Whampgather IX: Sunday lunch

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the ninth edition of the local get-together known as #whampgather.

Fifty of us took over the front half of The Black Lion on West End Lane while a sudden, if brief, monsoon arrived in West Hampstead.

The afternoon went well – it was great to see so many familiar faces and welcome lots of newcomers to their first whampevent. It’s the first time we’ve had so many people at a sit-down gathering, and thanks are definitely due to Martyn and the staff at The Black Lion for looking after us.

A smattering of folks hung around for more drinks until we got booted out as those who’d reserved tables to watch Italy beat England arrived.

I’ve said it before, but it feels like a long time since the very first whampgather when I wasn’t sure if anyone would turn up. Now, we’re heading inexorably towards the 10th, which will be sometime in the autumn. We’ll be returning to the usual Thursday evening drinks & music format and I’d recommend booking the next day off work.

In the meantime, here are some ropey pictures of Whampgather IX by me, and some better ones of the food by Anthony.

Sunday lunch at The Black Lion

When we did our initial Sunday lunch crawl through West Hampstead, the Lion – as it was then – was on the brink of shutting up shop for a while in order to be refurbed, rebranded, reimagined and reinvigorated. We therefore decided that it wouldn’t be fair to include it in the roast beef round-up and we’d return once it was up and running in its new incarnation.

Which is exactly what we did on that blisteringly hot Sunday a couple of weeks ago. You know the one. It will be remembered as “That hot Sunday in 2012”.

We were able to sit outside on the terrace of the newly refitted The Black Lion. Our table was hot enough for some benihana style Japanese cooking, and we lathered on the sun cream as we looked at the menu. After 15 Sunday lunches of sharing plates, his time we had the luxury at least of having our own meals all to ourselves.

A selection of the Sunday main course options

For starters we should have had gazpacho (which happens to be the oddest heckle I’ve ever heard at a comedy gig), but instead we all went for either the grilled asparagus, or the cured salmon. Both very good – although this is the second time I’ve had the salmon there and it was thinner and more delicate the first time.

Then came the mains. Obviously at least some of us had to have beef – in this case it’s Dexter beef (although the menu doesn’t specify which cut). Tom had fish & chips and Claire tried out the veggie option of roast butternut squash, wild mushroom and almond pancakes with a red pepper sauce.

Beef (and Dom’s arm)

The beef was good – i think they might have got their mediums and their medium rares mixed up, but no big deal. Portion size was impressive, the Yorkshires teetered precariously on top like some limestone rock formation, and the bed of vegetables were all properly cooked (in fact they were slightly over rather than very under as we had had elsewhere).

Tom seemed pleased with his fish & chips, which looked… well, it looked like fish & chips. Claire claimed her pancakes were a good vegetarian option; a change from risotto or the ubiquitous nut roast.

I thought the roast potatoes were good, but it took a long time to get Dom – the arbiter of all things tuber – to pass judgement, and even when he did he was a bit non-committal.

My only criticisms were that there wasn’t enough gravy (though I’m sure we could have asked for more), and it looked like mine had split. No complaints with the flavour though.

Deep bowl for Tom’s deep appetite

We managed to squeeze in desserts: cheesecake, cheese, and a sticky toffee pudding for Anna – a recent convert to the delights of stickiness and toffeeness. All were good – and the cheeseboard came with an extra menu with lengthy descriptions of the cheeses. A nice touch.

Dom and the girls blitzed their way through rather a lot of prosecco, while Tom and I demolished a really good Palestra from the Douro – excellent value as most Portuguese reds are at the moment.

There is no doubt that The Black Lion is an excellent addition to the eating options in West Hampstead. The prices are reasonable, if not cheap, but the service is good and there’s a sense that they are really trying hard to make it work. There are plans for a full-size barbecue on the terrace, which people might find more appealing than the one at the Alice House, which on that particular day was on the street outside the front door in line with the exhaust fumes of the 139 and 328 buses.

Of course lots of us will be trying out The Black Lion for Sunday lunch very soon at Whampgather IX – lets hope we all get as good a meal then as Team Roast did on our very very final Sunday lunch tasting. I’ve added the scores to the spreadsheet you can find here.

