A Knockout of a Roast
It should hit you right between the eyes. A tingle that makes your tear ducts twitch. Make your nose start to get sensitive. A slight wince, but only slight. Not subtracting from the main mouthful, but just providing enough of an accent on the end to leave a lasting impression. Erik Satie once opined that a note should be played like ‘a nightingale with toothache’. Good horseradish should be played in much the same tenor.
I mention this because my first-choice roast is beef, and as I’ve grown older, I need it to come with horseradish. At a push, I’d settle for English mustard, but give me a pot of freshly grated horseradish and were good to go. Well fear not, here’s a spoiler for you: Franklin’s overachieves on its Horseradish. It’s a Mike Tyson of a condiment: One punch, knockout.
All of that’s not to say that the rest of today’s destination is not also without merits, however. Franklins is set against the quaint East Dulwich area of London. Nestled on Lordship Lane next to its Farm Shop of the same name, it forms part of the ongoing evolution of the area. A row of local shops touting craft beer, gourmet cheese, and charming homeware, this is very much the positive side of gentrification. Franklins fits right into the theme. As you can imagine, being overlooked by its sister farm shop, the focus is fixed on seasonal British produce. So what could be a better stop for a Sunday sojourn?
A long corridor of a restaurant, there are very few frills to the dining room. It’s dark wood tables, a friendly bar at the front and a cubbyhole pass at the rear. Tables are laid with paper tablecloths with an almost expectant reluctance that hungry diners will be spilling red wine and gravy. Maybe this is only a Sunday feature from too many lessons learnt. Between the traditional English pub stylings and the local artwork on the walls, the decor very much matches the food ethos.
Sundays are about sharing, or at least fighting over the last remaining morsel in a bowl. So, small plates to grab at are opted for whilst the previous night’s missteps are recounted. The hits are simple – Head-on prawns with a sharp aioli and deep-fried sweetbreads that are eerily reminiscent of an offal version of classic pub scampi. And I mean that in the most endearing of ways. I’ve always been too timid to order them previously but in this form, they are a delicate morsel to start a meal. Whether it be because of the deep-fried sweetbreads, or the mayo-based dips but the beef rillettes feel like overkill. The pickles do their best to cut through the mouth-coating fattiness, but it’s a tall ask.
There is no indecision around the roast order. Three faces decide that to not order beef would be to risk food envy of the highest order. Watching the plates whizz past, it’s impossible to resist the lure of the menu’s centrepiece, however much offerings of rabbit or partridge may try.
And it’s quite the centrepiece. A large carve of pink beef adorned with a giant Yorkshire pudding. Like a crown proclaiming that the king has arrived. It arguably looks like it was expecting a round of trumpet fanfare to welcome it to the table. Instead, it gets a few hungry sighs, which will have to suffice.
It’s welcome is short-lived as, like a Game of Thrones king, it rapidly meets the sword. The meat is cut thick to allow you to slather on a sufficient mound of the aforementioned horseradish. Although thin slivers of rare-breed sirloin tend to be en vogue, this is a welcome change of texture. The Yorkshire has that satisfying crunch as you scythe through it. Carrots still have some bite, the greens are soothingly buttered. Sundays are for the little creature comforts.
Despite its regal stature, the roast is actually priced more like a prince. (Have you had enough of the regal connotations yet?) At £15.75 it’s not unreasonable for a wonderful, thick slab of beef but it does require the addition of a side (or two) for veg. That leaves you still under £20 for the main event. Accounting for the extra meat and sides, it’s in the same ballpark as The Florence’s special Roast Beef (£25 per head). The starters, which are between £9-10.50, do, however, bump up the overall bill to a relatively expensive lunch. I’m told the farm shop opposite is similarly priced but the premium here is for quality, local produce.
If you’re looking for a wander around some leafy lanes and boujie shops on a Sunday, then East Dulwich certainly ticks both boxes. For its part, the Franklin roast delivers all the ceremony and love of a traditional British roast……
I’ve got to go, that horseradish is still making my nose run……
A Princely Roast at a Premium
Franklin’s roast is full of wonderful British produce with the beef a fitting centrepiece. The total bill can add up with starters on the pricier side of the gastropub spectrum, but you should visit for the horseradish alone.