The Sunday-roast lunch is a fierce matter of national pride among Brits, in spite of the fact that many have failed in the attempt to perfect this most delicious weekend feast. The problem isn’t just that it takes multiple dishes to make up the roast, it’s that, more often than not, no one can decide on what the essentials should actually be.
To my mind, it’s not a roast if you don’t have juicy pink beef, crisp roast potatoes, a handsome portion of baked veg and Yorkshire puddings with that perfect crunch on the outside and that elusive fluffy interior, which is made for mopping up the all-important gravy. Add whatever else you wish, but don’t go subtracting a thing.
Now we’ve got that sorted, let’s talk Sunday lunch service at Gough’s on Gough, the Timothy Oulton-designed restaurant that’s all marble and antique mirrors, velvet curtains and plush seating. If you’ve not been before, the interior alone is worth the visit. Head up the dizzying central stairs and enter a den of nooks, each vying to be given the title best seat in the house.
And what of the traditional-with-a-twist menu? It’s impressively priced – sub-$500 for four courses, which isn’t bad if you’ve seen the prices on the evening à la carte list – and comes with the expat-adored free-flow add-ons. We stuck to wines by the glass, of which Gough’s on Gough also has a neat selection.
Francois Ferrand is the marvellously well-mannered man behind the wine list, who pointed us towards a crisp, cool Chablis with our first plate: a single succulent clam, mussel, oyster and king prawn for each member of the table. All impeccable (though to be honest, if seafood isn’t great, it really shouldn’t be served – ever).
Next up, a duo of little dishes that came sweetly presented and were made for sharing. While the duck egg and asparagus were fine (strangely bland we thought, but inoffensive and quickly polished off), the Arctic char really impressed, cooked exactly as fish ought to be: just long enough and with barely any extras.
But this was, after all, the warm-up for the main event. Arriving on mix-and-match English crockery (you might notice you’re using English cutlery, too), two heavenly slices of Devonshire beef come parked next to a Yorkshire, accompanied by bowls of charred carrots and mangetouts, plus a few handsome rough-edged tatties. We asked for extra gravy, and you should too. You can order a pretty-looking gnocchi dish or choose fish instead, but we weren’t messing about: it was beef all around.
Finishing with dessert – and you can pick from a trio of options – we said yes to the cheese (we never say no to fromage) and a cherry-topped chocolate mousse. Plus espressos. Because we’re greedy.
So, what was great? The beef really was brilliantly cooked, the roasties had us each stabbing for the last one and the gravy was bang on the money. Did we mention that Arctic char to start? Oh, and the oysters. Full, fresh and flavoursome.
If we’re looking for problems, the list is short. Our brie was served too cold (it doesn’t need to be sliding off the plate, but coming out at room temperature ensures its already subtle flavour can give a little more) and if you’re going to remove the bottled water from the table you need to keep a constant eye on empty glasses.
Service was friendly and responsive, and in the relatively tight space the waiters managed themselves impressively: no knives hit the deck even as they cleared tables with barely any elbow room. The playlist is awesome, the decor is cliché rustic-cum-elegant (we loved it), and the wine list won’t make anyone feel stupid.
For the price, the sheer quality of its Sunday roast and that seafood, plus the sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere, Gough’s on Gough gets a thumbs-up from us. In fact, we booked our next lunch as we were leaving.