Roast beef: £14.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 8
Roast potato score: 7
Sets the bar high for West End Lane.

Sunday Lunch: The dramatic conclusion

One by one we arrived. Amid the clatter of cutlery and pouring of drinks we were the epitome of concentration. The task ahead was clear.

This was the conclusion. This was the final part of the trilogy. By the end of the day we would have found an answer.

It was a Sunday.

We were eating lunch.


And again.

And again.

Having already dissected and critiqued the Sunday lunch offerings of Kilburn and West Hampstead, we were turning our attention to the borders, the periphery, the crispy outer rim of roast meat offerings. We had five pubs in our sights, 10 meals to go. All the pubs apart from The Queensbury knew we were coming to review them (notably, all were much more engaged with that idea than the others we’d visited before).

And so it began.

Midday: The Clifton
We weren’t in Kansas any more – we were on Clifton Hill in NW8. There may have been tumbleweed. As had become traditional, we kicked off with the Bloody Marys and were asked how spicy we’d like them. I like this customisation. But then to the food.

The beef – 21-day aged sirloin – was apparently served medium rare, although ours was definitely on the rare side of medium rare. It did taste very good though. As at the NLT in Kilburn, it was one large thick slice rather than several thinner slices. The vegetables were fine, although the carrots were very underdone, which would be the theme of the day.

A mighty Yorkshire pudding on some (quite rare) beef

The roast chicken was acceptable, though it didn’t wow us, and although I know bread sauce is traditional, it doesn’t add a lot really when you also have potatoes and a yorkshire pudding. Especially when the Yorkshire pudding was so good.

Roast chicken came with bread sauce AND a Yorkshire

This was a promising start overall though. I ordered a side of crackling. Although roast pork isn’t on the menu, the chef buys pig skins specially – I’d suggest not bothering, crispy skin without any of the fat doesn’t work so well, what we had was more like pork skin crisps than proper roast pork crackling. Not unpleasant, but a bit pointless.

Throw these pig skins and you’d take someone’s eye out

Despite this being our first port of call, Tom was powerless to resist the ginger apple crumble for dessert, which received glowing praise from all.

Roast beef: £13.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 9
Roast potato score: 4
Excellent roast beef and good service
*our crumble was on the house

1.45pm: The Salt House
We’d been told that the restaurant had a big party in, so we’d be seated in the bar. Frankly, I think that the bar area is nicer anyway at this popular Greene King pub on the corner of Abbey Road and Belgrave Gardens.

The food came incredibly (almost too) quickly – one beef and one lamb this time. We had barely made a dent in the bottle of Carignan, which Anna declared a bit too heavy on the cherry just as I said “mmm… cherry” to Claire.

“Mmm… cherry”

The beef came in the Yorkshire pudding as we’d seen at The Alice House earlier. The presentation frankly wasn’t the best, but it was very hard to fault the taste of this dry-aged Angus sirloin. The vegetables were all undercooked, and the carrots were actually almost raw. Everything was well-seasoned although perhaps a little heavy on the salt for some of our tastes, but then it is The Salt House. There was some argument over the eventual score for the Yorkshire pudding – it tasted good, but it was too thin at the bottom to hold the gravy so – in Dom’s view at least – it was ruined by being too soggy towards the end.

Generous beef but did the Yorkshire get too soggy?

The potatoes, despite being cooked in the obligatory duck fat, were a little underwhelming, they weren’t crispy enough although they did taste good.

The lamb was very good – it seems pretty hard to screw up lamb, so if you like it and are wary of a pub’s cooking ability it may be the safe option.

Lovely lamb

We again indulged in desserts: a chocolate tart that Tom declared was so good he’d have it for his main course next time, and a sticky toffee pudding that was soft and smooth. We sank another bottle of Carignan as Anna overcame her aversion to cherry. As we went to pay, the manager came over and very kindly said the whole meal was on the house, which was a very pleasant surprise, so thank you Salt House. Doesn’t affect the scores of course!

Roast beef: £15.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 8 (Dom disagrees)
Roast potato score: 6
Good all round, quite expensive, buzzy atmosphere

3pm: The Alice House (Queen’s Park)
A short cab ride later and we were entering Queens Park’s Sunday creche, also known as The Alice House. This offshoot of the West Hampstead Alice House had presented the same challenge of a kitchen that closed for a bit in the afternoon, so we were under strict instruction to be there on time (in fact we were early), and we’d pre-ordered the beef and the pork.

