Sunday, 15 April 2012

Les rosbifs : English Exotics

"When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food, It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood, Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good. Oh! the Roast Beef of old England and old English Roast Beef! "

"But since we have learnt from all-vapouring France to eat their ragouts as well as to dance,We're fed up with nothing but vain complaisance.  Oh! the Roast Beef of Old England, and old English Roast Beef!"

Springtime brings blossom and gambolling lambs. So what does one do? Eat the lambs. For anthropological research I ventured to a typical English Pub in the Oxfordshire countryside. Pretty garden, a horse tethered at the gate, two friendly black labradors at the back, who could smell the roast beef, lamb and chicken emanating from the kitchen.

The Unicorn is Victorian, a quarter mile from Anthony Worrall Thompson's Greyhound but the food is often just as good and the atmosphere more informal. So for the first time in decades, I ate an English Sunday Roast. It was infinitely better than the one in the photo, which was taken in 2005 elsewhere. The Unicorn's Yorkshire pudding almost covers the whole plate and is delicious - a meal in itself. I could get used to that. The Unicorn's vegetables are better too - fine beans, broccoli properly cooked al dente, not boiled to mush, and crisp, sweet carrots. My friend's dish was so good, he ate every atom. He's English, it's his native duty!

I haven't eaten English (or Welsh) lamb since around 1983 when I discovered, by sheer chance, the Walnut Tree in Abergavenny before it became a foodie magnet. Persian roasts, Lebanese dishes, kebabs, Mongol lamb stew but no Sunday Roast Lamb that I can remember. The Unicorn's special Sunday lunches are famous bercause they're so good and so generous. Home made mint sauce, too. But maybe English fare is too exotic for me. Still, the starter was excellent too - new asparagus from Worcester with ham hock, rocket and baby beans. And rosewater and raspberry cheesecake! Maybe I'm European at heart.

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