What is it about a roast dinner that makes it the ultimate comfort food? It’s not just that it’s hearty and comforting to eat (that's a given, the roast potato is its poster child after all) it’s that it is as drenched in tradition and nostalgia as it should be in gravy.
If you grew up in Britain, at some point in your childhood you will have peeled a few potatoes in your time or spent consecutive Sundays at your nan’s eating carrot rounds off a ‘genuinely bought in the Fifties’ Queen’s Coronation plate with your entire family. It’s entwined with some very specific memories that get magically unlocked with every roast thereafter.
For those of us now in our 30’s and 40’s, going for a roast on a Sunday has the same delicious appeal as going ‘out out’ on a Saturday in our twenties. We’re no longer stumbling out of dingy basement bars; we’re walking bellies first towards our ‘much anticipated, called ahead to book, the focus of all our weekend plans’ Sunday lunch.
And there’s no question as to where the best place for a roast dinner is; a luxury restaurant just won’t do. For the best roast dinner; it has to be the classic British pub that serves a bloody good pint and preferably requires a ‘machete-knife through brambles’ dog walk in the English countryside to reach it. You’ve braved the rain and mud with an equally sodden pup at your side to earn this and by god are you going to enjoy it.
Despite its divisive nature (yorkies with chicken? Sprouts or no sprouts? Who makes it better - Mum or Dad?), at its parsnip roots, the humble roast dinner has earned the status of dish of Britain; hours to make, minutes to eat, uniting friends, families and football teams to take its place as the ultimate comfort food.
At our very own Town+House pub, Head Chef Connor Pouncy has worked with some of the best suppliers (Larkhall Butcher’s and Warmley Bakehouse to name a few) to pay homage to this delicious dish. His take has already been championed as the best roast in Bath with awards to prove it, and is so loved now by the locals that we’re almost always fully booked on a Sunday. Here, he talks about what goes into the dish that we're now known for:
Along with the perfect crispy-yet-fluffy-inside roast potatoes and the lightest, most delicate rise on a Yorkshire pudding, the thing that makes a roast for me is a really rich and delicious gravy. It's the thing that marries the whole dish together. Ours is made from veal stock that’s been slow-cooked for hours and reduced to extract the most intensely meaty jus. Our vegetarian gravy is treated with the same love with plenty of miso flavour in there.
Beef rump provides the perfect roasting joint - full of flavour and absolutely melt in the mouth when cooked right. We serve it rare, cooked slowly at a low heat to help develop the flavour. The Larkhall butchers produce makes it very easy to get a perfect beef every time.
They're fast becoming Bath’s top butchers and for good reason, Pete Milton is lovely and has always provided the very best in meats. We have a great working relationship meaning we can request very specific details about the produce we buy.
Porchetta is the absolute best way to have pork as a roast. It’s traditionally made with a load of fresh herbs stuffed inside and rolled to create a beautiful perfumed meat. We serve ours with a herby sausage meat stuffing made with lots of fennel flavour. To get the crackling just right the skin is dried for 2 days before roasting to ensure the best crunch.
For the vegetarian option we didn’t want to settle for anything like a wellington or nut roast. There’s no reason why you can’t have a veggie roast packed with flavour and decadence that really stands up to the meat options. The walnut boudin is a mix between a nut roast and vegetarian sausage, hand-rolled with a lot of umami flavour from the miso and isn’t at all heavy, meaning you will have space for more. All of our vegetables are sourced from Eades grocers renowned in Bath for the high quality produce that is locally grown and sourced. I speak frequently with Mike Eades weekly to get the best produce he has on offer.
Aside from family roast dinners growing up, the best roast I have ever had was at Roots in York. The thing that stood out for me was that all the basics were executed absolutely flawlessly and there were little unexpected additional touches like pickled ramson capers garnished on top of slow braised beef shin. That’s what I aspire to with Town+House; exceptional classics that feel familiar with a twist to give you a new experience.