Same menu as the West Hampstead branch, but now with prices!

The beef divided opinion. It had been very good at the West Hampstead branch, with the full yorkshire pudding also proving a hit. This version impressed Tom and Anna, while Dom and I thought it was merely acceptable. Claire was non-committal.

Good selection of greens (eat your greens kids)

The potatoes were good – but again, we were a bit split over how good. We all agreed that the Yorkshires were average, especially compared to the previous two pubs.

Presentation of both dishes was good and the presence of more green vegetables was appreciated, especially the bitterness of the spring greens. The carrots were also actually cooked – still a bit al dente, but cooked.

Some more bizarre crackling on otherwise tasty pork

The pork had good flavour although we derided the attempt at crackling that was artfully placed on top of the meat like a chive on a first round Masterchef plate of pasta

We blitzed through a couple of bottles of Tempranillo but were denied dessert despite being handed menus at about 3.55, no-one bothered to tell us that we’d have to order in five minutes or wait an hour, so we had to forgo this treat.

Minimalist label

The beef here is £1 more than the Salt House, but although Tom and Anna liked it, it was hard to see that it justified the extra price.

Roast beef: £16.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 6
Roast potato score: 7
Good vegetables, beef divided opinion

5pm: The Salusbury
It is a short stumble across the road from The Alice House to the Salusbury. This gastropub has a predominantly Italian menu, but is also happy to offer a traditional roast beef Sunday dinner. Again, timing issues with kitchens meant we’d pre-ordered the beef and also a roast spatchcock chicken, which we were having with all the roast trimmings but is normally served as a non-“Sunday lunch” dish.

blurry – but yes, that is £17.80 for roast beef

The beef (28 day dry-aged rib) was particularly good, with excellent gravy and everything was well seasoned. It was, at £17.80, also the most expensive roast beef in the area. Even the carrots were cooked.

And here’s what that gets you – really delicious beef

The chicken was also very good, and as with the Alice House, we were pleased to see some greens alongside the roast veg and Yorkshire.

NB: you can’t actually order this combo off the menu.

We were at the stage of the afternoon where my notes become harder to read, I know we had a selection of interesting sorbets including a very refreshing scoop of apple sorbet and what I can only assume from the hieroglyphs in my notebook was a chocolate fondant.

The house wine – a Vin du Pays de Gard – was under par, so we quickly worked through it and upgraded to a Chilean Pinot Noir (and then another one), just to keep Tom happy.

Literally our wine.

Overall, this was a good experience, and I know that the owners believe the quality of food justifies the price. Although we all agreed that it was very good beef, the total cost of the meal was probably a little high for this to be a regular Sunday lunch venue for any of us.We returned to the street and waited for our next and last taxi.

Roast beef: £17.80
Yorkshire pudding score: 7
Roast potato score: 7
Excellent beef, but at that price you’d expect nothing less

7pm The Queensbury
As with the previous two expeditions, we were starting to flag. Nevertheless, we loosened our belt buckles and bravely entered The Queensbury, by Willesden Green station for the final roast of the day. This was the one restaurant that didn’t know we were coming to review it (because we hadn’t been sure whether we’d make it – but I must say that they were incredibly friendly and helpful in the correspondence about what the Sunday options were).

(not sure why the lamb is in bold and has no price)

I do realise that this late in the day, it’s hard for restaurants to deliver the same quality of Sunday lunch that they might do around, say, lunchtime. So, we might be willing to forgive the Queensbury a slightly underwhelming selection of vegetables and trimmings with the roast beef. The broccoli was very undercooked though, which it shouldn’t be. The beef itself (sirloin), encouragingly, was actually good with plenty of gravy, and the Yorkshire was one of the better ones of the day.

That is a plate of roast beef. Oh yes.

In a futile attempt to stave off the onset of gout, we veered away from roast meat for our other dish and went for “seared salmon with rocket and anchovy mash”. While we might have forgiven any hiccups with the beef, the salmon really should have been spot on yet was disappointing. Seared wasn’t the first adjective that came to mind, it looked and tasted more just “fried” (or “pan-fried” as chefs like to call it). It was ever so slightly overcooked. The anchovy mash divided opinion. Tom felt it needed more anchovy and more butter, I actually quite liked it. The rocket though was just odd – did they forget to dress it, or is it meant to sit there dryly like a sort of papery peppery afterthought. Throw on a light lemon juice dressing to help both fish and rocket and the dish would have been improved immeasurably.

You can do better than this Queensbury, I believe in you!

It was our last port of call, so we called for the port – having already demolished two bottles of Petit Syrah. History does not record what we thought of it, just that it cost £17.50 a bottle. We had a second, so I guess we liked it.

We also had desserts – a baked vanilla cheesecake with a berry sauce (good), a chocolate tart, (pastry a bit thick), and cheese (with some leftover rocket!).


Roast beef: £14.95
Yorkshire pudding score: 8
Roast potato score: 6
Deserves a second chance for the meat.

It had been a long and expensive day. Anna might have run to the Clifton in the morning, but she certainly wasn’t running back home from The Queensbury. Dom staggered back to his house in Willesden, Claire tried to find a bus back to Kilburn, Tom looked a bit baffled by everything and I really really wanted to lie down.

Our quest was complete… on three separate Sundays we had eaten 30 main courses between us and could rightly consider our knowledge of local Sunday lunch options to be unrivalled. And then The Black Lion reopened on West End Lane. Luckily, I have an idea for that…

The conclusion? On average, these “periphery” pubs had delivered consistently better food than their competitors in Kilburn or West Hampstead. They were, however, also more expensive. The Clifton and The Salt House were my two favourites overall, while the beef at The Salusbury was probably the best roast beef overall. Taking all three weekends into account, if you held a gun to my head and asked me where to recommend for Sunday lunch (and this is my opinion, not those of my fellow testers), I’d say in no particular order, The Gallery, The Salt House and The Priory Tavern – all for different reasons.

Sunday Lunch in West Hampstead and Kilburn: The Ultimate Challenge

One of the most frequently asked questions on Twitter is “where’s good for Sunday lunch” and, frankly, the answer is often “go to Hampstead”. But surely NW6 can rival NW3 for a simple piece of roast meat and a few trimmings. It was time for some scientific research. Five Kilburn pubs one Sunday, five West Hampstead pubs the next. (jump to West Hampstead results). [update: the review of the five “periphery” pubs is also now online]

Two Sundays, twenty plates of food, and an awful lot of red wine

Two Sundays, twenty plates of food, and an awful lot of red wine

Sunday lunch in Kilburn
Today we would tackle Kilburn. We were a merry band of five and five pubs were in our sights: The Westbury, The Priory Tavern, The Betsy Smith, The Black Lion and the North London Tavern. Yes, yes, before you all start ranting, there are other Sunday lunches available, but we couldn’t do all of them in one day and we opted for the pubs that people generally talk about. And frankly we didn’t want to think too hard about what went into the £4.99 offer at The Bell. All the pubs had been told we were coming and all but The Black Lion had replied and reserved us tables.

Is the Westbury's hubris justified?

Is the Westbury’s hubris justified?

Midday: The Westbury
Bloody Marys in hand we took stock. Our methods were simple – one roast beef in every pub and one other meal from the Sunday lunch menu. Between us. Not each. We’re not made of lycra. Here at the Westbury, which rather boldly claimed outside that it did the best roasts, we opted for the veggie dish – mushrooms. This was a transparent and futile attempt to make us feel good about the amount of meat we were going to consume.

Westbury sign

Westbury's Sunday menu

Westbury’s Sunday menu

Not everyone knows the Westbury, I realise. During the daytime it’s a pretty nice spacious pub with lots of comfortable seating. It opens at 12 on Sunday, so we’d been sat outside on benches on the High Road like alcoholics desperate for the pub to open. We did have to wait a little while for our food, but we’d ordered just after a table of four, so we can forgive the kitchen for being a little sluggish so early in the day.

