Could you finish this Suffolk pub's EPIC sharing Sunday roast?
PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 September 2019
A pub has launched what is probably one of the biggest Sunday lunches in the county - perfect for families to enjoy together. But what's it like? We found out.
I don't know about you, but when I'm eating out, what I really want is to experience something I can't/don't make in my own home.
You'll never catch me ordering bangers and mash, or ham, egg and chips. But there is an exception to that rule - the roast. However….it has to be a stonkingly good roast. I make a mean version in my own kitchen, and if I'm going to be lured out of my PJs on a Sunday for what's essentially meat and two veg, I want to know it'll be better than what I can rustle up myself in a couple of hours between changing the bedsheets and mowing the lawn.
There are three things which 'make' a roast in my opinion. First up is the meat. It has to be excellent quality - preferably cooked on the bone slowly until it yields beautifully with the gentle prod of a fork, its juices clinging, glisteningly to its edges. Secondly, those roasties have got to be on point. I don't want microwaved spuds, tatties that have been sitting under the pass for hours, or (shudder) deep-fried potatoes. Give me proper roasties. Roasties which have been par-boiled, roughed up in the pan until they're all shaggy at the edges, lavished with duck fat, goose fat or dripping, and crisped up in the oven to a shade of burnished gold.
Last, but by no means least, is the gravy. Keep your Bisto please (other brands are available). I want lashings and lashings of pan-juices and stock, rendered down into a succulent, bone-nourishing broth of a beauty to smother all over my plate. You can never have too much gravy. Fact.
When I heard about the latest venture at The Black Lion in Long Melford - a family sharing Sunday lunch - I was intrigued. A few pubs and restaurants offer roasts 'family style' these days, but they promised theirs was decidedly different. Interest firmly piqued, I found myself there with hubby and kids in tow at the weekend to see what the fuss was about.
The inn, recently refurbished, had the feel of a rural country pub. No airs and graces, or gastropub frippery. Inside, aside from the odd waft of food from the kitchen, the scent of the fireplaces carried on the air. A smell I associate with hunkering down. With pies, pints, braises and stews. The smell of autumn.
Sipping on a pint of ale from Nethergate up the road, and a decent glass of Argentine Malbec, we decided to forgo a starter (the people near us had a roast and it looked huge), instead satisfying our hunger pangs with the free crate of onion and rosemary focaccia bread with whipped butter which had found its way to the table - and very nice too.
The family sharing roast (£25 for two courses and £30 for three) requires 24 hours notice when you book so the kitchen can prepare the feast. And feast it was. If I were to describe it as akin to a medieval banquet (without the stuffed swans) I wouldn't far off.
Platter after platter arrived to the table.
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First, a tray of dips. Homemade apple sauce and bread sauce, mustard and horseradish. Then, three (yes three) types of gravy - pork, chicken and beef. No less than five bowls of vegetables. And a plank of meats. "This would serve a few more people," Mr Jarvis whispered across the table, his fork gouging into a spud. And he wasn't wrong. Actually we ended up taking five boxes of leftovers home - not that we're complaining, that was our work/school sarnies and supper sorted for a couple of days.
Let's talk through the options, beginning with the meat. A mountain of pink topside of beef, cut at the right thickness and angle for tenderness. Half a Norfolk chicken, basted with herbs which infused every piece of flesh with flavour. Melting pork belly with an awesome crackle on top. And, a star player here, a fist-sized wibbly beef cheek, bathed in a sticky glaze, redolent with the flavour of anise. Oh, and there were pigs in blankets and sausagemeat stuffing slices too.
On our dining plates arrived billowing Yorkshire puds atop a fragrant carrot puree and a tang of red cabbage puree - an unexpected delight and just the ticket to cut through the pork.
But what I really want to sing about here is the vegetables which were absolutely the best I've had with a roast outside my own home. Maple glazed parsnips with a crunch. Rainbow hued heritage carrots doused in Kentwell Hall honey and black garlic. A naughty dish of cauliflower in three cheese and truffle sauce. Hispi cabbage with herb and chicken skin crumb. And those goose fat and garlic roast potatoes. Well….I didn't want to share them did I?
I cannot think of one element brought to the table which could be improved upon.
We were bursting, but couldn't resist the draw of the puds as a sweet finale. A plum and ginger tart (I think they must have left the ginger out though) with smooth clotted cream ice cream.
A plate of chocolate crème, chocolate wafer, pastry strips and hazelnut ice cream which gave the overall impression of Nutella. Oh yum.
And a blackberry cheesecake, with one of the most scrumptious sorbets I've eaten - roasted apple. Both tart and comfortingly sweet, it was autumn on a spoon.
If you've got an appetite and a few hours to spare, get this experience on your Suffolk 'eating out bucket list'.