I have been familiar with Roast for ages. Roast was opened by restaurant entrepreneur Iqbal Wahhab in 2005 to bring the best of British food back on the plate, literally. I dined here shortly after it opened, and found it ok but nothing more, I confess. I came back about a year ago for a morning ‘ladies who breakfast’ session with my friend Hot and Chilli, and loved it. Roast was back! So I followed up with another breakfast recently for their Big Breakfast charity morning (Roast support a number of charities with events and fundraising); finally, a week ago, I came over for an evening meal with a bunch of fellow bloggers and those lovely ladies from Jori White.
The occasion? The launch of the first Roast cookbook (a very British cookbook) by head chef Marcus Verberne. While we sipped Chapel Down sparkling, Marcus came over to our table before we ordered, explaining the the book has been published now but is the results of many months of cooking at Roast. Marcus kindly took time, not rushing back to the kitchen, to tell us how the book is more than just a recipes collection: it has chapters on general cooking and ingredients tips. How to get the most out of potatoes and fish and sustainability issues, music to my ears of course. He mentioned a few of the book’s recipes were on the menu and we could thus try them first hand. I picked a beautiful Spelt risotto with seasonal mushrooms. The spelt had a bite to it without being too hard, and it was just delicious.
It wasn’t easy to choose a main, but as it was Thursday which is roasted pig‘s night, that is what I opted for. The meat was tender and came off the crackling skin, the potato mash creamy and silky. We also were served a selection of sides, which were our ‘5 a day’ and all very good especially some heritage carrots, roasted and the green cabbage.
Room for dessert? Oh yeah, of course. Amongst the interesting choices I thought I’d stay light and, as it seems to be a pattern recently, I choose Poached pear with walnut and honey ice cream and shortbreads. While I thought it looked a little strange on the plate, I couldn’t have been more happy with my choice. And I hate pears! Light, soft and flavoursome fruit with a simply delicious ice cream and crumbly, airy shortbread. Fab. I also tried Mulia’s sticky toffee pudding and it was damn good, although I couldn’t have managed a whole portion. I also tasted Wendy’s cute Posset: great, bright colours, intense aromas.
Marcus came back and sat with us for a while, telling us more about his food and his career. He was very friendly and was a pleasure to chat to him. A New Zealander, he’s worked for some big names on the London scene (J Sheeky’s, Le Caprice) despite not having a formal training background. He joined Roast in early 2012 and is passionate about British food.
This come across in the book (we all received a copy which Marcus signed). It’s Britain in all its glory: shores and coastlines where sustainable fish comes from; pastures where happy pigs and cattles live an outdoor happy life; orchards and hills. There are interviews with the producers (amongst these Laverstoke Park, home of buffalos and the first UK ‘mozzarella di bufala’) and each recipe is introduced by Marcus, often with personal memories linked to the dish.
Marcus is a passionate forager and keen on sustainability: a whole chapter is dedicated to his relationship with the Ethical Shellfish Company which supplies Roast with hand dived scallops and ethically sourced seafood. I could not appreciate this more, of course. There are sections on instructions of skills such as carving meat, filleting fish, preparing crab – all extremely useful to the home cook. And there are QR codes to load up videos of Marcus showing those skills in action. It’s a great addition to anyone who loves cooking British produce. I certainly do.
In Marcus’ words: ‘I hope the Roast cookbook will be the one you reach for often‘. I think I will be doing just that!
I was a guest of Jori White PR. Opinions are my own.
A post on our fantastic evening at Roast is by my friendly blogger Mondo Mulia – thankfully with better photos than me!