Roast in Borough Market had been on the “to eat at” list for several years, but one thing or the other had made it unfeasible. My first thought when we entered the hall was relief. We were finally going to have some respite from the madness of Borough Market. I had been in a surly mood as we meandered through the tourists. I almost expected to look over at the river and spy a cruise ship forcing its way up the Thames. Lawrence Keogh’s Roast was the lunchtime sanctuary we required.
We got off to a rocky start when we were shown to our seats and we requested a view overlooking the market by the window instead. The Maître d’ seemed unable to comprehend and I pointed to the four vacant tables. She explained that those tables were reserved for groups of four. I pointed out there was a table laid for two. Her reply was that it was reserved for “guests”. Incredulous and slightly appalled we took our seats, resolving to not let the first impressions destroy the rest of the meal.
It is undeniable that the elegant Roast dining hall is impressive with its high ceilings, oversized windows, white washed walls and classic auburn wood tones. Never mind the views across bustling Borough Market. As it was a glorious day, sunlight bounced off the opaque walls adding to the conservatory feel of the room.
The service at the beginning of the meal was very attentive, perhaps a little over done. Our cocktails were slow to arrive and yet our waiter approached us several times to ask us if we were ready to order. This was despite us stating we were waiting for our aperitifs. The service throughout the meal never really synched with our leisurely lunch tempo, except at the end when it dropped off altogether.
For starters, I chose the game and juniper scotch eggs (£8.00) and Keith picked the Dorset Crab with Berkswell Cheese (£14.00). My egg had a thick, coarse meaty layer followed by a golden crisp outer shell. They were tremendously good. The accompanying chutney was too Branston pickle and sweet. I ended up leaving most of it.
Keith’s Dorset crab had a creamy texture. The natural sweetness of the crab was still very much present. It was well seasoned and the cheese accompanied the crab rather than overwhelmed it.
For the main I chose the slow-braised pig’s cheeks with parsnip mash and butcher’s sauce (£19.50) and Keith selected the buttermilk fried rabbit with Worcestershire apple salad and devilled sauce (£22.00). My pig’s cheeks were tender and soft. They were a joy to eat and the serving was a decent portion. The sauce was average, nothing to speak about at length. Unfortunately, the parsnip puree was impressive visually, but that’s where it ended. It was quite dense and textureless. I opted instead to eat our side orders; grilled field mushrooms with garlic butter (£5.50) and Roast potatoes in Britannia beef dripping (£4.50). We sent both back to the kitchen. First the mushroom were stone cold. When they came back piping hot with the garlic butter they were amazing. The roast potatoes were both uncooked and solid. Immensely disappointing and I’m very unforgiving when it comes to wronged potatoes of any cooked variety. When they returned from what we assumed was the abyss of a deep fat fryer, they were super. Crisp. Golden. Fluffy. Everything you expect in a roast potato.
Keith’s rabbit deserves a drum roll, because it has been a long time since I have walked away from a meal thinking, “I can’t get you out of my mind”. The rabbit was succulent and had a full flavour. The buttermilk batter was light and crispy. Plus there was plenty of it, but I still strangely sensed some resistance from Keith to share (ignore our vows why don’t you Keith).
The generous portions for mains (and none of the tasters we had in Borough Market) meant that we were bursting at the seams by the end of the meal. For the sake of the blog we forced ourselves to eat a rather delicious Apple, blackberry and almond crumble with a dollop of ice cream. We enjoyed the sharpness of the stewed autumnal fruit, coupled with the buttery, crunchy almond topping. Lovely.
Roast was good but not without its fault. The meal cost circa £120 and that was with a Top Table deal (£40 voucher which we paid £20 for), so yes it is quite expensive. The service was patchier than a quilt cover. By the end of the meal I had imagined that our waiter had been sucked into Borough Market through a kitchen vent and ingested by the tourists. He was nowhere to be seen. Our advice; rock up with a tupper ware, put a foreign accent on and ask for two helpings of the rabbit. The temporary embarrassment will be worth it.