I have always been a fond admirer of Lawrence Keogh. He (like me) went through a kidney transplant not so long ago, and inspires those that have gone through renal failure that you can still lead a full and fulfilling life, achieving the life goals you may have set yourself. Working as head chef of Roast in Borough Market, he has even written a cookbook focused on those suffering from renal failure, focusing on tasty dishes you can eat and make whilst taking into consideration the numerous dietary restrictions that people like me had to endure for so many years. In short, he is definitely someone I respect.
Having consumed numerous piggie rolls from the takeaway post stationed in the entrance of Borough market, I had high hopes for Roast. The minute I saw Toptable Spotlight offering £40 for £20, I snapped it up and plotted a trip. I thought I was being clever by scheduling a Saturday lunchtime trip, I could head to Roast and pickup some delights from Borough Market for later consumption. This was my first mistake, Borough was already heaving and the hordes were making me angry as I got there at 12. I was to end up with no treats.
The room itself is a nice airy space. High ceilings, lots of natural light with windows absolutely everywhere and a great view of the market below. Scattered with various photographic portraits of people you will recognise, I was left to stare at Simon Pegg's rather sad looking face during the whole meal. With a 2 hour turnaround time, we were keen to order, but after the initial welcome, and the reminder of the 2 hour rule, we struggled to attract the attention of our server, quite a feat in itself as we were sat right next to the till. A little while later, we managed to order, with 3 starters to share and mains. We also ordered the house special cocktail and waited.
After a little while, our starters arrived, but there was no sign of our drinks. We ended up asking three times before they eventually surfaced. We couldn't wait around for our drinks so we tucked into our food. It's hard to beat deep fried cheese, but even Laverstoke mozzarella (which is quite delicious) is over priced at £9.50 for 3 measly pieces of lukewarm cheese. Even more parsimonious was the £8 saveloy scotch egg. Basically, it was an overcooked battered egg. The sausage meat was barely there, and no matter how nice the sausage meat around the egg tasted, it was a lot of money to pay for a battered egg. The corned beef and pickled onion hash was better, but did not redeem the two dishes before it. Eventually, as we finished off our first course, our drinks arrived.
The mains were at least warm, but were nothing to write home about. The sole (which was a megrim as advertised, and not a lemon sole as our waiter insisted) went down well and was a hefty beast. If there was a gripe, it was not hot enough to melt the shrimp butter on top. My main of pork belly was decent enough, with excellent crackling, but the meat was on the chewy side, and the apple sauce was poor at best, tasting and looking like apple flavoured baby food.
Once again, we were missing items we had ordered. Beef dripping roast potatoes arrived a little while after the mains, and were nothing like the wondrous beef dripping chips at Hawksmoor Seven Dials. Underdone, lacking any crisp, insipid in flavour and actually unpleasant to eat, I had one and couldn't bring myself to eat another. The cabbage we had ordered failed to turn up at all, and when we pointed this out to our waiter, he visibly shrugged his shoulders. A little while later, our cabbage eventually turned up piping hot. The only relief was that we had eventually got some hot food.
By the time they had offered us dessert, we really just wanted to leave so we tried to settle the bill, but even that took a few goes to get somebodies/anybodies attention. The total bill pre voucher came to nearly £90, and that was with the cabbage removed and also begrudgingly the drinks. A huge wad of cash for mediocre food and terrible service. We considered desserts briefly, but when I saw them all sitting on the tray by the pass, right next to the heat lamps which failed to keep our food warm., I was very glad I hadn't. I couldn't believe it but I was pleased to be re-entering the seething mass which is Borough Market. I admire you Mr Keogh, but your restaurant, not so much.
Roast - The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL