One the the best meals in E2 came as a suprise on Sunday night when SauvyB and I went in search for (well, I was going in search – she just came along for the ride), Sunday roast. We had Sunday on our side but by the time we got back from work it was nearing 8.00pm and any good roast is usually sold out well before then.
I’m determined to have Sunday roast while I’m over here – LaDiDa has teased me with visions of somewhere that serves a Yorkshire pudding so big, it’s used as the plate for your meat and roast veg. I think he’s dreaming (but I love it). I’ll settle for a regular sized pud, drowning in a good gravy!
Friends with LAK (local area knowledge) have pointed me in the direction of Hawksmoor, The Owl and The Pussycat and The Royal Oak and we’re headed in the direction of Columbia Road, to try our luck at the latter. You’d believe me if I told you I’d actually tried to call ahead and see if they were all out of Sunday roast to save us the trip right? Well, I won’t admit to it.
Columbia Road is about 5 minutes walk from where we live and home to the beautiful Columbia Road Flower Market. The flower market began as a Saturday trading market, but as the Jewish population grew a Sunday market was established. The Saturday market died out but the flower market evolved. And since the 1980s the market has gained international recognition
As well as the flower market, Columbia Road is home to some quaint little boutique shops and cafes with their Victorian shop fronts. And The Royal Oak pub. You know those new places popping up that try to fill themselves with things that look old and shitty to give it character? Well, this place really is just old and shitty – and full of great character. The doors are so weathered and flimsy, that one kick and you’d be in (not that there’s anything of value inside).
There’s a collection of miss-matched wooden chairs and tables with well-worn sticky tops. Electrical wires drape from inside windows frames, across to the bar and to an old stereo. The bar itself consists of a few old bar fridges, topped with a small selection of spirits. Then of course, peanuts by the handful in a giant glass jar on the bench top. Sunday night and it was packed. All walks of life casually gathered to see out the weekend with a few pints – it’s relaxed, fun and so civilised – why can’t we adopt this back home? Although there is a lovely dining room upstairs, we’ve opted to sit downstairs in the bar with the best of them, perched at a bright (yes, the sun is still out) table by the window – perfect for people watching. A man with his Puggalier at the table next to us is doing just the same.
As expected (although I still carried some hope), Sunday roast was well and truly gone. We sit on our drinks – the cider that would have been a Guinness, had their been a roast – before checking out the blackboard menu. It’s gastro pub food all the way with Rabbit and pork terrine with ginger chutney (£6.00); Wild pigeon breast, broad bean radish and quail egg salad (£5.50) and Parmesan polenta, asparagus, crispy poached egg, tomato and pine nuts (£12.50) on offer, along with the usual suspects of Onglet Steak (1£4.00); Fish ‘n’ Chips (£13.50) and Bangers ‘n’ mash (£12.50).
The menu reads well, but judging by my surroundings, my food expectations are fairly low. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. When our Rack of Spring lamb, crushed marjoram peas and garlic peas (£16.50) and Sea Trout, jersey royals, crab salad, sorrel and watercress (£15.00) arrives, it looks beyond delicious and perhaps a little out-of-place on the ricky old table.
The trout is perfectly cooked, still a little raw in the middle and sitting atop a creamy potato and crab salad – even samphire has found a place here.
The lamb is still delightfully pink. And the squashed peas are so sweet mixed with fresh marjoram and mint – the non-lover-of-peas in me can’t get enough of them with the light garlic cream. Oh, and those potato gems? So good.
The two Frenchman who’d sidled up to the end of our table mid-way through our meal are sad to see us leave and turn down their offer of the English customary “One more for the road?”… “Ahnozer pint fur ze rhoad?”. With food this good, I must get back here next Sunday, earlier, for a roast.
The Royal Oak – 73 Columbia Road, E2 7RG London – 020 7729 2220