Our weekly quest for the roast with the most. Week 4: The Brunswick.
Food’s an emotional thing; a conduit for feelings and memories transcending the boundaries of just taste, and there’s surely no meal that conjures as much sentiment and nostalgia as the Sunday lunch?
We’ve all got our individual preferences and traditions. Whether you prefer perfectly uniform Yorkshire Puddings or unique misshapen ones; roast or mash (or both); or correct gravy etiquette is indoctrinated in us from a young age. Maybe a childhood of eating a roast on the settee while watching the Formula 1 has conditioned brings on a phantom waft of Bisto and causes you to drool like Pavlov’s dog whenever you hear the name “Heinz-Harald Frentzen”.
The “best” Sunday roast is a subjective topic to say the least and, to be honest, it probably doesn’t exist. To get philosophical for a second; the “best” roast is an abstract concept, it's nestled in our individual psyches, rather than on a plate, in a pub, in Leeds, under some gravy. That’s not going to stop us trying to find it, though.
Over the next few months we’re going to seek out and taste-test Sunday roasts from a variety of pubs and restaurants around Leeds, and giving weekly mini-reviews of the venue, atmosphere, and delve deep into the roast itself:
Week 4: The Brunswick
Chicken supreme £10.50, Beef Wellington (for 2) £36. All served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, butter glazed carrots, green beans, gravy and a mini Bloody Mary. Baked cheese leeks £3.50
See that? Served with a mini Bloody Mary. I'm tempted to call off the search and declare the winner right now.
Pessimists among you might point out that it looks a lot like marketing ploy, and that the return in unquantifiable goodwill and very-much-quantifiable sales of £7 non-mini Bloody Mary’s is well worth the ~20p outlay. Sundays are for optimism though, so I counter your argument by pointing out that it looks like a very cute. Like a scaled-down brunch cocktail that might be enjoyed by a hungover pangolin, or similar-sized animal.
What do you mean, did it work? Of course it worked, I’m an advertiser’s dream. I was probably going to buy one anyway though, so joke’s on them. Plus, off the top of my head, it’s easily in the top...three BM’s in Leeds, unique and not for the faint hearted, with its double-hitter of horseradish infused vodka and fresh grated horseradish in the mix.
Onto the food: apart from the fact every element has been replaced with the M&S Finest version of itself (tenderstem broccoli, baby carrots etc) this is a very classic roast, exactly what you’d expect from a modern-classic pub. Roast potatoes flirt between crispy and waxy, veg is al dente and slightly buttery, and the chicken skin has that crispy translucent gloss of a Quality Street toffee wrapper. Yorkshire puddings have a bit of a dark halo, but they’re actual cup-shapes rather than big peonies made of batter, so they retain enough gravy to counter the crunch.
Special mention goes to the fact you can get beef wellington as a sharing roast, you have to order it a few days in advance so they can order the fillet by Friday and bake it to order on the Sunday morning, but if you’re not the type of person who starts thinking about Sunday lunch by Thursday afternoon, why are you even reading this?...
Meat: 10. Veg: 8. Yorkshire Pud: 8. Bloody Mary: 10.
The Brunswick, 82 North St, Leeds LS2 7PN. Website
Week 3: HOME
Sunday menu (Celeriac, suckling pig, granny smith. Smoked salmon & trout paté & potted shrimps. Roasted root veg, walnuts & honey. Yorkshire pudding. Venison, mash, veg & gravy. Treacle tart, thyme and clotted cream ice cream.) £50
It almost feels disingenuous to include this on a round-up of Sunday roasts. I mean, yeah, there’s meat and veg, Yorkshire Puddings and gravy, and a treacle tart afterwards, but it’s hardly Picture House Carvery. Think of it as a remix of the Sunday roast; a freeform jazz interpretation on the theme; it’s post-roast.