What of the food. So this doesn’t get incredibly dull I’m just going to pick up on the main points! Beef (Lancashire rib eye) was good – one of the better beefs in fact. The Yorkshires were average. The carrots were delicious (best carrots). The potatoes were… well, Tom will get annoyed if I call them inedible, and strictly speaking they were edible but they were the worst of what was frankly a bad bunch of potatoes across all five pubs. So, high marks on beef, low marks on potatoes. Good gravy (and we were offered extra when served).

The Westbury's roast beef

The Westbury’s roast beef

The mushroom dish tasted fine, but looked pretty underwhelming for £9.95 – we’d been imagining three really large mushrooms roasted with herbs and looking like they were any match for some roast beef. What we got was a four or five rather black looking mushroom discs that would have been quite nice as a mushroom side dish, but didn’t cut the mustard (also on the table) for a good veggie Sunday lunch.

Mushrooms underwhelmed

Mushrooms underwhelmed

Roast beef: £12.95
Yorkshire pudding score: 4
Roast potato score: 4
Tom’s favourite roast beef in Kilburn

1.30pm: The Priory Tavern
The welcome was warm as usual and the place was busy, so landlord Merlin warned us there might be a bit of a wait, although in reality it wasn’t noticeable.

Priory's Sunday menu

Priory’s Sunday menu

We ordered beef and lamb here. The Priory is the only place that said on the menu which butchers its meat comes from (Josh Pettit & Hillman’s). While we discussed the challenges of food waste – to doggy bag or not to doggy bag – we opened the house red (the first of the day’s many Tempranillos). Our food arrived – the potatoes were better, but still too soft. However, overall, the Priory offered the best vegetables of anywhere we went in both Kilburn and West Hampstead.

Priory's topside of beef

Priory’s topside of beef

The beef was definitely chewier than at the Westbury though perfectly pleasant. The lamb however was really good (I may be a bit biased here as I love lamb), tender, sweet, and the right amount of rosemary. The pub was “between mint sauces”, but did its best with a sort of makeshift mint sauce. The yorkshire puddings divided opinion.

Delicious lamb at The Priory Tavern

Delicious lamb at The Priory Tavern

We also decided it was time for a pudding and promptly gorged ourselves silly on a perfect (not a word I use lightly) chocolate brownie with ice cream. We have commented before on the Priory’s misguided fondness for chopping boards instead of plates. So I won’t mention it again. Just imagine what happened as the ice cream melted.

Perfect Priory Brownie (via Gail's Bakery)

Perfect Priory Brownie (via Gail’s Bakery)

Roast beef £12.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 4
Roast potato score: 6
The roast lamb was Jonathan and Claire’s favourite overall dish in Kilburn

3pm: The Betsy Smith
The strange Narnia meets Alice in Wonderland design of the Betsy Smith meant that this was the only Sunday lunch we were gong to have sitting in a wardrobe. It was lunch number three and by now we were a well-drilled team. The house red was ordered even before we’d sat down.

Betsy Smith

Betsy Smith

Long descriptions at The Betsy Smith

Long descriptions at The Betsy Smith

Then it was beef and our first roast chicken. Huge bonus points for hot plates – apart from Anna who for reasons only she can explain prefers cold plates. Also the staff were on the ball enough to offer us each a plate rather than having us all attacking the two roasts like starved hyenas.

Roast chicken at The Betsy Smith

Roast chicken at The Betsy Smith

Betsy scored high for presentation

Betsy scored high for presentation

Betsy’s chicken wasn’t a triumph – it was nicely presented, but was a little dry and bland. The potatoes were once again a step in the right direction with a crispy outside, but a little heavy inside. Both plates came with mange tout, which seemed incongruous, and a side dish of cauliflower cheese.

The beef was better than the chicken – nothing to write home about, but here’s the kicker: Betsy Smith’s roast is under a tenner. It’s cheaper than everywhere else, and perfectly decent. The wine (another Tempranillo) was also pretty decent. So much so that we had a second bottle with a top-drawer sticky toffee pudding.

Betsy's desserts all under a fiver

Betsy’s desserts all under a fiver

Delicious sticky toffee pudding

Delicious sticky toffee pudding

Roast beef: £9.95
Yorkshire pudding score: 6
Roast potato score: 5.5
Best value roast beef in Kilburn

4.30pm: The Black Lion
There was no room in the bar at the Black Lion so we had to go through to the fairly recently remodelled restaurant. It’s nice, but not as nice as the bar. Beef and pork was the order of the day here. We were starting to flag slightly at our fourth pub, but another bottle of Tempranillo soon revived us (once it had reached room temperature).

