a lot of carbohydrate, neither of us were tempted by the puddings, which were all fairly rich. You could have had sticky date pudding, Trinity burnt cream and rhubarb or Bramley apple crumble, but if you’d eaten as much as we had you wouldn’t. And after a recent crumble debacle at another venue, I was playing safe.
We shared the cheese plate. The cheese was in perfect condition and well presented but as a sharing plate (and the price leads you to believe that it would be) we both felt that some of the portions of cheese were a little on the– shall we say – small side. Not that we were hungry, mind.
Coffee. And then the entirely unnecessary killer cocktail. I don’t know what it was. It had a straw and it was the straw.
So – what did I think of it? It’s got an interesting enough menu, with quite a lot of fish, despite the name and it has a decent, reasonable wine list and a few quirky cocktails. I love the location, bang in the heart of Borough Market. Try to go on a Friday, so that you can bunk off and go to the market for your weekend food shop. It’s the sort of place that might even make you forget that you’re a lawyer and that can never be never be bad, can it?
Marks out of ten: 6.5-7
Best for: Slightly quirky but safe food for City clients
Worst for: Lunch out with your mates on your own dollar