Like all the best remixes, it observes and absorbs the reference material, honing in and riffing on certain elements, and condensing others to their very essence. Roasted root veg - usually a side-dish - become their own course; analysed in macro detail and rebuilt from the ground up. Flavours and textures are magnified - the caramelised scraps are obviously the best bits, so they’re made separately and used as a totally separate part of the dish.
Another course is dedicated to a couple palm-sized Yorkshire Puddings, with an antique sherry miniature full of Class A-potent gravy and a aerated horseradish creme, inviting you to make your own savoury eclair. On the other hand, and entire bonfire night roast pork sandwich, and all the flavour it possesses, gets concentrated into a few mouthfuls of celeriac veloute, studded with slow-cooked suckling pig and granny smith apple.
Still, even the most abstract remix knows that you do not fuck with the chorus. So the main event is still meat and two veg: we had ruddy-cheeked venison haunch as well as a venison and licorice pie, a swoosh of buttered mash, with tendrils of crispy fried parsnip.
This is all over the course of a few hours in a relaxing environment where everything is considered on your behalf. For an extra £30 the amiable staff will refill your glass with an expertly-paired wine with each course, filling your head with everything you could possibly need to know about it in the process. You’ve never had a Sunday lunch like this before.
Meat: 10. Veg: 10. Yorkshire pud: 7. Dessert: 8
HOME, 16/17 Kirkgate, Leeds LS1 6BY. Website
Week 2: Whitelocks
Roast topside of beef from Pickering’s of Marishes, Malton – served pink £13, Vegetarian: Whitelock’s roasted nut & herb loaf £9.50
Leeds’ oldest pub is all about showing off the best of British, and it’s daily menu is practically a perfect specimen of the pub grub template, with a few tweaks bringing it up to date without ever veering into wanky “gastro” territory. (I love the place so I’m willing to overlook that the prawn cocktail is served in a jam jar…)
As you’d expect, their sunday roast is faithfully traditional; fist-sized yorkshire puddings crowning a selection of seasonal veg and meat that boasts its provenance. Thick-carved topside of beef is reassuringly pink throughout (the photo doesn’t do it justice - my bad), and, when caramelised and scraped off the bottom of the roasting dish, lends a rich tang to the gravy. Roasties could do with a bit of textural contrast, but spiced red cabbage is a premature but much-appreciated “welcome to Autumn”, and the eggy, just-jiggly bottomed Yorkshire Pudding tastes like it’s just come out of the oven.
Meat: 8. Veg: 7. Yorkshire pud: 10. Dessert: n/a
Whitelocks, Turks Head Yard, Leeds, LS1 6HB
Week 1: Dakota Bar & Grill
Roast of the day, Butter-roasted lemon & thyme chicken. 2 courses for £20, 3 courses for £25.
It’s common knowledge Dakota Deluxe as being Arnold Schwarzenegger's go-to hotel whenever he’s in the area, but not everybody realises that beneath the hotel is an art deco basement bistro, decked out with moody Lower East Side members only club ambience.
The roast isn’t the only option available on the 2-courses-for-£20/3-for-£25 Sunday lunch menu, but that is, of course, why we’re here. Being a grill restaurant, particular effort is paid to the meat, so there’s thick wedges of blushing beef carved from the rib, supplied by Aberdeen’s Donald Russell and butter-roasted chicken with lemon and thyme - I lucked out with the roast of the day and got a proper gutsy lamb shank that, if the surroundings hadn't been so well-to-do, I'd have been tempted to pick up like a caveman and gnaw off the bone. Goose-fat potatoes, seasonal veg, and a mushroom-cloud of a Yorkshire Pudding are served to the table, banquet style.
If you really wanted to outstay your welcome (not that the front of house would ever let you know it...) you can even get eggs benedict as an appetiser, which - combined with a not-for-the-faint-hearted Lagavulin 17 Smokey Mary - sounds like your Sunday brunch plans sorted, as well.
Meat: 8.5. Veg: 8. Yorkshire pud: 8. Dessert: n/a
Dakota Bar & Grill, 8 Russell Street, Leeds LS1 5RN