English fizz. To some people those to words sound like an anachronism, but there I was sitting at Roast restaurant drinking a glass of Chapel Down’s Pinot Reserve 2004. It was rather lovely as well. I was at a lunch at Roast organised by English winemakers Chapel Down along with Intoxicating Prose, Eat Like a Girl, the Wine Sleuth and Gastronomy Domine. Roast is really the perfect place to drink English wine since it’s whole menu is based on British seasonal food. Chef, Lawrence Keogh, said that when Roast first opened people thought the idea of serving British seasonal food was crazy. However, over the years the philosophy behind Roast has become much more widespread. Perhaps in a few years time the idea of drinking English fizz will not seem quite so crazy either.
Lock Etive trout
The restaurant itself is a bit of a tourist mecca as it is perched above Borough Market. It is great fun to sit in the white linen finery of Roast and look on at all the traders and shoppers going about their business below. What is even better to know is that lots of the food that you are tucking into is sourced from the market itself. We started our meal with a rectangular plate covered with a thin layer of vibrantly coloured smoked Lock Etive trout. This was served with crispy Dorset crab cakes, a scattering of shallots, black pepper and lemon. Lawrence described the trout to us as having a “four mile flavour”, in that you can still taste the trout from four miles away. It was certainly an intense flavour and it was a hard job for Chapel Down’s winemaker Owen Elias to match the trout with wine but he managed with an aromatic glass of Chapel Down’s English Rose 2008.
Chef Lawrence Keogh
As tasty as the trout was, the dish was more about clever shopping by Roast than kitchen skill. So I was more impressed by the ramsey of Carlkuke haggis which was served with celeraic and a braised oxtail sauce. Here’s a confession, I had never eaten haggis before (I am Australian after all). Here’s another confession, I loved it. While some of the haggis aficionados (if there is such a thing) at the table said that the flavour of the haggis was somewhat overpowered by the oxtail sauce, I loved the peppery kick that I got from the haggis and the rich depth of flavours. The haggis was matched with a lovely mellow glass of Chapel Down Rondo Regent Pinot Noir NV. However, the best match was the Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut which we made “English Chestnut Velvet’s” with by topping up the fizz with some English porter so that you got all the fun of fizz with tang of porter.
While the haggis was a revelation to me, the highlight of the meal was a more familiar dish, Roast’s slow roasted Wicks Manor pork belly. This was a super crispy serve of pork belly with piped mashed potatoes and a Bramley apple sauce. The crackling put any crackling I have ever created to shame. Lawrence told us that the secret was to score the pork the width of a finger and then rub it with lemon and salt before roasting at 230c to “shock” the pork then down to 165c for three hours. We drank Roast Baccus Reserve 2007 and Chapel Down’s 2006 Pinot Blanc with the pork belly and as you can imagine everyone was feeling rather merry by this stage.
Warm chestnut and conference pear cake
Finally onto desserts. The spiced clementine custard with anise biscuits was like a grown up trifle. The custard tasted almost like a pannacotta and while I liked the nostalgia of the dessert (just like Grandma used to make) I didn’t think it was quite as exciting as the mains. We also sampled the warm chestnut and Conference pear cake which was served with a hot chocolate sauce and some very melted vanilla bean icecream. The cake was great comfort food, but again did not blow me away. The custard was matched with Chapel Down’s 2007 Nectar which was a little too saccharine sweet for me and the cake was served with Chapel Down’s Cinque Ports Classic 2006 and the Tenterden Estate Pinot Noir 2008 which had a lovely almost chocolate taste to it.
What a meal. We were very spoilt. Especially getting to chat with Lawrence and Owain about the food and wine. Service was amazingly attentive, although we were there for a special lunch and I have had friends who have had a hard time with service at Roast on other occasions, particularly for one of their busy weekend breakfasts. I really liked Roast’s philosophy of serving traditional English, seasonal food (although Lawrence admits that this can be hard work in certain Winter months when the only vegetables you have to work with are lots of swedes and turnips). I think the food is not as adventurous or as exciting as places like St John or Launceston Place, however sometimes that is exactly the sort of food that you want.
Details: The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, Borough SE1 1TL (Ph 0845 034 7300) Tube: Borough/London Bridge
Damage: Pricey but free for us
If you liked reading this you may be interested to read about other London restaurants leading the way in serving British food, St John’s in Clerkenwell and Launceston Place in Chelsea.
Gourmet Chick was a guest at lunch of Chapel Down Wines and Roast Restaurant. They are offering a special deal to readers of Gourmet Chick on the evening of November 24th which includes three courses with matched Chapel Down wines, tea and coffee for £44.50. To book this deal quote Chapel Down Wines Blogger’s Dinner.