Roast is a very aptly named restaurant in London’s famed Borough Market. That might conjure images of a steamy-windowed greasy-spoon cafe (note no accent over the ‘e’ so pronounced to rhyme with safe). Roast could not be further from that vinyl vision.
The menu here celebrates the best of British food and that includes roasts and meat of every hue, respectfully treated and enthusiastically devoured. Roast opened its doors for the first time in 2006 and has enjoyed wide and worthy praise for its service, food, presentation and ethos. It’s a striking restaurant that reminds one of the glasshouses at Kew Gardens. Victorian engineering in the guise of metalwork married with industrial-age elegance. This was the market’s original Floral Hall and its unlikely you will find its match elsewhere.
Iqbal Wahhab is a man you will remember from his association with Cinnamon Club. He is one of the most respected restaurateurs in London and had taken a step away from the Asian food industry with Roast, although he is keeping a finger in the metaphoric pie with his new interest in Mooli which specialises in Indian wraps.
New Zealand-born Marcus Verberne joins Roast after a decade of working with Mark Hix at the Ivy and elsewhere, most recently at his restaurant the Albermarle at Brown’s Hotel, where Marcus rose to the position of Executive Chef in 2010. He is evidently inspired by British food from the market but he is also rumoured to be a passionate forager for wild food. His menus at Roast reflect his enthusiasm and his skill.
A menu of Marcus’ new dishes has been available since March and judging by the voluble lunchtime crowd, it’s popular. Iqbal notes that they hadn’t previously presented an asparagus selection: it’s a seasonal addition to the regular bill of fare and does remind one that this restaurant likes to take advantage of all that fresh produce at the foot of the stairs. Asparagus tart with a poached bantam’s egg and shaved Caerphilly would be my choice from the asparagus dishes on offer.
Pan-fried Braddock White duck’s egg with baby squid and Bath Pig chorizo was my starter. It’s rare to find eggs with providence but that’s the measure of the care taken in sourcing the most modest of ingredients. Modest but crucial. That egg and its history are mentioned in the title and the yolk provides a rich and creamy sauce for the seafood and the sliced sausage. Simple, classic and delicious.
Roast tempts its regulars with a daily special menu. I’ll be back one Wednesday for anchovy-rubbed, hay-baked leg of Southdown mutton with bubble ‘n’ squeak and caper sauce. No, the meat won’t taste like a kipper – anchovy adds a particular salty savouriness or Umami. Bubble and Squeak is old-fashioned comfort food and was often made on Mondays with leftovers from Sunday lunch.
Newlyn monkfish curry with steamed basmati rice is a departure from the traditional focus of Roast’s menu …or is it? Its addition gives a nod to the way we actually eat in Britain. Yes, we truly do have a love of spice so there should be no surprise that it’s here. It seems to be the lunch of choice for many a Roast habitué. I would have ordered that as my main course but I was dining not only with Iqbal but also with Mridula Baljekar, perhaps Britain’s most accomplished Indian cookbook writer. I preferred to remain with some of Roast’s more representative dishes, although a Ruby Murray here is bound to be remarkable. Iqbal has his street cred to consider, after all.
Wild rabbit and cider pie with Herefordshire snails and ramsons (wild garlic) was Mridula’s main course. We don’t generally think of snails as being British but they breed just as well in Hertfordshire as they do in Gascony. Rabbit was common on menus and in home kitchens in Britain for generations. Watership Down and myxomatosis put paid to our appetite for bunny but this marvellous lean meat is making a welcome return; we do pies better than any other nation and this version was proclaimed delicious.
Slow-roasted free-range pork belly with mashed potatoes and Bramley apple sauce is a step up from your usual roast. Free-range pork is worth the extra money you will likely have to shell out. The taste is richer and shows us how good pork can be. So often these days it’s pale and flabby and resembles a hefty slab of tight-grained chicken rather than anything with four legs and a snout.
Roast rib-eye of Hereford beef with beef dripping roasties and Yorkshire pudding will probably be the joint for the purist. Potatoes cooked in that beef fat are elevated far beyond those cooked in vegetable oil or even olive oil. OK, so they are not a health food but what a treat.
Sloe gin jelly with clotted cream ice cream, along with the ramsons and rabbit, remind us of the delicious ingredients available for free. (Foraging can be chancy so take advice if you have doubts.) Sloes gathered from the wild have long been paired with gin and this jelly is a deep red jewel-like and sparkling dessert with a plummy fruitiness. A light and beautiful conclusion to a meal in a light and beautiful restaurant.
Monday – Friday 7:00am – 11:00am
Saturday 8:00am – 11:30am
Monday – Tuesday 12 noon – 2.45pm
Wednesday – Saturday 12 noon – 3.45pm
Monday – Friday 5.30pm – 10.45pm
Saturday 6.00pm – 10.45pm
11.30am – 9.00pm – set menu only
Monday – Friday 7:00am – midnight
Saturday 8:00am – midnight
Sunday 11.30am – 11.00pm
The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL.
Read Iqbal Wahhab’s blog here
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Events Telephone Number: 020 3301 4891
Reservations and Enquiries: 0845 034 7300
Fax: 0845 034 7301
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018