The UK is heavy with tradition and whilst I haven’t quite caught on to the joys of room temperature fizz-free ale, warmed to the idea of a day spent revelling in the cricket nor fallen for whiling away the afternoon hours over tea, there is one tradition that I have embraced wholeheartedly: Sunday roast.
Very rare is a Sunday that you won’t find me settled into a corner table at one pub or another, my plate piled high with all the trimmings and a great slab of [hopefully] well-cooked meat. What could be more comforting than that? Other than the thought of no pots and pans to contend with later on.
Throughout my relatively short time in London, I have certainly had my fair share of Sunday dinners…the good, the bad and the supremely average. So where is my favourite place to have a roast? It largely depends on where my weekend wanderings take me. If I am hanging about the hood, I have a soft spot for the Ladbroke Arms. Chelsea? The Imperial and their Cote de Boef for two has always treated me rather well. The Orange is another favourite. But, Central? Hands down, the Newman Arms.I am yet to venture to either the Harwood Arms or Goodman to sample their Sunday offerings, both of which are supposedly exceptional. However, I will go as far to say that the Newman Arms is my favourite spot for a close-of-the-weekend feed…so much so, I have dropped by twice in almost as many weeks.
It is not only the food that wins me over here, it is the overall concept driven by patron Matt Chatfield and his fantastic venture, The Cornwall Project. Armed with a firm belief that Cornwall produces some of the best meat, seafood and vegetables in the world, he has spent the past five years working closely with the farms, fishermen and tradesmen that are instrumental in bringing this produce about.
Based on this, Matt has created a tight-knit network that strives to deliver some of the best fresh produce from the south-west to this side of the country and in turn is helping Cornwall to do a little better. Indeed, he currently supplies some of London’s very best restaurants – The Ledbury, Lyle’s, Kitchen Table and The Clove Club to name but a few.
Equally keen for a good Sunday roast and excited to tuck into the one that had so quickly rocketed to my top position, it was with little hesitation that Bloke and Bear and I made a late lunch reservation and tottered down to this unassuming little watering hole that lines Newman Passage. Settling into the wood-panelled and appropriately pub-like dining room, we immediately ordered the two starter specials on offer that day and roast beef for the table…there is, after all, very little to quibble about when it comes to a delightfully condensed menu and the question of dinner.
First to arrive was this shining beacon of the summer season: peas with pea shoots, rapeseed oil and Cora Linn Cheese (£5). Served with crusty bread for topping and dipping, there was no culinary trickery here…just simple, well-seasoned, perfectly fresh produce.
Of the two starters, the clear star for me was the curried sweetbreads with black garlic, yoghurt and baby gem lettuce (£6). Always one to jump for a good bit of offal, these did not disappoint. Absolutely delicious. Even Bear, who initially thought that ‘sweetbreads’ were exactly that [i.e. bread that is sweet…idiot!] claimed that the dish was tasty and not nearly as scary as she had originally anticipated.
The main event and the reason we had made the trip to this quiet-on-the-weekend slice of Fitzrovia was next to claim the table: roast beef with all the trimmings (£18 per person), including lashings of gravy and a heaping platter of Yorkshire puddings.
Superbly cooked and carrying a wonderful depth of beefy flavour, the meat rather deservingly stole the show. However, the sides also really held their own and we found ourselves going back for more and more, even once we had collectively reached bursting point. The crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside roasted potatoes proved to be a great hit. But it was the sweet caramelised shallots that had me chasing every last round across the plate with my fork.
A taste of Cornwall, minus the five hour drive, the Newman Arms adds another notch to the belt of reasons why Sunday roast has become my favourite English tradition. Firstly , who enjoys finishing their weekend hunched over the kitchen sink desperately scrubbing grease-encrusted cookware? Secondly, there is something really special about bringing people together to share the table over a generous family-style dinner…especially one of this quality. A Sunday adventure to Newman Arms is one I could not recommend more!
23 Rathbone Street,
London, W1T 1NG
T: 020 3643 6285