A few weeks ago, we had some family visit us in Bristol and obviously being a food blogger I have the added pressure of finding somewhere amazing to eat, to live up to my reputation as a food lover. Fast forward and we are sat in a restaurant in Bristol and I was looking for some inspiration for my next blog. Considering I was sat in http://www.spitfirebarbecue.com on a Sunday afternoon (for those who haven’t worked it out its a BBQ restaurant – see photo below), made me wonder why did I not decide on a good old traditional Sunday roast? Well, If you continue to read I might explain my reasons and explore “has the Sunday lunch become less traditional”
Sunday Roast – The Facts
English families as far back as the late 1700s would place a piece of meat in the oven and then add vegetables before going to church. On returning, the whole family would sit down and eat what became the traditional Sunday roast, even adding a gravy or stock. Not much has changed since. I was shocked to read that last year as a nation, we ate 8 million more roast dinners than the previous year! However of the 1.4 billion that are cooked, we only actually ate 49% of these on a Sunday! The most popular is still chicken with 41% appearing on a plate somewhere near you.
What makes a good Sunday Roast ?
My early memories like many of you was waking up on a Sunday morning to the wafting smell of my mum putting together a “Sunday dinner” to the sounds of BBC Newcastle blasting out. Meat was always the main driver but for me not the main player. It was all about the roast potatoes and the gravy. The “roasties” always seemed fluffy and slightly over cooked which for me always made them tastier and the gravy had to be from the juices and nice and thick. One other addition which was crucial and I still get strange looks wherever I go is “mint sauce”! I know what you are saying that it is supposed to be only with lamb, but I have it with every meat non-negotiable. We would often fight for the ultimate job in our household, which was the making of the custard! But that is a story for another blog.
Why the demise on a Sunday?
So why do less people go for the “traditional lunch” on a Sunday? For me, there are two reasons for this, which are simple and obvious. The first is consistency. I have had too many poor quality Sunday roasts whilst eating out to take the risk over the years. As my regular readers will know, I pretty much refuse to eat in any chain food outlets, so this has helped to restore my faith back into having the odd roast on a Sunday. Secondly there are so many restaurants and food places that do not offer a Sunday roast. Why is that, is the follow up question? Many restaurants especially in Bristol just do not have the facilities to produce a roast at a consistent level throughout the day. Also I personally think a lot of independent owners want to stick to what they do on a daily basis and are well known for. Providing a great Sunday roast to the masses is always going to be a challenge and is it worth the risk?
My favourite Sunday Roasts
As this blog is about Sunday roasts I guess that I should share my favourite places in Bristol where you are absolutely guaranteed an amazing lunch with not only great quality food but also fantastic service. I always categorise my Sunday roasts into clean and dirty! Clean for me is where you have some fancy food in the middle of your plate, such as the meat, Yorkshire pudding and two or maybe three roast potatoes with a smidgen of gravy, with dishes of vegetables on the side. The crucial thing here, is it is all about the quality of the products you are about to devour. Dirty is how much you can get on a plate without it falling off, plenty of meat, what feels like a sack of potatoes and every type of vegetable known to man, mixed with lashings of gravy (which is always hot and thick). Quantity over quality, but leaves you full and happy.
The Ox – Clifton
This is the best “clean” roast you will get in Clifton. From the service, right until the last spoonful of dessert you will not be disappointed. The venue looks the part and make sure that you book as they get very busy for obvious reasons. The meat is plentiful and tasty especially the beef. The roasties seem to come from a secret potato that only they know about and the vegetables are fresh and unique and are served from a separate dish. You might pay a bit more but as you know from my previous blogs its not just the food, the “experience” is part of the journey http://www.theoxclifton.com.
The Lansdown – Clifton
This is a real traditional pub which is run as a tenancy so you get that independent experience everytime you visit. We popped in for a Sunday roast without booking. (I suggest you book as it was touch and go if they could get us in). I have to say it’s the best “dirty” roast I have ever had. Huge amounts of meat sinking beneath the best roast potatoes since my mum, followed by what seemed like all my favourite vegetables, and then they had the foresight to bring us extra gravy without asking. The service was good and the atmosphere matched the roast. This venue is tucked away and you need to know it’s there, so please stumble across it and thank me later. http://www.thelansdown.com
Sunday roasts are always going to be around as you can’t mess with over 300 years of tradition. However we know that less are being cooked on the traditional day and being replaced with restaurants and food outlets who offer an alternative to a dish where there are no surprises or shocks to your taste buds. I personally like the odd Sunday roast every few months but for me, the alternatives are so much more exciting.
3 Comments Add yours
Great read yet again! 🙂
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Thanks Sian 😂
A late reply, but a passionate topic for me, so please forgive my tardiness!
Totally agree that one of the primary reasons for the demise of the Sunday roast commercially is partially due to the inability of kitchens to be able to deliver a quality meal over the (now expected) service lasting most of the day and along with a wide range of alternatives….
When I was a junior chef in a good food pub (ok… in early 90’s) our lunch service time was 12-2.30pm… then the pub closed for the afternoon- all we did was Sunday roasts (with soup, prawn cocktail or fruit juice to start, and apple pie, chocolate fudge cake or sherry trifle for dessert) and they were pretty bloody good roast dinners…. but those restrictions of time and options just aren’t cricket these days….
Which leads me to the second point…. why? Why is it that food pubs and restaurants need to offer an extended or embellished food menu on a Sunday? Why are so few food retailers prepared to offer nothing but a flipping good roast?
My theory, since you asked, as that as a nation we are losing the emotional attachment to a good old Sunday roast…. Fewer and fewer Gen Y and beyond grew up, as we did, with the smell and sounds or a roast dinner coming out of the kitchen at home….
I have vivid memories of my Dad artfully peeling potatoes with ‘the sharp knife’ on a Sunday morning and can still hear the sound of my Mum’s electric carving knife – our cue for knowing it was time to wash our hands and make our way to the dinner table… the steamy windows in the kitchen and the smell of gravy getting sticky and rich in the bubbling pan… fond memories that I revisit every week when I cook a Sunday roast for my own family – happy food.
The sad (for me at least) reality is that fewer and fewer of the next generation have these emotional connections to food… cash rich and time poor, more and more people are happy to let meal times become a functional necessity rather than an opportunity to make memories…
We have shifted from emotional attachment to instant gratification…. an Instagram worthy meal perhaps, but rarely an experience or way of life to pass on the the grandkids….
It’s not all bad, by losing tradition we make way for innovation… but personally, the best way to love something is to realise we might lose it.