Borough Market stalwart Roast has a new head chef, who is keen to make his mark on the London restaurant. Janie Manzoori-Stamford went to visit
Following the departure of Lawrence Keogh to join the Wolseley at the start of the year, New Zealand-born chef Marcus Verberne took over as head chef at Iqbal Wahhab's Borough Market-based restaurant Roast. And he's not been shy in making his mark.
Having spent the last decade working in some capacity for Mark Hix - at Caprice Holdings and most recently at Brown's hotel - whom he describes as a "pioneer" of the British food movement, Verberne is well equipped to fly the culinary flag of his adopted home country.
"I changed half of the menu in my second week," he explains. "But I kept a lot of our most popular dishes on, like the pork belly. You can't go in and pull the rug out from under all the regulars by changing everything straight away."
Given the popularity of the dish - boned out pork belly, rolled with sage and garlic, rubbed with salt and lemon juice, roasted for three and a half hours, served with mashed potatoes and Bramley apple sauce (£23.50) - it's the mark of a good chef to know when to tweak a dish and when to leave it alone.
Centre-stage on the menu is the quality produce from great British suppliers, many of which make it on to Roast's "roll of honour" on the back page. Ingredients are treated with a delicate touch to allow them to shine in their own right. A starter of Inverawe hot-smoked salmon and asparagus salad with soft boiled quail's eggs (£12.75) is simple and well executed.
The menu changes monthly to keep up with the seasons, as it did prior to Verberne's arrival at Roast, but his influence has been to make it, if anything, even more British. Alongside quintessentially British dishes such as Reg Johnson's corn-fed chicken breast with spring bubble ‘n' squeak and smoked black pudding (£19.75) sits a nod to Britain's multiculturalism.
"For Iqbal, our founder - who started up the Cinnamon Club in 2001 - that whole Indian food scene has become part of the British culture," says Verberne, who makes sure there is always a curry on the menu, and recent examples include a Newlyn monkfish curry served with steamed basmati rice (£27.50).
Verberne has also introduced a regular pie, kicking off with a wild rabbit and snail pie (£22.75). The rabbit is slow cooked in cider before being flaked off the bone and mixed through with Herefordshire-farmed snails and wild garlic butter and served in a full puff pastry pie garnished with a snail in its shell on the lid.
Sommelier Anne Lomas's wine list aims to reflect the "dynamic nature" of the London wine scene, while at the same time matching the flavour profiles of the dishes. In keeping with the restaurant's celebration of British producers, she works closely with UK wineries, in particular Chapel Down in Kent, which makes a Bacchus Reserve exclusively for Roast as well as the Chapter Two sparkling wine.
Puddings at Roast continue the theme of classic British cooking. The likes of rhubarb and apple crumble with custard (£7.50) and lemon posset with shortbread (£6.75) provide the perfect conclusion to a meal, particularly when paired with the recommended dessert wines and after dinner cocktails, such as Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2010 (£11) or Sweet Dreams with XO Patrón Cafe, Martell VSOP, Amaretto, espresso and double cream (£9.50) respectively.
Roast The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL
0845 034 7300
Sample dishes from the menu
Irish salt beef croquettes with horseradish mayonnaise and dandelion £8.75 Inverawe smoked Loch Etive trout with shallots, capers and seed bread £12.75 Asparagus tart with a poached bantam's egg and shaved Caerphilly £10.75
Herb-roasted fillet of Loch Duart salmon with a Charlotte potato & caper salad and pea shoots £19.75 Chargrilled Bannockburn 28-day aged rib steak with scrumpy-battered onion rings £35 Roasted breast of Goosnargh corn-fed duck with whipped rhubarb and golden beets £24.75
Sloe gin jelly with clotted cream ice-cream £7.75 Trinity burnt cream with Julian Temperley's eau de vie cherries £6.75 Sticky date pudding with toffee sauce and Neal's Yard crème fraîche £8.75