Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Sunday Roast Review ~ The Clarendon Arms

Autumn arrived this weekend, bringing with it wind, rain and the search for a warm and cosy little pub in which to enjoy our weekly Sunday roast. We decided to revisit one of our favourite city centre pubs, The Clarendon Arms; a Greene King pub with relatively new landlords at the helm (since April this year), who were already putting their own stamp on the traditional pub when we visited in the summer and fell in love with the hidden suntrap garden (complete with herb bed) and good honest home-cooked food. The pub has clearly gained in popularity since. Sunday lunchtimes are now hugely busy, with reservations taking up nearly all of the tables in the bar and dining area.     

Sunday lunch is served from 12-4pm at The Clarendon Arms and they keep their Sunday food menu simple, with two roast meats usually on offer and a veggie option (although I've heard the pub's Tuesday to Saturday menu does a roaring trade too and features a rather tasty Scotch Egg). We chose from slow-roasted belly of pork or roast rump of beef for £9.50 each and a vegetarian mushroom and stilton puff pastry parcel for £7.50, all served with a huge list of trimmings (so long it took up three blackboards!). The pub was buzzing with activity by the time we sat down for lunch at 12.30pm; the full tables and bar adding to the welcoming, traditional pub atmosphere rather than overwhelming it.

We liked the sound of the roast meat options as soon as we spotted the blackboard in the window of the pub and were very pleased to find they were just as tasty in reality. The pork belly was, as advertised, slow-cooked and so tender it was falling apart. The generous hunk of meat was also full of flavour and topped with some very good crackling (hurrah!) - the combination of melting meat, that naughty layer of intense porky fat, and crispy, slightly glazed skin, was a winner. The roast beef was spot on, too, and cooked exactly as it should be: pink, tender, and draped generously over the rest of the plate. And the rest of the plate was something special in itself: an array of colourful vegetables, seemingly straight from the allotment, lashings of gravy, and looking like the kind of Sunday lunch one might enjoy at home. 

As fantastic as the meat was, we were wowed by the other elements of the roast. The selection of vegetables in particular was impressive, featuring a cracking cauliflower cheese, sage buttered carrots, peas, roasted shallots, and a delicious butternut squash puree. We could see why the chef had made a feature of the veg - it was all super fresh, full of flavour, and cooked to perfection - and it made a nice change from the usual roast trimmings. The essential roast potatoes were still present, and great examples they were too. Well-sized, evenly crisp, with fluffy flesh within, we particularly liked the pure 'potato' taste of the skin (as opposed to over-fried fat; it may sound picky but as the weeks go by we're really starting to realise what we like).    

The gravy was a difficult element to judge - or maybe not - as it was there in the background, effortlessly binding the ingredients, soaked up by the potatoes and the Yorkshire pudding, but other flavours often won over. The squash puree, for example, was delightfully buttered and well-seasoned; as a sauce it partnered particularly well with the meat and roasted shallots. The meat itself was so succulent that it needed nothing more to soften each bite, but a good homemade gravy mingled in with the juices and had a pleasing consistency and good seasoning. The extensive trimmings ended with the all-important Yorkshire pudding - rather small and shaped like Aunt Bessie's but most definitely homemade, cooked evenly and tasting just right - and horseradish and apple sauces to accompany the beef and pork respectively. We suspected the former was from a jar but the apple sauce had an off-sweet bite to it that hinted it was homemade. A very nice finish to a very well put together plate of food.     

The verdict: A delicious Sunday roast in a traditional, homely atmosphere. Clear quality, great value and the kind of food we'd like to eat every weekend.

The score: 4.1/5 (1 on the scale being absolutely terrible and 5 equalling roast lunch perfection). 

Price: £25 for two people including drinks. 

Where should we have our next Sunday roast in Cambridge? Let us know your favourite Sunday lunch spots in the city and we'll rate and review them! Tweet your comments and ideas using #SundayRoastReview to @TheMovingFoodie.  

Read last week's review: The Old Spring 

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