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Roast Review

Gordo finally finds chefs who know how to use their ovens

Written by . Published on December 7th 2011.

Roast Review

GORDO’S been at the food game for a long time, starting as a kitchen porter at the Legh Arms in Prestbury aged fourteen, earning pocket money, which allowed the purchase of packets of Benson and Hedges, which in turn had the magical effect of undoing Jacqui Green’s very tricky clasp to her bra... in order that the red-haired, freckly fat one could enter heaven round the back of the youth club every Thursday evening.

This is great British cooking, showing an understanding of the basics which then shine when mixing things up with the more exotic, such as the mozzarella ensemble. The chefs have clearly been trained from the ground up and show huge respect for the ingredients and know their ovens.

Moving on, in his early thirties, Gordo sold his publishing company, Toucan, which specialised in cookbooks and disappeared to St. Tropez where he discovered that there was always a bigger ship in the harbour as well as Michelin starred restaurants. Over six years, a love of the new French cuisine as practised by Guerard, the Troisgros bothers, Roger Verger and others led him to have a respect for chefs and the kitchen brigade that has never left him. At the same time, the latest wave of cooks, here in the UK, have him in awe.

On the other hand, there are an awful lot of chefs out there who are running before they can walk, who haven’t been trained in the classics and suffer the consequences. The thing that Gordo never wants to be accused of; mediocrity.

José Pizarro, a Spaniard with a great cooking pedigree who has recently opened a tapas bar down the street from LonCon Towers is anything but mediocre. The tapas bar is tiny, squashed and sexy. Three chefs are going bang at it in the small, open plan kitchen delivering food of a quality that took Gordo back to when he spent six months working in Madrid.

There are two sassy girls working front of house who stand for no nonsense, bullying Gordo into taking a seat and ordering a couple of tapas, a crispy fried duck egg and pisto (and what pisto, dear readers) and hake with aioli, both which were an utter delight. Gordo googled José to get the lowdown. What amazed him was the London bloggers, a lot of whom clearly review quite negatively to try and make a name for themselves. There are of course exceptions to these over-enthusiastic amateurs, but to be dismissive of the hake dish, for example, is petulant and childish. Because this is a world-class dish.

Suckling PigSuckling Pig

Another restaurant that gets some snotty blogger reviews is Roast in Borough Market. Gordo likes Lawrence Keogh, described as the ‘head cook’, who cooks out of a pocket battleship of an open plan kitchen, knocking out some proper grub in the process. He can’t half have a chat as well. Roast is owned by Iqbal Wahhab OBE, of the Cinnamon Club fame, a master restaurateur who has learned from the ground up how to open and manage brilliantly successful restaurants.

Roast is on a second floor overlooking the busy market stalls heaving with some of the best food sold in London. Some say a little on the expensive side, Gordo can’t comment on that. What he can say is that Lawrence has the pick of some great produce at hand whilst at the same time goes to some hard work choosing his suppliers. These range from rare breed pork from Charles Ashbridge in North Yorkshire to beef from Mr. Williams in Denbigh, Wales. Along with several other suppliers, these are proudly listed in the menu.

The room is all theatre, with front of house staff who are professional, courteous and charming all at the same time. The first visit was an evening one, with a table of five and on a Thursday, which turned out to be suckling pig night. Roast does daily specials; Friday sees roast rib of Welsh black beef (£35.50) with Yorkshire pudding, horseradish and Colman’s English mustard. The roast pig £32.50) on the Thursday was fantastic, crunchy skin, giving meat with a personality full of deep piggy flavour and mashed spuds and bramley apple sauce part of a brilliant whole. It was a huge bear hug of a dish.

A starter of Laverstoke Park buffalo mozzarella with Lincolnshire beets and pea shoots (£9.85) was a very simple but lovely starter, along with oysters, Brownsea Island rocks (£14.25 the half dozen) that were little honeys dressed properly.


Grilled Shetland scallops with Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnuts (£15) were well regarded by one of the guests, along with a Dover sole (£28.50), a big feller, cooked perfectly.

Great cheese and some good comfort puddings, the ‘Jammie Dodger’ with England preserves (£8.50) and mulled bramley apple, cranberry and almond crumble (£7.60) both really well received at the table.

This is great British cooking, showing an understanding of the basics which then shine when mixing things up with the more exotic, such as the mozzarella ensemble. The chefs have clearly been trained from the ground up and show huge respect for the ingredients and know their ovens. A rib eye (£35) eaten at a lunch time on a visit with The Editor nearly made Gordo weep, simply through the seasoning and timing being so well judged.

Jammie DodgerJammie Dodger

One of the reasons why it’s so bloody lovely to have ‘Old British’, rather than the ‘New British’ cooking, is that the food is designed to marry up with good wine. And, good wine is in great abundance here, with a great selection in the £40 to £90 bracket. It is pointless to drink a good claret at the Fat Duck, there are too many flavours going on. But a Chateau Batailley 2006, a fifth growth Paulliac was a dream with the pork, reminding Gordo of past glories at the Connaught when the master, Michel Bourdin, was the gaffer in the kitchens.

Wines are available by the glass from £4.50 to £23, for the Condrieu, which is a bit steep for that one. One of Gordo’s favourite champagnes, Pol Roger’s cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1995 is actually value at £220, with another favourite, Taittinger Brut Reserve NV at £68. Chassagne Montrachet ‘Les Pierres’ 2007 at £86 was a little young but from Marc Pillot, who is an old friend, so we shall forgive him.

This wine list is outstanding, my advice is to take time over it and don’t be afraid to ask a sommelier for his or her advice, they are well trained and knowledgeable.

Complaints are simple really. Make sure you arrive on time, as they give the tables back to the front desk if you are more than twenty minutes late. The prices are eye watering to be frank. But this is a special occasion place, one I want to take my father to, a master butcher who would love to see such fantastic ingredients treated so well.

And to the bloggers who are trying their best to show off to their audience? There is a hell of a lot more to being a good judge of food than watching Saturday Kitchen, my friends. Getting a few weeks in a roaring hot kitchen as a KP should polish you up a bit.

The Floral Hall
Stoney Street
London, SE1 1TL
0845 034730

Rating:        16/20
Breakdown:   7/10 food
                    5/5 ambience
                    4/5 service


José: Short Review, Not scored
104 Bermondsey Street
London, SE1 3UB

Follow @GordoManchester on Twitter

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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Brave HarryDecember 8th 2011.

has Jose opened his new restaurant yet?

Casey GillespieDecember 9th 2011.

Pizarro opened on 1 December, and it's just down the street from Jose. You'll never walk past Jose and it not be heaving, but the same can't be said for Pizarro yet. Perhaps this is just the soft opening? I say get there before word spreads...

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