As is customary for a Sunday, we thought it best to go for roasts and pints. Our pub of choice was The Alwyne. Alas, it was not to be. Given we booked a table of 15, we were disturbed to find they had gone to no effort whatsoever to accomodate us, placing us on two tables in an empty pub. After re-arranging the furniture, we found that most of the meals had run out by 2pm, and they told us it was over an hour wait. A grumpy barman and extremely under-staffed, upon holding a hand out for some change, my friend found his fiver dumped in a puddle of beer. Quite simply, they didn't give two shits.
We're an indignant bunch so after a quick ring around, we managed to get a table at the Marquess Tavern. It couldn't have been a starker contrast. We were seated in the bar area and it was light, airy and the waiting staff were more than happy to have us. A touch more expensive than the last pub, we placed our orders and got stuck in.
Four of us shared a whole braised shoulder of lamb. A huge hunk of meat, it was plonked down and we gazed at it in hungry awe. I am convinced that carrots, smothered in meat juices, are the only vegetable you can cook for hours and still make them taste delicious. As I carved it, the meat fell off the bone in juicy hunks. Dishes of broccoli were perfectly cooked, and roasted potatoes were so fresh from the oven that at least two of us jammed them in and had to spit them out, they were so hot. (Yes, I was one of them.)
Elsewhere at the table, rare roast sirloin beef looked perfectly cooked and juicy. Grouse was served traditionally with game toast and parsnip crisps, while whole roasted baby chicken (below) was declared a triumph. Whatever; I had eyes only for the lamb.
We stayed late into the night, replete and thankful we hadn't uprooted a new mum down the road in vain. I heard several people down the table saying it was the best roast they'd had and they'd be back. No small praise, considering we all know how hard it is to beat a home-cooked roast. Shame on you, The Alwyne.
The Marquess Tavern
32 Canonbury St
Islington, N1 2TB
Tel: (020) 7354 2975