I tend to think most roast dinners bought and eaten outside of the home are terrible. Even those cooked at upmarket gastropubs and steak houses, those which soak good potatoes in cauldrons of duck fat and source the finest beef money can buy might fall short.
What happens, really? Mostly it’s the meat and potatoes. These are plagued by dryness. Indeed how are either supposed to be at their best when delivered en masse and when left under a hot light, bewildered? Then the gravy is often too reliant on bought-in veal stock and the assortment of veg is saggy and wrong.
This might also be the “mum effect”: there is sentimentality, nostalgia and warmth to the comforting food of the home. Even if the family member entrusted with the Sunday lunch that day is less than proficient in the kitchen, there is a familiarity to it that makes everything taste better.
There will also be no confusion as regards the combination of vegetables, qualms with portion size, or any issue with the viscosity of the gravy. The elements of a roast dinner are subjective and we all have our ways. How are we to dictate anything in a restaurant? We are not, and nor should we, because outsiders who try to control how restaurants do things are awful.
Go out for a roast and you lose the right to dictate play. Dads should not, unlike Tottenham and England playmaker James Maddison, try to be at the centre of proceedings: “When I go for a roast dinner with my family, I like to be the main man,” he told the Independent. Cue thoughts of Maddison entering the Toby Carvery, apron flapping and tongs aloft, slicing great hunks of ham at the trolley and flinging them about the place as if they were passes behind Crystal Palace’s fettered back line.
As ever, there are exceptions to the rule. Not all pub and restaurant roast dinners are lacking or undeserving of our patronage. When a venue gets a roast dinner right, all good reason to buy good ingredients, spend hours toiling away, and then even more washing up, slips quickly away. Why bother when there’s something majestic to be had?
One is Blacklock, a growing steak group that prides itself on quality meat but also affordability. Cuts of meat sourced from good regenerative farms start at £14, and the beef dripping chips for £4.50 are excellent. Their Sunday roasts (£21-23) are deservedly popular.
The restaurant takes a similarly generous approach to pudding: white chocolate cheesecake is served tableside from a large bowl, as is done in so many parts of Italy. And this for £6.50 per person. Here’s is founder Gordon Ker’s cheesecake recipe to recreate at home.
White chocolate cheesecake
100g crème fraiche
275g Philadelphia cream cheese
500ml double cream
260g white chocolate buttons
250g McVities digestive biscuits
150g unsalted butter
White chocolate bar, grated into large curls
In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheeses together until soft. In a second mixing bowl, semi-whip the double cream and then melt the chocolate over a bain-marie until it reaches body temperature (37C). Fold the chocolate into the cream cheese mix, and then fold in the semi-whipped cream.
Melt the unsalted butter in a pan, crush the biscuits by bashing them in a bag with a rolling pin, being careful to keep the pieces of biscuit reasonably large, and then stir them into the butter until coated all over.
Assemble the cheesecake by spreading the biscuit base into the bottom of a serving dish, then add the cheesecake mix topped with white chocolate shavings.
Leave to set in the fridge overnight.