The Black Lion, West Hampstead
I know, I know; I can't look at another roast dinner either, but before all the New Year New You stuff starts I thought I'd get this post out the way.
The Black Lion is a promising looking pub in the middle of West Hampstead, and on a freezing cold day in that awkward time between Christmas and New Year was exactly what we were after. Cosy, welcoming and an encouraging menu even for a Sunday, plus there were kiddiwinks everywhere so it got the baby friendly thumbs up (unlike The Flask in Hampstead village recently who tried to make us fold the buggy!).
Ensconced in out booth with a lovely bin end bottle of Spanish red (£20) we ordered our starters - bubble and squeak with duck egg and hollandaise for me, and squid with 'nduja for Rich. Like I said, the menu promised quite a lot - but it just didn't really deliver on the plate. My bubble and squeak was fine, but that's all. The potato lacked any satisfying crust and the whole thing was vastly underseasoned.
Considering what a firecracker of a flavour 'nduja brings to the table, I have no idea at all how the kitchen managed to create such a blah dish with Rich's squid starter. There was only the smallest hint of warming paprika, and you can completely forget about any flavour of actual pork. The squid looked insipid, but in all fairness had been cooked reasonably well aside from the absence of any colour or char. However, if the best I can think to say about the dish is that at least the squid wasn't rubbery, then there is something very wrong.
We didn't hold out much hope for our roasts after that, but they were actually pretty good. I never normally choose a roast out and about as they always leave so much to be desired compared to the insanely good Sunday roast at Hawksmoor, but the other main lunch options weren't calling to me on this occasion. I went for the roast beef (£14.50) and was encouraged when the waitress asked how I'd like the beef (rare, always) and then even more so when it arrived and saw the meat was beautifully cooked - the meat was the best part of the dish. It had a good flavour and the hot horseradish set it off to perfection. The Yorkshire was fine, the potatoes for once didn't taste like they'd been roasted hours earlier and kept warm and the veggies were seasonal, crunchy and generously portioned. The gravy... hmm... there was a definite taste of pre-made about it and they would have done well to at least add some of the respective meat juices to it as mine and Rich's gravy was exactly the same despite him ordering the lamb.
The lamb did not fare as well as the beef quality wise, but was still moderately tasty. The option of having it pink was not given, so it had that kind of greyish colour that lamb takes on when it's been a bit over roasted, which was a shame. You can see below:
The bill was about £70 for two courses each with the bottle of wine. Would we go back? Probably, as the area isn't spoilt for choice with pubs and they had a sizeable beer garden, but we won't rush.