Borough Market could be regarded as one of those dressed up areas of London’s street trading, far removed from more dullsville, mediocre East End market trade, with knock-down priced goods and bargain purchases. On first appearance this may not be immediately noticeable, but wander the stalls and soak in the atmosphere and you will find an opulent emporium of goods that are testament to a multitude of cultures. I took my Pa out for his birthday and had decided on Roast a few weeks earlier. This was my third visit; the previous two both being relishable affairs, so it was with some enthusiasm that I entered the lift and was elevated to the restaurant.
The room design is impressive, remarkable for a space which once probably acted as upstairs storage for fruit and veg and folded stalls: over-ripe and dripping pulp into their wooden crates and causing quite a pong one would imagine. Now, from one side of the room, you can see below to the country cheese and organic veg stalls, assemblies of Turkish delights and fresh soup pots, grasses, grains and caryopsis all lined up in higgledy-piggledy formations under the arches. From the dining room’s other side there are train arches with South Eastern trains zipping along, an image you’ve come to expect from the area’s logistics close to London Bridge. The design, to continue, is successful in bringing light into the tall room and high-reaching windows presents various activity and events from the bustling hullabaloo below.
The menu is surprisingly brisk, which is reassuring as it shows faith and ability in the dishes available. And there are some punchy British choices, for instance the chicken livers on toast with smoked streaky bacon (£8.50) were divine, the liver and sauce melting into the toast like a sapid sponge, and my ox tongue with Butcher’s sauce and mashed potatoes (£16.50) was a success, soft to cut and robust in flavour, the Butcher’s sauce neatly accompanying the tongue. There’s also a lunch offering for three courses for £20 that I’ve tasted before and includes the likes of scallops and pork belly, well worth taking advantage of.
We visited on a Wednesday evening and the Daily Special was roast rib of Welsh Black beef with Yorkshire pudding, horseradish and Colman’s English mustard (£28.00). Pa picked the special along with two side dishes to complete his roast dinner: buttered asparagus and Jersey royals (£6.00) and young spinach leaves with pine nuts, lemon and olive oil (£5.00). The beef was hefty, covering half the plate. Fatty deposits were stringy though and remained piled on the plate at the end to an unsatisfying result. And come on, who pays £39 for a roast dinner? Me, that’s who. Mug.
My side of grilled field mushrooms with garlic butter (£4.50) was disappointing, the three large mushrooms sodden with too much acerbic butter. It was surely enough to melt the eyeballs of any vampire, let alone keep it away. And the breath – I must have been giving out emissions like a sweaty Yoga teacher’s thong. Luckily I could mask this with regular gulps of plonk from a rich and serious wine list. We had a pleasant little find in the shape of an English Pinot Noir from Chapel Down in Tenterden, Kent, which is down the road from where I come from. Big up Kent! Let’s hear it for a cheeky little English wine. Its colour is similar to a rosé – much lighter complexion than most reds – holding smells of strawberries and summer fruits. There’s an offensive markup price however at £31 a bottle. The following weekend on the Chapel Down website, I ordered a case of six for £70 (including delivery costs).
Filled to the brim from meaty richness, dessert seemed unlikely, an impossible tackle from a stomach lining poisoned by my greed and stretched to its very limits. I had had my fill and lubed my lining with a silky plonk, yet continued my gormandizing with a tasty toffee apple sundae (£6.50) accompanied by a glass of Glenfiddich Caoran (12 year old) whisky (£12.00). Jesus on a bendy bus it had some punch! I was back in the game. Pa’s Montgomery’s Cheddar platter (£8.50) – his absolute favourite cheese, by James Montgomery & Steve Bridges at Manor Farm, and assumingly sourced from the marvelous Neal’s Yard across the road – came with a glass of Malbec 2007, Ruca Malen (£8.50) and with a single birthday candle burning away, something which pleased the old man greatly. And so we capped off a hoggish and voracious evening, finally sticking the bill straight onto my credit card. Ouch!