Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Pig and Butcher

One year ago today, we were in London enjoying one of our favorite experiences of the entire trip - Sunday roast at The Pig and Butcher in Islington. We hadn't planned on a Sunday roast prior to getting to London (and therefore had no reservations anywhere), but felt like it was just such a classic English experience that we should try to fit one in. We only had one chance to do it, our first full day in London, and even though the wait was an hour and a half, we knew we had to do it.

We already mentioned what we did with our waiting time (some snacks and a trip to the Emirates), and we were really excited (and hungry) when we finally made our way back to the restaurant. We had read some reviews of various Sunday roast places at our hotel, and The Pig and Butcher seemed like a consensus good restaurant. We were also pretty happy with our choice of restaurant because of their philosophy on food and hospitality. The place just felt so welcoming and friendly, and they focused on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients, with a menu that changed every day depending on what was available. Our table was located right near a giant drawn map on the wall showing which farms were the sources for all the meat and fish on the day's menu. This was definitely the type of place that we wanted to be at for our roast.

We started off with some drinks. M was still feeling a little off and very dehydrated from traveling, so she chose not to get any alcohol with supper. A got the beer of the week, which was a German IPA called Handwerk. The beer didn't have the same hoppy bitterness as one would find from an American IPA and it also didn't eventually turn sweet like the IPAs A normally drinks. It was crisp and refreshing, though. A prefers the American IPA style compared to the European IPA style but in the end it was still a good beer. We also got a bottle of charity water for £1. It's called charity water because they make a donation to a charity that provides clean water to impoverished regions.

Although a lot of the starters sounded delicious, we chose to begin with "The Board" (£17.50, all prices as of a year ago) which had a sampling of a bunch of different things. The contents on the board change every week (and we still check out the menu from time to time to see what's being offered), and the one we got had a Scotch egg, cheese fritters, Trealy Farm ham, potted chicken, radishes, anchovy butter, crostini, and pickles (pickled cabbage and cauliflower). We were a little disappointed since the menu the previous week had had black pudding croquettes and we were hoping to try those, but missing out on dishes is always possible when a restaurant changes their menu all the time based on availability.

Our favorite part was probably the Scotch egg, which tasted like breakfast sausage and egg wrapped up into one and was really delicious. One of the more interesting items was the potted chicken, which we didn't know anything about beforehand, but really was just a pot of shredded chicken, almost like a dip, which we spread onto crostini. Everything on the board was really good, but it probably wasn't necessary to get (other than to satisfy our curiosity and try more new things) since the roasts were more than enough food for our midday meal.

For our main courses, we both selected different meats from the roast section. There were four options for the roast: chicken (which was only served for two people to share), pulled pork, leg of lamb, and sirloin. Although M would usually choose the chicken given those meat choices, she went with the pork because it sounded good and because she didn't want A to be forced to also eat chicken. Considering how good the pork turned out to be, she didn't regret that decision one bit. A picked the sirloin because when he thinks of a roast, he often thinks of something like pot roast which is a large hunk of meat. It also helped a lot that the waiter (owner?) mentioned that it was prime rib so that was a really easy decision.

The pulled pork was a slow roasted Hampshire pork shoulder (£16.95), which came with applesauce on the side and also a side sauce of dijon mustard (which I picked based on their suggestion). If this all sounds familiar, it's because both of us chose our Pig and Butcher roasts for our favorite food experiences last year (here and here). As M mentioned then, that was the best pulled pork she had ever had in her life, and that's still true to this day. It was so different from other pulled pork we had had, since that was mostly barbecue. The texture was similar, but the flavor of the meat was just so rich and comforting. Although M doesn't usually gravitate towards a giant plate of meat as an entree, she would absolutely get this again, if only there were a place here that we could get this.

The beef option for the roast was a 35-day aged roasted Hereford sirloin (£18.95). The prime rib (which was only allowed to be ordered rare) was sublime. The meat was super tender, and it had just the right amount of seasoning. A got the horseradish with it, and the pairing was perfect. The jus that came with was made mostly from the beef stock which was imparted with a great deal of flavor. Adding the horseradish gave it a great spice kick that horseradish is known for.

Every roast came with the same sides: Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, creamed leeks, and vegetables (primarily Hispi cabbage and carrots). Yorkshire pudding is one of those classic English dishes with a name that's often tricky here in the States because it's nothing like what we think of when we think of pudding. It's basically a giant puffed bread, which was so good but so filling, even though it felt airy. The leeks gratin came in a little cup on the side and were so rich and creamy. The roast potatoes weren't nearly as soft as we were expecting, but a little crispy on the outside like they had been fried. The vegetables were good. We had never had Hispi cabbage before, and it was sweeter than any cabbage we have found back in the US. Paired with the carrots, it was a nice mix of textures with a sweet finish to pair with the meat. We really liked all the sides, but unfortunately we were so full that we couldn't finish everything on the plate.

We were so stuffed after finishing our meal (definitely no room for dessert) and so incredibly happy. The roast was exactly the type of thing we wanted to experience in London as it's such a quintessential eating experience. We would definitely recommend that everyone try to make it to a roast if there on a Sunday. British food gets such a bad reputation for being bland and flavorless, but this meal (and others later on) proved to us that that is definitely not the case.

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