So I took a silly quiz recently to see “How British Are You” based on the list of British foods you’ve eaten. It was a fun quiz and not surprisingly I scored “you are a picky eater” which made me laugh because I won’t eat haggis for extra points. One tradition I could finally check off was the famous British Sunday Roast. With all my years of business travel to London, I would miss the traditional Sunday roast dinner (yes, I know that some restaurants have it on their everyday menu) because my flights home were on Sunday afternoon. So when planning my train from Edinburgh to London, I chose to arrive just before dinner time on Sunday, giving me enough time to check into The Dorset Square Hotel and walk to the pub to meet my friend for drinks before dinner. After drinks, we had a reservation at The Grazing Goat in Marylebone for my first Sunday Roast Dinner.
Marylebone is not a neighborhood I’m familiar with as it was my first stay in the area so I searched online for “Sunday Roast Dinners”, read posts on my TimeOut app, reviews from The Telegraph and consulted OpenTable. I narrowed my search to three options and then looking at their menus and dining rooms, I chose The Grazing Goat gastropub due to its warm country home feel with the soft design – it seemed open, airy and bright with a simple modern design.
The Grazing Goat in Marylebone
As it was a bank holiday weekend in May, the area was quiet and despite this the restaurant had a good crowd inside, outside and upstairs on the first floor dining room. This was a residential area with a few smaller hotels so I got a sense that the guests were locals moreso than tourists like me.
We climbed the stairs to the dining room and met the restaurant manager who seated us against the open window which was nice to have fresh air. The dining room was decorated with wood and light accents. It could be a romantic or casual depending on your dining companion. When seated by the manager and asked if we had been there before, I said “no this is our first time here and my first Sunday Roast dinner”, he smiled and said “it will be the best experience and perfect Sunday roast dinner”. My friend and I laughed because we rarely have the “best experiences” together, he calls me a jinx with so many memorable experiences and stories. We told the manager, he just cursed us and laughed.
The menu had a good selection of starters, entrees, sandwiches and salads plus the roast menu. We ordered a nice bottle of Chianti, two starters and our roast dinners – grass fed beef for me and lamb for my friend with a side order of sweet potato fries just because I was in the mood for them. The wine quickly arrived followed by our starters – calamari for him and asparagus in goat cheese for me.
The presentation of my starter was wonderful and the flavors even better. So far we were off to a good start on this “best experience”. We should have known better from experience but were too busy talking and enjoying the wine.
When we noticed the bottle of wine was nearly finished and our Sunday Roast Dinners were AWOL, I caught the eye of our server who seemed a bit hesitant to approach us. I knew there was a problem as I’ve had that look before when I was a waitress. As other tables around us, who arrived much later than we did, were eating their roast dinners, I knew the kitchen forgot us. He apologized and said that when he saw we didn’t have our dinners (they have food runners) he asked the kitchen about it and realized they had skipped our order. He reordered our entrees so it shouldn’t be much longer. We were not happy and when the manager came over to apologize before delivery of the food, I told him “this isn’t quite the best experience so far, you definitely cursed us from the onset” and I laughed to help make him feel a bit better. I also explained that I’ve worked in restaurant so understand things can happen, I wished were we told sooner rather than asking. He said he would comp us the sweet potato fries for the delay, the nearly hour delay deserved a bit more than free fries in my opinion.
The Grazing Goat Sunday Roast Dinner(s)
Then the entrees arrived. My meal looked just as I expected it would – yummy and massive. Under the big slab of tender beef was vegetables and potatoes. I expected a bit of gravy for the bread but there wasn’t any of that to dip into.
The big popover on top is Yorkshire pudding which to me not a “pudding” (dessert) which prompted a lecture into the history of Yorkshire pudding from my British friend and rather than argue over this, I bit into the popover to end the conversation. I enjoyed my beef roast dinner with the accompanying vegetables. I don’t eat cauliflower but my friend said it wasn’t cooked properly and needed more time.
My friend’s lamb was more fat than meat so we flagged the manager over and he apologized and went in search of more lamb. My friend wasn’t keen on his “sunday roast dinner experience” but he put up with it on my account. To be honest, he always has issues with lamb when we go out so I’m not sure why he still orders it. I pick restaurants that serve lamb or are known for it and he has issues (funny aside, the next restaurant I picked for lamb, he chose the beef instead so I can’t win).
By now, I was happily eating my food while he wasn’t having any fun focusing on the bad parts of our meal so far. To add insult to injury as they say we were out of wine (never good) and he wasn’t keen on ordering another bottle and staying here longer. We were already waiting on my dessert (pudding) as I needed a bit of chocolate to end this meal and finsh my wine. This was a special dinner for us as we hadn’t seen each other in months to catch up and pre-celebrate his birthday. So there was a few more layers to our disappointment. To the manager’s credit (the poor guy), he apologized to us and removed the lamb roast dinner from the bill plus my dessert in addition to the fries. None of this was requested but he did it anyway which helped my friends mood a little bit to know I didn’t have to pay for his bad meal as I was treating him for his birthday.
Having worked in restaurants, I have a different tolerance for what can and can’t be controlled and understand mistakes happen. However, when the server realized the oversight, he should have immediately informed us and set the expectation, in this case he didn’t and that’s what was bothersome – we were hungry, folks around us were eating and we continued to wait without knowing when our food would arrive. Hangry (hungry + angry) people are not happy people.
Overall Review – The Grazing Goat, Marylebone
I’d go back (my friend would not) to The Grazing Goat again for a Sunday Dinner Roast as I enjoyed the food and the flavors. However, next time, I would be more cognizant of the timing and pacing of our meal to recognize a problem earlier. I had read many reviews that the food was good but the service uneven. I had forgotten about that as I was caught up in the haze of wine and conversation. The manager tried his best but, in the end, even he acknowledged he cursed our meal by promising “it would the best experience”. It was definitely a memorable experience, one in which has banned me from picking restaurants in the future when dining with my friend. But that’s ok, I have other friends in London to dine with at the Grazing Goat in Marylebone.
Have you ever had a meal with a friend where your food was good and theirs wasn’t? What did you do? Would you go back to the restaurant without that friend in the future? Or would you be one and done like my friend?