A "no frills" menu from The Black Lion

A “no frills” menu from The Black Lion

Overall, this was a good Sunday lunch, or would have been without the red cabbage (at least for me – it had soaked into the gravy making everything a bit too sweet and acidic).

Roast beef at the Black Lion

Roast beef at the Black Lion

We ordered roast pork, which was nicely cooked but a little bland. It was also pretty much gone before I had the chance to take a photo. The Black Lion was the first place that asked how we’d like the beef – and more or less got it right – in fact the beef itself was quite good. The veg was not great: most of our carrots were burnt. However, the Black Lion had better potatoes than most places and a good yorkshire.

Roast beef £13.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 7
Roast potato score: 7
Dom and Anna’s favourite roast beef in Kilburn.

5.30pm North London Tavern
There was a distinct sense of acheivement as we arrived at the NLT. Like great explorers we had experienced adversity (those Westbury roasties), elation (delicious lamb), and had bonded over more bottles of red wine than was clearly advisable based on current government guidelines. We planted a flag in the table and settled in for the rest of the evening.

NLT Sunday lunch menu

NLT Sunday lunch menu

Expectations among some were high. Others (me) had been underwhelmed by the NLT’s food before. It was the most expensive of Kilburn’s roast dinners – would it be the best? Along with the beef, we had salmon for a change. I confess that by this stage my notes are slightly harder to read and not quite as extensive. The beef split the room – Tom liked it, I felt it had good texture but lacked flavour. It was one large thick slice of beef rather than a few thinner slices.

The priciest roast beef on the High Road

The priciest roast beef on the High Road

Roast salmon at the NLT

Roast salmon at the NLT

Portions were generally notably smaller than elsewhere. The salmon was nice, if perhaps slightly overcooked. The NLT did deliver the best yorkshire pudding of the day though.

We treated ourselves to more (quite a lot more if my hazy memory recalls) red wine (another Tempranillo blend) and puddings that we got to eat all on our own without clashing cutlery with each other.

Very good chocolate tart at the NLT

Very good chocolate tart at the NLT

Roast beef £14.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 8
Roast potato score: 6.5
The salmon was Anna’s favourite overall dish.

Kilburn summary: Nothing outstanding, but everywhere had something going for it. The lack of agreement on what was the best roast dinner here shows that it’s hard to recommend anywhere as outstanding. It also suggests that given that the cost of a roast beef lunch varies by £4.50 between the Betsy Smith and The North London Tavern, value for money and general atmosphere probably carries as much weight as quality of food.

We rolled home… but seven days later…

Sunday lunch in West Hampstead
There were just four of us for this installment of our Sunday lunch taste test. This would mean more food each, more wine each and less ranting by absentee Dom about the state of roast potatoes.

Under the microscope today were The Gallery, The Railway, La Brocca, The Alice House and The Alliance. We were back on home turf and we were hoping for a higher average standard. We bypassed The Lion, which was about to close for a major overhaul, but we’ve since been to its new incarnation as The Black Lion – what did we think?

Midday. The Gallery
I’m an unashamed supporter of the food at The Gallery since they revamped the menu some months back.

Sunday menu at The Gallery

Sunday menu at The Gallery

Therefore, I wanted our opening dinner to be good. The Bloody Marys once again got us limbered up for the task ahead. Along with the beef we opted for the poussin.

A damn fine plate of food

A damn fine plate of food

Good yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes at The Gallery

Good yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes at The Gallery

Right off the bat we were happy whampers. The potatoes were very good and the yorkshire was better than anything we’d had in Kilburn. The beef was good but not great, but the poussin was perfect – juicy and tender with a good flavour on the skin. The veg were a little bit bland – they needed the kick of herbs or just more butter. Cauliflower cheese was a nice addition, although Claire was a bit sceptical that the cheese sauce was quite right.

It was, very simply, a good start to the day.

