There now seem to be a lot of restaurants in London called ‘Coal’ something or other. There’s The Coal Shed, The Coal Hole, Coal City and one of this years’ most anticipated restaurants, Coal Office (a collaboration between Assaf Granit, of the Barbary and Palomar fame, and Tom Dixon, the design King – Fay Maschler has just given it 5/5!). And of course, the subject of this review, Coal Rooms. There seems to be a fascination with coal. It’s not a particularly great thing when China uses it to heat billions of homes every winter, but when used to cook food, it’s a wonderful.
I went to Coal Rooms to try their famed Sunday Roast. I say famed for two reasons. One, because Professor Green is there most weeks eating his fill of roast deliciousness, as too was Fred from First Dates the week we were there. And reason number two is due to the fact it’s one of the best roasts you’ll find outside of your Grandma’s kitchen.
Coal Rooms is set in the old Peckham Rye station ticket office. Knowing this, I was expecting the venue to have retained much of its original aesthetic, but instead they’ve spruced up the main dining room into a modern, white-walled, wooden-floored affair. There’s also a bar area and a grill room (you can also eat here), which give off a darker and more hipster vibe. The best room in the whole building though are the toilets. Weird thing to say I know, but it’s true.
Anyway, after saying I wasn’t in the business of writing interior design reviews (see my scathing review of M Victoria here), it seems I’m doing just that. Stop it, James. Onto the food.
I’d planned to get the intriguing sounding Bone marrow & marmite bread and butter pudding, Welsh ragu bresaola for my starter, BUT it wasn’t on the menu. I love marmite (controversial) and bone marrow, and I ADORE bread and butter pudding. I may have to call ahead next time I go to make sure they’re serving it.
After just about managing to come to terms with that disappointment, I abandoned the idea of a starter (saved myself £8 wahoo) and ordered a roast. My wife and I shared two different ones:
What I ate:
40 day-aged Hereford sirloin & smoked shin (£18)
Smoked Cabrito goat shoulder (£17)
All roasts at Coal Rooms are: served with beef dripping potatoes, roasted carrots & gremolata, spring cabbage, courgettes, red wine ‘Barney Mcgrew’, Yorkshire pudding.
Sitting here about to start describing this roast is causing me to salivate. It really was stupendous. And amazingly, as good as it was, the best part was not the meat. It’s the veg in the Coal Rooms roast that is a marvel to behold.
Let’s start with the potatoes, which is ALWAYS where roasts in pubs/restaurants come unstuck. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been out for a roast where the roasties are: a) an absolute abomination; b) a disgrace to humankind; c) the worst thing to ever happen to anyone ever (you get the point). The meat is often excellent, but what is the point if the potatoes are utter sh*@t?! Well, praise the Lord, the roast potatoes at Coal Rooms are divine. Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside and infused with the flavour of salty, buttery beef fat. There are few better things in life than a roast potato done right. And the roasties at Coal Rooms are done oh so right.
Another frequently encountered area of significant let down in the world of pub/restaurant Sunday roasts, is the gravy. Often it’s brown, watery, tasteless nonsense. However, the gravy at Coal Rooms (which they call ‘Barney Mcgrew – isn’t he one of the firemen from Trumpton?! Hugh, Pugh, Barney Mcgrew…) is perfect. After reading Professor Green’s review on the Evening Standard, I understand why it’s so good – “an incredible concoction made from beef bones, chicken bones, smoked pork bones, smoked lamb bones and smoked goat bones, plus red wine, Madeira and brandy”. Gone are the terrible days of poor unsuspecting housewives saying “aaaaaah Bisto” to themselves as they sprinkle gravy granules into a saucepan. We now live in a day and age when we expect ‘Barney Mcgrew’. And we will not tolerate anything less. In case you’re struggling to decipher what the hell I’m on about, the crux of the matter is, the gravy at Coal Rooms is a bit of alright. They also seemed happy to provide more when we asked. This is fully correct. I want my roast swimming in gravy, please.
And that’s not where the compliments end. Coal Rooms is also home to the tastiest roasted carrots I’ve ever eaten. The zingy, garlicy gremolata (which I used to get confused with GRANOLA… eejit) made by the Coal Rooms culinary wizards is a beautiful thing that was always destined to slather humble carrots. The cabbage is wonderful and buttery. The grated courgettes are inexplicably tasty. And the Yorkshire pudding is just as it should be, gargantuan and screaming to be pumped full of ‘Barney Mcgrew’.
Now, I can’t quite believe I’m only just coming onto the meat. That’s how good the veg was. The meat, as you might expect from a restaurant that cooks it meticulously over a charcoal grill, is fantastic. The 40 day-aged sirloin was beautifully tender, perfectly seasoned and with a super-rich and tasty layer of buttery fat on the outside. The really clever thing with this dish though, was the addition of succulent, pulled smoked beef shin. This deep, smoked flavour generated from Coal Rooms charcoal grill was truly inspired and added an extra element to the humble Sunday roast.
The goat was really tasty, but not quite as tender as I would’ve liked. Whenever I have goat I feel this way (the one exception is the Cabrito goat at Temper City). Despite this small niggle, I enjoyed it. It was seriously tasty and had a lovely barbecued flavour from where it had been cooked on the Coal Rooms grill. The fat on the outside was particularly good. However, next time I’ll stick to the beef.
I couldn’t resist trying the Millionaire’s Shortbread – stout caramel, chocolate, rapeseed shortbread, waste barista milk ice cream (£6). Unfortunately, it didn’t come in the form of a Millionaire’s slice. Instead it was dolloped in an espresso cup. It did taste really good, but for £6 I was left wanting a bit more structure to the whole thing. Put this into a properly formed chocolatey, sticky caramel-infused biscuit, then we’d be talking. Anyway, people don’t come here for the puddings.
Overall, I’d go as far as saying Coal Rooms has managed to deliver the best non-homemade roast I’ve ever eaten. It ticks all the boxes – perfectly cooked high-quality meat, crispy potatoes, wonderful veg, luscious gravy and an enormous Yorkshire pudding. Coal Rooms manages to take things up a notch by the way they cook the meat and the amount of flavour they manage to get into a few humble vegetables. Considering the average pub roast in London seems to cost around £15, only having to pay a few pounds more at Coal Rooms, makes it an absolute no brainer. The only thing I can think of that would make the roasts at Coal Rooms better would be the addition of cauliflower cheese. Professor Green might disagree with me though – he doesn’t like cheese (who doesn’t like cheese?).
|Overall:||(8.7 / 10)|
|Flavour:||(9.5 / 10)|
|Creativity:||(8.5 / 10)|
|Presentation:||(7.5 / 10)|
|Service and Ambiance:||(9.0 / 10)|
|Value for money:||(9.0 / 10)|