One of my very favourite things about British people is their absolute commitment to the roast dinner. Yes, we like to flirt with fire by having an impromptu barbecue or two at the first sign of sun (or indeed, the first break in the black clouds), but ultimately we remain prepared to sit down to a good, sturdy plate of animal, vegetable, potato product and gravy at pretty much any time, whatever the weather. I am certainly no exception, and thus found myself in one of the leather booths at Beef and Pudding on Sunday - a thoroughly beautiful, sunny day - eschewing the normal menu in favour of a big fat roast dinner in the company of many others who had seemingly chosen to do the same.
Beef and Pudding has had its ups and downs during its time in Manchester - I've had some very good meals there but some slightly less impressive ones too, with the general consensus seeming to be that there is an air of inconsistency that could do with being stamped out. I remain inherently fond of the place though - it's a great venue with lovely, knowledgeable staff and a menu full of things I want to eat, and thus I was willing Sunday's roast to be bang back on form. And mostly, it was - with one important, carbohydrate-based caveat which I will come back to later. The set menu (which changes slightly from week to week) certainly offers good value, with two courses for £14.95 or three for £16.95, and the restaurant also has an excellent wine list that does its best to avoid unreasonable mark-ups - we loved the Granfort French Merlot at £16.95 a bottle. We also enjoyed the boar pâté that we both chose for our starter - good coarse texture, strong punchy flavour, decent chutney and a sensibly-sized portion. So far, so good.
The meat was also excellent. I went for the lamb option while my friend chose the beef; this latter offers the option of well done or rare, and did indeed arrive pleasingly pink - something of a rarity in pub and restaurant roast dinners. In both cases, the meat was generously portioned, thickly sliced, tender and full of flavour - we liked, very much. The veg and gravy were also good, as was the large homemade Yorkshire pudding that came with the beef. BUT. One of the greatest joys of a roast should be the potatoes, particularly at a restaurant that proudly tweets every Sunday that Aunt Bessie isn't welcome here - hers might, in all truth, have been preferable. These were floury and a little flacid and had none of the crispy joy one gets with roasties done at home; I appreciate that it must be difficult to keep such items in prime condition during an all-day service and indeed, now I think about it, I can't remember the last time I had really great roast potatoes in a restaurant. I had also been very excited to see that roasts came with Bubble and Squeak, one of my all-time favourite dishes and a proper Boxing Day treat; what arrived though, was slightly lumpy, slightly tepid mash with a couple of flecks of carrot in. We didn't send it back as we had plenty of other nice stuff to eat, but still a shame.
There were no issues with desserts - the Sticky Toffee Sundae was an enjoyable combination of cake, cream, ice cream and marshmallows (although I could have handled a bit more sticky), whilst across the table the accompanying pipette of mimosa shot perfectly cut through the richness of my companion's chocolate mousse. Overall, we enjoyed our visit very much, and felt that apart from Potatogate the roast had been very good - still, it has made me think I need to go on the hunt for the best roast potatoes in Manchester. Any suggestions, please let me know via the comments box below and I will nobly check them out, whatever the weather...
- Beef and Pudding is at 37 Booth Street, off Fountain Street, M2 4AA. We were invited in to try the roast and were not asked to pay for our food or drinks, but we took two other friends and paid for everything they had - I have left them out of the review in the interests of not making things too complicated, but the opinions here do reflect the consensus of the whole table.