A roast revival: how the traditional Sunday meal is getting an international injection

From India to the Caribbean, influences from around the world are inspiring new takes on the British classic. 

10 May 2018
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The Sunday roast is quintessentially British, but could a transition from the traditional be happening?

Research from Bookatable has revealed that diners are no longer indulging as often in classic meals when they eat out, choosing instead more contemporary options and a range of new dishes.

While a decade ago the week was not complete without a slab of beef or pork – 44% of people tucked into a plate piled with meat and gravy – today’s diners are turning their backs on this traditional pastime, with only one in five out-of-home eaters rounding off the week with a roast.

Bookatable’s data revealed that Sunday bookings for non-European cuisines has increased significantly, with those selecting Chinese restaurants in 2016 rising by 71%.

Josephine Ellis, head of communications for Bookatable Europe, said although the number of people eating a traditional roast every Sunday has reduced, this is not to say that roasts are a dying British tradition.

“While in the past the roast was simple in its creation and the staple of every Sunday, today, chefs are continuously innovating and re-inventing the meal in order to keep up with the growing gourmet trend,” she said.

“This includes anything from using interesting herbs in the stuffing to elaborate presentations and experimenting with premium cuts of meat.” 

With consumers looking to be inspired, is it time the roast got a cultural makeover?

image credit: Instagram @hopperslondon

Indian inspiration

Indian barbecue restaurant Brigadiers will open in the Bloomberg Arcade on June 6 with its own takes on the Sunday roast.

Its Indian-inspired versions will include the rotisserie chargha (deep-fried) spatchcock chicken and whole kid lamb biryani, which will be placed at the centre of the table for all to share.

Accompanying these big plates will be traditional Indian trimmings, including achari masala roast potatoes, gajjar methi (carrot fenugreek curry), malai palak corn (made with spinach and cream), tandoori malai gobhi (creamy cauliflower), raita, chutneys and pickles.

Getting in on the action a month earlier, Hoppers is bringing the roadside stalls of Sri Lanka to the Sunday roast experience with a monthly home-style feasting lunch at their Soho restaurant starting on May 13.

Each Sunday Session will revolve around a Sri Lankan or South Indian specialty, or seasonal star ingredients, with all-new dishes to be shared by the whole table. The concept will debut with Sri Lankan roast lamb breast, tuna roti, drop dosas (rice and gram pancakes) stuffed with goat kheema (minced meat), and a fragrant coconut pandan pudding, among other delicacies.

Future luncheons will centre on roasted black pork belly; spit-roast Ceylonese duck; salmon head and tail kari (curry); and banana leaf lunch.

Director Karan Gokani said: “We wanted to recreate the spirit of the Sunday lunches back home with our Sunday Sessions – celebratory, perhaps a little raucous, but always delicious. We’re especially excited to cook whole cuts of meat and bigger dishes which are perfect for a larger group to share, something we don’t often get to do given the size of the restaurant.”

image credit: Instagram @meimeistreetcart

Around the world in a day

But adventurous variations on the Sunday roast don’t stop with Indian influences.

Over in north London, Chinese street-food vendor Mei Mei’s Street Cart is undertaking a residency at pub The Prince, displaying its own ideas about what makes for a tasty end-of-week lunch.

There are two types of meat to choose from and a vegetarian offering. These include the honey-soy baked chicken, pork belly, and aubergine and crispy tofu, all of which come with potatoes, greens and the faithful Yorkshire pudding, along with beer pickles and sesame rice.

For Cottons Rum Shack & Restaurant, Chef Collin Brown has created a reggae roast menu, which features roast jerk chicken with plantain wedges and callaloo fritters (a traditional leafy green vegetable dish) as well as Caribbean pot roast beef. 

Over in Clerkenwell, South African restaurant Hammer & Tongs cooks its roast on a wood-fired braai. It offers a chicken cooked spatchcock style, which gives the roast its name: ‘flattie.’ This comes with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, fire-roasted butternut and beetroot, spicy broccoli, pork and peppadew stuffing, and gravy.

Going Middle Eastern, the Lebanese restaurant Crocker’s Folly, which is in a grand old Victorian pub, has stuck with the traditional cuts of meat like chicken and lamb. Sides include rice with minced lamb and Lebanese vermicelli rice.

Feeling a lack of plant love? The Gate, which has sites in Clerkenwell and Hammersmith, offers a root vegetable, chestnut and sage wellington with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and Madeira sauce, as well as a wild mushroom and tarragon roasted stuffed onion with mash and spinach.

Don’t get us wrong, tradition is a fine thing, but there’s a definite move towards innovation on the day of rest – or should that be the day of roast?

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