It’s Sunday roast season, so Paloma Lacy heads to one of her favourite local haunts – the recently done up Manor Arms in Streatham – to road test the roasties
Last winter, I awoke to find no electricity and a stack of work that needed to be completed by the end of the day, with a laptop rapidly running out of battery. Minus temperatures outside made me think long and hard before decamping to the Manor Arms in Streatham. I set up shop right next to the roaring fire as soon as it opened and there I remained until 6pm.
Since that day, it’s had a special place in my heart. I decided then and there, it was my neighbourhood pub of choice. I don’t call it my local, as it’s about a mile and half from home, but it’s the closest decent food pub. I have such fond memories of leisurely lunches and Friday night drinks with friends, so it came as something of a surprise to learn the pub had undergone refurbishment and re-opened at the end of the summer – there was nothing wrong with it in my eyes.
A few Sundays ago, I popped along to see what had changed. The honest answer is, aesthetically, I couldn’t really tell that a great deal had. I think there may have been some new soft furnishings, perhaps new furniture added, but the open kitchen remains in the same place. The occasional waft of smoke and steam, made its way through to the diners, as it always had.
The Manor Arms is as family friendly as ever, with mid-week visits by parent and baby groups very much the norm. It’s the kind of pub that has nearly as many young visitors as adults. These days, this suits me just fine, but I wonder what regular pub goers who’ve come to the pub to escape family life make of this cultural shift.
One change that failed to escape notice was the distinct improvement in cooking standards – it’s fair to say the food has been elevated more than a few notches. It was pretty good before but the roast my family and I enjoyed was way above and beyond anything I’ve eaten within a three-mile radius of home in a long time.
‘It’s fair to say the food has been elevated more than a few notches’
The winter Sunday menu is like a warm and comforting embrace from an old friend and it’s taken the whole family into consideration. There is a kids’ menu, although we prefer not to disappear down the ‘chicken goujons and fries’ route, instead encouraging as many new tastes as possible. Besides, sharing adult meals with a small child is never a problem and it makes economic sense, making it a win-win situation.
On this particular day, the little one was introduced to devilled whitebait, served with chestnut aioli (£6). It was actually my husband’s choice but he was pitted against a hungry child with very nimble fingers. Freezing cold when I arrived, heritage pumpkin, sage and chestnut soup (£6) was most welcome – I’m a huge fan of chestnut.
The Sunday roast is given the royal treatment here, there’s nothing even the slightest bit humble about it. All roasts are served with double-egg Yorkshire puddings, goose-fat roast potatoes, maple-glazed parsnips, carrot and swede mash, Romanesco cauliflower cheese, Rainbow chard and proper gravy. This was such a huge treat and the all-in roast I only usually cook at Christmas time.
There’s a choice of four meats and a veggie option ,but it’s the attention to detail that was so well received. My roast Shropshire chicken breast and stuffed leg (£16) was a case in point, with every effort made to create flavours that lived long on the palate.
It was a pleasing lunch, but not perfect. I loved the colours of a variety of vegetables on the plate, glistening, shiny skin of the meat, and the pièce de résistance – a Yorkshire pudding easily the size of a small child’s head. The parsnips were a little underdone and the gravy, not as silky smooth as I would have liked, but it was a great plate, nonetheless.
‘The pièce de résistance – a Yorkshire pudding easily the size of a small child’s head’
I was keen to try whole Creedy Carver roast chicken, bread sauce and stuffing, which serves two. Though I’m sure it would easily feed a family of four, making the £28 price tag a little more palatable.
However, my husband had other ideas. Norfolk belly of pork and crackling hit all the right notes for him, with the winning combination of succulent meat and crunch of salty skin. Homemade apple sauce finished the dish off nicely. Anyone baulking at the £16 price tag, be assured that it’s completely worth it for a healthy (ish), hearty meal that will keep you full all day.
The Sunday staple sirloin of beef is available so traditionalists needn’t worry but the kitchen has taken it forwards a few steps, with the addition of ox cheek croquette. If you’re having difficulty deciding quite which roast to go for, there’s the Ultimate Roast – beef, chicken and lamb (£24).
Don’t fancy a roast? There’s a small a la carte menu, with all the usual crowd-pleasers, with some unusual veggie and vegan options as well. Jerusalem artichoke and Swiss chard quiche with watercress, and maple roasted heritage squash with broad beans, peas and vegan cheddar. We absolutely love what the new Manor Arms is cooking – keep it up.
13 Mitcham Lane, Streatham SW16 6LQ; themanorarms.com