So what’s Islington’s iteration of the most overused pub name after the Dog & Duck like? Let’s ask their website. “It’s a Georgian gem left over from a time when Islington was fields and farmland and where the regulars would take afternoon walks out of the city to find us”. It’s also, as they point out, winner of some prestigious awards:
The Observer Food Monthly’s ‘Best Sunday Lunch 2009’
The Independent’s ‘Top 50 Sunday Lunch Venues’
The Guardian’s ‘Best Pubs In The UK’
Thirtyoneseventyfive’s ‘Hardest Place To Get A Booking Autumn 2010’
Yep, it took us a while to secure our slot (12.30 – 2) last week but we finally got to follow in the footsteps of Dr Johnson and co (albeit on a bus full of Nokia soundsystems) to the Mecca of Sunday roasts.
With Sands End chef Liam Kirwan now in the engine room The Albion has picked up a few accolades. And it’s a tightly run ship, with practically a staff member per muncher, close supervision and on the whole well-executed food, only let down by the odd altercation with the skipper and an occasional tendency to spring a leak here and there. The owner wanted to know why I was taking pictures of the food (next time I will answer ‘yes’ to their ‘you’re not reviewing are you’ and see what happens – do I get told not to? Thrown out? Wooed? Surely any reaction would be as counterproductive for their reputation as the Scientologist penchant for filming journalists?) and my Addlestones had a metallic hint of someone scraping the barrel.
None of this would be enough to question their crown if the food was in a league of its own, but sadly it wasn’t. It was good, but it didn’t have me dropping to my knees and asking to have the chef’s babies, and they were top end prices for a Sunday roast. I really wanted to plump for the slow roast shoulder of lamb for 3-4 people at £60 but our third person was vegetarian and thirty quid a head would put us on tap water to hit £31.75, so we settled on 30 day prime rib steak (900g for two people, £45). (In fact, what I really wanted was whole roast suckling pig with trimmings for 10 people but that requires 72 hours notice and costs three hundred quid.)
Our platefuls were on the happy side of OK. Ten or more wedges of fatty pink flesh tentatively charred round the edges, surrounded by bulky roasties, a Yorkshire the size of a punctured beach ball, green leaves and various veg. Potatoes were somewhat starchy and mundane but the gravy (in its own jug – hallelujah) smothered sufficiently. Our veggie went for field mushrooms on bubble and squeak and made some squawks about the size and taste of the mushrooms (they were pretty diminutive) and the mushiness of the bubble (it was pretty puréed). A side of beetroot chunks held their own however.
Best gastropub in London? Hells no; it’s good but it ain’t that good. I’d slide it between Highgate’s Bull & Last and Camden’s Crown & Goose. So where is the best roast in London? Find out, or let me know
Price per head: £24.80
Soundtrack: The burble of hungover North Londoners and reunited friends.
Clientele: Quite a lot of people with suitcases weirdly.