Can anyone tell me what is it with the British obsession for Sunday lunch? Don't get me wrong, I am as much a big Sunday luncher as the next man but why we all feel so much better with life, the universe and everything when we eat one is beyond a mere mortal such as I. Meat and two veg is something that we have all eaten, almost every pub in the country has their own version but unfortunately as we have all learned to our cost, Sunday lunch can be a real hit or miss affair and the search for the perfect combination of soft, juicy meat, crispy but fluffy roasties, veg in perfect proportion and a shiny, deep, rich gravy will go on ad infinitum.
So when the mood took the Family P to try and find the roast with the most, we turned to 185 Watling Street to step up to the plate and one thing was perfectly clear from the outset; 185 looks absolutely mint. From the first look of the visage to straight into the taxidermy studio/entrance hall, the whole building gives a very professional and classy first impression so long as you don't mind stuffed antelope heads or framed scorpions on the wall. Luckily the Family P and the Johnstons are made of stern stuff and the pull of Sunday lunch was simply too much to resist. After a nice drink at the equally impressive bar we were shown to our table, a very light and airy little number directly in front of the busy pass so we could be fantastically nosey at every dish that came out.
We decided to pass on the starters and jump straight to the only main event that counts, The Childs Sister chose the 'cod goujons'* and chips with peas which she devoured eagerly but seemed to me suspiciously mass produced and all too similar to the sort of coated chips and battered fish fingers that come out of bag marked 'McCain'.
The Child herself decided to stick with us and have a childs portion of the regular pork roast, as you can see, she made her opinion fairly clear.
Which shouldn't be taken as an opinion of the quality of the food itself more it's a judgment on the clearly RIDICULOUS size of that portion! For goodness sake people, I know everyone likes generosity but this just gave the impression that the kitchen plated up a full plate by mistake and couldn't be bothered to do the job properly. Understandably, she barely managed half and no-one wants to see needless waste like that.
Adult portions were more appropriate and we had the pork and lamb.
I have been known to say that a roast dinner lives or dies by it's roast potato offer and I stand by that, these were nice and crispy but fluffy in the middle, a very acceptable roast potato. Similarly the yorkshire puds were big and fluffy and the meat was plentiful, soft and good quality. The Johnstons mentioned that the meat to veg ratio was heavy on the meat but, personally I've never seen that as too much of an issue myself. The veg option was a mixed affair with the greens being suitably green but the cauliflower cheese not only suffering from a very thick and unpleasantly chewy cheesy skin but also some inconsistency in cooking. Mine was done well but The Child's were clearly under cooked and Mrs P's were almost raw. However, one thing I must now add to my list of good roast dinner must-haves is gravy and this is where 185 really let me down. Not only was the whole thing just a little bit cold but also take a look at that plate of thin, watery gravy. You don't miss it until it's gone right?
On pleasantly different note, Mrs P wasn't going to leave without a pudding and thankfully 185 managed to pull something out of the bag with this apple turnover.
Flakey pastry, gooey apple and lashings of custard; it made a for a good Sunday lunch pud which was excellently received by the whole table (we had more than one of them obviously).
So I'm in two minds about the experience we had at 185 Watling Street Bar and Kitchen. Is it rubbish, is it not? I can't decide, there were some clearly amateur errors but the place looks so nice, I mean just look at the private function rooms they've got upstairs:
Super cool, in a Edwardian throw-back kind of a way. So what do we do next? I think the only fair conclusion would be to go back during normal service and give them another go. The al a carte menu looks very appealing but will it suffer the same fate as the decor? We will have to wait and see but don't worry, your ever-hungry correspondents will report back as soon as we can.
*interesting point, does calling a fish finger a goujon really make it more attractive? I mean, really?