Bright and early on Friday morning, we set off for Covent Garden to have breakfast at Carluccio’s before cabbing it London’s Borough Market. We had been to Borough Market in December when we were last in London but it was a quick tour as it was too cold to linger and there were fewer food stalls set up for the winter. This time around, we wanted to get there early to watch the stalls being set up and have time to wander around before our lunch booking at roast.
Stalls were already set up at the main area, Floral Hall, but there weren’t that many people yet so we were able to wander around up to the Green market area to see some more stalls that weren’t there the last time we visited. We tried some of the samples on display – A and J tried lots of the dried sausages and salamis while I stuck to the cheeses, including an aged Pecorino that was fantastic. After half an hour of several bites, we bought a dried salami with truffles and in another stall called, The Basque Pig, we couldn’t resist a peppered saucisson seche.
After all that sampling, we were ready for some lunch so we headed to the corner of Floral Hall and took the lift up to roast which is in a large, light-filled dining room overlooking the main market hall. We had to wait at the bar for about ten minutes while they set up for lunch. There were several other diners as well waiting to be seated.
A few minutes past noon, we were shown our table and given the menus. I had heard about roast from a good friend who had been there for breakfast as part of a special Borough Market tour so we were very much looking forward to sampling some of the British cuisine that the restaurant is famous for.
On the menu’s front page is a short introduction to what the chefs at roast come up with while working with select produce from hand-picked suppliers for authentic British cooking. The menu selections were limited and to the point (no fancy descriptions here) with a half a dozen appetizers, two salads, three roast items, three grilled items and another half dozen main courses along with a few side dishes. There is also a Cook’s Choice Menu of six courses including tea or coffee for £65 (£90, with accompanying wines). A children’s menu is also available for £6.50 with a choice of one main course (sausage and mash, fish and chips, roast chicken and chips) and a dessert.
It was not easy to choose what we were going to have for lunch and after several minutes, I chose the small portion of peach and goat’s cheese salad and the smoked trout for A. For our main courses, I stuck to a traditional roast item – Slow roast Wicks Manor pork belly with mashed potato and Bramley apple sauce while A opted for the Pan fried lemon sole on the bone with razor clams and horseradish. We both decided to share a side dish of new season carrots as well. J chose the roast chicken and chips from the kids menu. We were served two types of bread soon after along with some salted butter and our drinks. By half past twelve, the place was packed with just two tables free – lots of City types having business lunches and also several tables of tourists.
Soon after our starters arrived – my goat cheese and peach salad as it was simply a whole white peach quartered served with several slices of goat’s cheese stacked one on top of the other. Along with this was literally, 5 green salad leaves (where was the salad?!!). A’s smoked trout was simply served with some sliced red onions, a sliver of lemon and a handful of greens. After all the hype, we were both surprised at the uninteresting way the dishes were presented. More importantly, the smoked trout wasn’t special and my goat cheese and peaches were fine but not outstanding either. My son’s roast chicken was brought at the same time and it looked so unappetizing – a bowl of chips served with half of a dried looking skinless chicken breast and several slices of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes – is this what passes for British cuisine? My son didn’t even bother to finish the chips – that’s how bad it was.
After our disappointing starters, we were hoping for better main courses but again were let down – the roast pork was fine with the traditional crackling but it was served with a dollop of boring mashed potatoes and applesauce that tasted like it came from a bottle. My husband’s lemon sole was a bit better but again nothing spectacular and the side dish of carrots were okay to say the least. If this is what special British produce tastes like, then I’m much better off heading to the local Waitrose, buying the ingredients myself and making it at home. The service was lacklustre as well – when my husband asked the waiter to please clear his sole, the waiter answered “I’ll do it after your wife finishes her meal.”. I mean, we know all about the right service sequence but since when does the waiter lecture a client on when to clear a plate?
The quality of the food and the way it was cooked and presented were definitely uninteresting and the prices they charged for it were outrageous. The meal was a rip-off from start to finish. It ended up being our most boring and expensive meal in London on this trip. What a letdown!!!! I can’t imagine that this is what British cuisine is supposed to be so I have to believe that roast gives British food a bad reputation. If you decide to visit Borough Market, you’d be better off wither getting a sandwich or a snack from one of the many market stalls or eating at one of the many little restaurants that surround the market – I’m sure that whatever they serve will be better and cheaper than what you would get at roast. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
at Borough Market
The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL
Telephone: +44 0207 940 1300
* Food – Ultra simple food pretending to be upscale, do yourself a favor and go the supermarket, buy the best ingredients you can afford and cook it yourself at home.
*** Atmosphere – bright, light-filled dining area overlooking the bustling market below, definitely an impressive setting.
** Service – not particularly impressive, the waitstaff were wandering around without smiles on their faces along with attitudes best left at the door.