Roast beef £13.95
Yorkshire pudding score: 9
Roast potato score: 8
The poussin was Jonathan’s favourite meal of the day

We crossed the road

1.15pm The Railway
We weren’t expecting great things from The Railway to be honest, but we wanted to see what it could offer at the value-end of the market.

The Railway keeps things simple

The Railway keeps things simple

The Sunday roast options were beef or “chicken breasts”, but we decided to eschew the chicken – partly ‘cos we’d just had poussin and partly because none of us were entirely sure whether we fancied chicken from the cheaper end of the industry. So, we had scampi & chips instead.

Lets get the scampi out of the way first – it was scampi. There. That’s it. It wasn’t bad at all – i’ve had much worse scampi. And there are some pubs in the area that would be better off with the Railway’s chips than the ones they make themselves. But that’s scampi and chips.

Scampi & chips at The Railway

Scampi & chips at The Railway

In case you didn't know what a Sunday roast looked like

In case you didn’t know what a Sunday roast looked like

The menu had a picture of what our roast beef dinner would look like but actually it looked better in real life.

Mash AND roast potatoes. And peas.

Mash AND roast potatoes. And peas.

We were a bit divided on this. Anna in fact just declined to eat it but that was hardly entering into the spirit. It was cold, which wasn’t a good start. Not deliberately cold, but definitely not hot. It was borderline complaining-level cold, but we couldn’t be bothered and the gravy and other bits and pieces were hot enough.

I felt that although it didn’t look hugely appetising, it actually tasted perfectly ok and I would happily have eaten it all. Tom and Claire were less convinced. The accompaniments – well, I’d be lying if I said the Yorkshire pudding was good. The mixed veg would have been absolutely fine if they’d not been overcooked. There’s nothing nutrionally wrong with frozen veg, but they shouldn’t be soggy. However, the potatoes were actually pretty good (and came in both mashed and roast form) and there were peas and who doesn’t love peas?

One thing that I will say about The Railway is that the service is always noticeably good – friendly, helpful and eager to please. They’d even given us an extra Yorkshire pudding as Tom had asked nicely. Had we complained about the cold beef I’m sure they’d have been nice about it and sorted it out. Obviously this was a lot cheaper than anywhere else, but it’s only £4 less than the Betsy Smith, which had delivered a better plate of food.

Roast beef £5.99
Yorkshire pudding score: 3
Roast potato score: 6
It fills a gap in the market in West Hampstead

3pm La Brocca
Tom practically lives at La Brocca but had never had Sunday lunch there, so we were all intrigued to see what the Italian-inspired kitchen could deliver. The Sunday roast options were chicken or beef, so we had both and branched out from the ubiquitous Tempranillo to Tom’s favourite Pinot Noir.

La Brocca's Sunday lunch menu is tucked away in a corner

La Brocca’s Sunday lunch menu is tucked away in a corner



The beef had good flavour, but needed the gravy without which it was a little tough. The chicken – again, just chicken breasts which is no good for those of us who prefer legs – was also nice, but it didn’t excite us.

Roast chicken from La Brocca

Roast chicken from La Brocca

The best roast potatoes

The best roast potatoes

The vegetables were average – perhaps slightly disappointing for a kitchen of this standard – and unsurprisingly the Yorkshire was so-so. But the roast potatoes… oh dear me the potatoes were almost as good as Dom’s mother allegedly cooks.

As we had a bit of time before the Alice House would be ready for us, we indulged in a good sticky toffee pudding and an apple crumble that was a lot more apple than crumble, but tasted good nonetheless.

The vibe is always good at La Brocca too, and although it was a mixed success, I could see myself coming back here for more of the beef (with extra gravy).

Roast beef £13.00
Yorkshire pudding score: 3
Roast potato score: 9
The best roast potatoes in Kilburn or West Hampstead.

4.45pm The Alice House
Now, before we get into the food, I need to sort one thing out. When I’d e-mailed to book the Alice House I’d been told that the kitchen was closed from 4-5pm on Sundays, and they couldn’t guarantee there’d be any roast dinners left when it reopened. The website does in fact say that Sunday lunch is served from 12-4pm, which I hadn’t noticed. Nevertheless, it seems strange in an area rife with late Sunday lunchers, and it’s not hugely conducive to doing a review! Anyway, after a very amicable correspondence, we agreed that I’d pre-order the food so they’d keep two plates back for us, and then when the kitchen reopened at 5pm they could serve us. This meant weweren’t entirely sure what sort of state the food would be in.

