It’s the colours that hit you first: the cherry-blossom pink that floods through the meat; the jolt of orange from the carrot split lengthways; the deep browns and sandy blondes of the Yorkshire pudding and potatoes; and a little jug of gravy, so dark you’d likely mistake it for an inkwell, its glaze glossy enough for you to see your own reflection in it as you peer down and steady yourself for the task in front of you. The plate is too big to finish in one sitting, but too tempting not to.
The Sunday roast is more ritual than composite of ingredients, a thing of magnificence and a spiritual keystone of Britain’s identity, a place for salvation from your sins, a remedy to the shrieks of last night’s hangover, a buffer between you and Monday. Thin-lidded east-end pies slicked with jade-green liquor are glorious on match days, fish and chips are great when day-tripping to the Margate coast, but Sundays – Sundays are for roasts.
The Sunday roast: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, seasonal vegetables and gravy
Restaurants that specialise in the meal are not exactly thin in numbers in London. At Hawksmoor, the rumps are flavoured by charcoal and smacked with the irresistible, homely fragrance of garlic and roasted shallots; Marksman’s is a sophisticated, art-directed arrangement, a stylish take on tradition, an east-London thing; and, at Blacklock, slaps of whole joints are piled as high as a basket of laundry, and a snip at £22. But, even if you are familiar with the pleasures of roasted meats at the end of the week, The Audley Public House, in Mayfair, deserves to be top of your mind the next time you tap open your Citymapper app.
In a place like The Audley Public House, done by the firm behind Roth Bar & Grill, the bare-brick farm-driven restaurant at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, you’d expect a chapel of finesse, with good drinks and great design – and you’d be right. More scrubbed-up pub than crumbly boozer, the renovated Edwardian watering hole is a concentration of W1 homeowners, a place where the floors don’t stick, the hand-dryers have good pressure, the food is chalked up, the woodwork has been hand polished, and the Guinness, pulled behind the mahogany bar, is suaver than a Jay-Z melody.
There is a restored 19th-century ceiling clock, the fireplace is original, tankards hang behind the bar, and a corner piano plays sharp notes that collide beautifully, like a late-night jazz quartet, against the evening conversation. Up top, Phyllida Barlow, lionised for the way she shaped the British sculpture scene, enlivens the room with a sensation of an intervention that’s marked by a ballet of aqua blues and mint greens; large, curved broom strokes of pinks overlapping blocks of crimson; and great, flaming-hot swathes of orange, a collision of colour that would look pretty good if pinned to a wall at the Tate. This is a place that’s worth getting to know.
But then there’s the roast. Cauliflower is melted with Somerset cheddar, mixed around with English mustard and generous glugs of Worcestershire sauce; four of five multi-sided hewn potatoes are seared in beef fat. The billowed-out, puffed-up Yorkshire pudding is made from a night-before batter that’s been stationed in the oven and left until it hits five or six inches of risen height; and aged-beef fat is emulsified for the deep flow of gravy.
But the beef? An ungodly amount of thickly, cleanly chopped rump cap from Northern Ireland, enough for you to avoid the cross trainer for just another day, blazed at a high temperature for 20 minutes, then lowered for little over The Lord of the Rings’s run-time. It’s a tough thing to explain – a bit like describing a Turner with nothing but a box of Crayolas and the back of a napkin. The bangle of fat’s funkiness, the deep concentration of the well-pedigreed meat in every smooth bite, the blissed-out, eyes-at-the-back-of-the-head pleasure at the end of it all. It’s a lot to take in.
You could easily pick your way through the populist smash-hits that fly out of The Audley’s kitchen: there will be marrow bones with parsley, a dish that brings to mind the hourglass silhouette of a power plant; Scotch eggs, rarebit, oysters, and chips; there are sausage rolls, bangers and mustard, and pies that appear as though they’ve been whisked from a storybook.
Yet, you just know your Sunday is geared up for only one thing – because Sundays are for roasts.
- The Audley Public House, 41-43 Mount St, London W1K 2RX, theaudleypublichouse.com
- Sunday roast, £27.50
Want more restaurant recommendations? Read our review of Humo, where flames are fuelled at the new Mayfair winner…
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