When the subject is Sunday roasts I can’t help but think about a couple I know, good friends of mine, a young, intelligent and refined duo, who for some inexplicable reason have a very, very traditional approach to Sunday roasts. Ever since they moved to East London some 4 years ago, they have religiously gone to the same establishment for their Sunday roast, at the same time, ordering the same food. Why in East London of all places, a flourishing gourmet paradise, where if you want to, you could have a different roast experience every Sunday?
Therefore friends, this review is for you, I hope I can inspire you to try something new, because, we are most certainly spoiled for choices in this corner of London.
Take my last roast experience, for instance, Toast and Roast, a great twist on the Sunday classic.
The twist? The wine, the glorious wine that takes centre stage in the dining experience. Gone are the days when we would order our roast and share a bottle or two of everyday wine; these days you can have a roast with the perfect wine to compliment all aspects of the food. Or the other way around as I found out – more on that later. Toast and Roast is one of the many projects of A Grape Night In, Laura and Kiki’s wine company, whose idea is to bring excitement to the “stale” world of wine. As well as their raison d’etre – bringing affordable wine tasting sessions to people’s own settings (houses, work places) – they currently have a few other exciting projects on the go. A wine bar where they serve ‘mountain’ wines and cheese, secret wine suppers every two months and Sunday Skool, a 6-week wine tasting course.
Most of their projects are in South London, where the girls live, but luckily for me, their current residency, Toast and Roast, is right here in Hackney, at Studio GI. Kiki told me that as soon as they saw the space they immediately wanted to do something there, “a warehouse, yes, but with a cosy feel”. The space is indeed homely, with communal tables that encourage conversation and exchange with like-minded foodies.
The food is selected to compliment the excellent choice of wines we had on the day and their way to achieve this is by de-constructing the Sunday roast formula. They bring out the roast in 3 courses, ‘The Veg’ as starter, ‘The Meat’ is the main and ‘The Sauce’ becomes the dessert. They change the meat every week, and the choice of wine. This week’s roast was pork, featured for the second time and with a whole new selection of wines to match the dishes and also the weather. The Toast in question comes in the form of flavoured popcorn (honey mustard this time, in sync with the pork theme) and a glass of bubbly, on that day, Champalou, a sparkling Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, much lighter and much subtler than its pricier counterpart, the Champagne. As they bring the dishes and the bottles to go with them, Kiki and Laura, discuss the wine in detail, tell stories, explain the reasons for selecting those particular bottles and invite tasting and discussion at the table.
The first course was a golden and ruby beetroot tart with goat’s cheese. The vegetables were al dente, the pastry rich and crunchy and the accompanying wine was a crisp white Italian, from Calabria, Colacino Si Savuto, a blend of three grape varieties, which each add to the wine in terms of acidity, body and aroma.
The main course was roast pork, with roast potatoes and a carrot and celeriac salad, served with Gran Cerdo –a Spanish Rioja – and a great story: This particular bottle came from an independent producer, Gonzalo Gonzalo who struggled at first to obtain a loan from the banks to start up his wine business. He eventually found the money and when it came to name his wine he had no reservations, Gran Cerdo, means Big Pig, there’s even a ‘dedication’ to bankers on the label. An outstanding bottle of Rioja. A man after my own heart.
Dessert was sweet Yorkshire pudding with a velvety, creamy custard, best I’ve had in ages. The final course was accompanied by Monsoon Valley, a dessert wine from Thailand! Yes, really. It was a million miles away from the traditional, and often sickly, dessert wines usually encountered, it was much fresher, and a lot less sweet, something that said ‘new world wine’ at first sip.
It was an interesting lesson on independently produced, versatile, great wines. Kiki suggests, “If you’re ever unsure of which wine to buy, why don’t you pick a bottle with the weirdest name and have a go at that, experiment”. The girls’ passion and enthusiasm for wine is contagious and the food is carefully selected and skilfully prepared by pop-up chef Ricardo Prestes to enhance the wine experience. If, like me, your idea of a perfect Sunday is a long, lazy, gastronomic afternoon, look no further. Do hurry though; their residency at Studio GI only lasts another month.
Toast and Roast
A Grape Night In @ Studio GI
2 Tudor Grove