We had to use Google Maps to find Aldington

We had to use Google Maps to find Aldington

I’m delighted to say it was in an excellent state. We had the beef and the lamb and for the first time we had a REAL Yorkshire pudding – that is a proper size one with all the beef and gravy and vegetables served inside.

Now THAT is a Yorkshire pudding

Now THAT is a Yorkshire pudding

If we’re being very pedantic (and as someone who’s half Yorkshire that’s not just a right, but a duty), the yorkshire wouldn’t be served like this, it would be a separate dish, but this was a good approximation of the idea and it was good, although not quite as good as The Gallery’s.

The beef was also top-notch, very tender and well cooked. The lamb was good too, though not as good as the Priory’s for my money. There was a very good range of vegetables, but the potatoes divided opinion. Tom liked them, while the rest of us thought they were ok, and more like mini-jacket potatoes with a very thick skin albeit soft inside.

Roast lamb at The Alice House

Roast lamb at The Alice House

So, the end result was that we left the Alice House pretty happy. But had we been lucky? I saw a tweet that evening from someone who – for the second week running – had been told at 2pm that they’d sold out of Sunday lunches and there would be a lengthy wait for the next batch to be made. Surely, the AH must know that it’s going to be a popular place for Sunday lunch and can prepare accordingly? And if the food is always this good then they really are missing out on a goldmine.

Roast beef £14.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 8
Roast potato score: 6 (amid a lot of argument)
Best roast beef in West Hampstead

We needed the walk along Mill Lane to The Alliance by now. Although the conversation had remained sparkly, we were feeling the weight of responsibility – largely in our stomachs – as the mission drew to a conclusion.

6pm The Alliance

By the time we reached The Alliance most people had sensibly stopped eating lunch and were perhaps having a cosy pint in front of the football. Not us. No siree.

The Alliance menu

The Alliance menu

The menu sounded appetising and good value, but we decided to finish as we’d started a week earlier with the beef and the vegetarian option. We’d heard good things about the roast dinners here, and although the beef wasn’t exceptional it was perfectly fine. The veggie roast was more than fine, it was damn good and long-time vegetarian (obviously not any more) Claire said it was much better than many she’d had.

Top-notch veggie roast

Top-notch veggie roast

Ironic then that the potatoes weren’t the best, ranking down with the Westbury’s. The Yorkshire wasn’t bad either but by this stage we were all well and truly roast dinnered out.

Our tenth and last plate of roast beef

Our tenth and last plate of roast beef

Obviously we had room for pudding. Duh. Plum fools, more crumbles (really really good), a cheesecake and generous cheese plate all found their way down.

You can’t argue with the friendly service at The Alliance, and if you’re up that end of town it’s well worth the money – we were also right at the end of their service, so it’s possible that the potatoes might have been better earlier in the day. And although we only tried a couple of non-meat options across both weekends, if there were many veggie dishes better than this then I’d be surprised.

Roast beef £11.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 6
Roast potato score: 3
Good value – would try again a bit nearer traditional lunchtime!

We were done. We were very full. Kids, don’t try this at home. I have literally no idea how Anna ran to work the next day – I could barely move.

West Hampstead summary: Definitely a higher standard overall, although again struggled to say that one place got everything right. The Alice House food was very good, but I wouldn’t want to get there and find the kitchen was shut. La Brocca’s atmosphere was lively and it delivered top roast potatoes. The Alliance was good value, but I’ll be heading back to The Gallery for that poussin.

Across both Sundays, the lamb at the Priory and the poussin at The Gallery were my two personal favourite dishes and the beef at The Alice House was my favourite roast beef.

Before you ask… yes, we know there are more places in Kilburn that do Sunday lunch; no, we’re not going to do Hampstead, you can explore the pubs there for yourselves; but yes, we will do one final Sunday lunch field trip when we tackle “The periphery” [update: This is now online]. In the meantime, thank you to Tom, Anna, Claire, and Dom for their company and firm opinions.

Photos are courtesy of Anna, Claire and me.