There are so many components to a Sunday roast, and in order to excel, you have to do them all right – so how did Crowd of Favours do?
As a Leeds Brewery bar, Crowd of Favours has a reputation for serving up a vast array of top quality beer. Their Sunday roast, however, is a lesser known entity and one that, when you look at the menu, sounds pretty exciting.
Nothing is ‘traditional’ here. Instead, they’ve taken an adventurous approach, replacing the usual honeyed parsnips with five spice & lavender parsnip gratin and dousing the veggies in orange, thyme and cumin butter. Even the gravy has a ‘Midnight Bell’ twist. So when we ventured into the bar, late on a Sunday afternoon, we were optimistic about the meal ahead.
Crowd of Favours is a cool venue, filled with eclectic vintage furniture, graffiti and exposed brickwork. It’s not pretentious or stuffy, but rather the perfect laid back venue for a long, lazy lunch – so our Sunday roast experience was off to a good start.
We found ourselves a cosy seat in the corner and set to looking at the menu. It’s simple, with three roast options – beef, lamb and pork (it’s unusual not to see chicken on the menu, but almost refreshingly so). You can also choose from a range of roast alternatives, for those of you who don’t fancy the traditional Sunday dish.
For us, it was the beef and the pork. You have to order at the bar, but the service was quick and we were able to set up a tab, which entertainingly comes with a Pokémon card – ours was Frillish. Soon, we were back at the table with our drinks – it was a Sunday and a school night, so we played it cool with a coke and an apple juice.
It has to be said, Crowd of Favours is one of the only pubs in the city where you can get a roast late in the day. A lot of the city’s roast venues serve until they run out, but we called just before four to make sure we wouldn’t be doing the walk for nothing and they still had all three options at 4:30pm. They stop serving at 6pm, so this is about as close to Sunday dinner as you’re going to get.
Our food came about twenty minutes later. Two plates piled high with goodies – it’s fair to say their portions are generous, with all the components of a great Sunday roast covered. Mine came with three thick slices of beef alongside a mountain of carrots, seasonal veg, cabbage, parsnip gratin, root veg mash and potatoes, all topped with a Yorkshire pudding and lashings of gravy.
With so much on our plates, it was hard to know where to start, so I went with my dad’s age old approach of ‘eat the veggies first’. The carrots were spot on, well cooked, not squishy but not al dente either. And tucked away beneath the Yorkshire, the root vegetable mash was equally impressive, a good texture and a nice taste – already we’d ticked off three of our five a day.
But the best was yet to come. The seasonal veg was awesome, a mix of green beans, leeks and kale, it was a much more interesting side than most roasts offer and one of the highlights of the entire meal. I can’t say I tasted their eccentric butter, but it was delicious none the less.
Roast potatoes are a little trickier to pull off and they didn’t quite manage it. They weren’t quite cooked enough for my liking, the inside was more solid than fluffy, while the outside was a long way off crispy. As potatoes go, they weren’t bad, but aren’t likely to rock your world either.
The parsnip gratin was up next, and this one was a risk. It takes a brave chef to replace out the usual honeyed parsnips with something new, especially one as adventurous as this, but they pulled it off. Thin slices of parsnip in a creamy sauce, not rich, but rather a palate cleanser, breaking up the rest of the meal, which as it turned out, was.
The red cabbage was one of the culprits. It comes braised in balsamic with cranberry and apple, but the result of this was a very rich and very sweet side dish that was a stark contrast to the other vegetables. It wasn’t the end of the world, you could take it or leave it – but that wasn’t the richest thing on the plate.
A common complaint when it comes to roasts is the lack of gravy. It’s easily fixed, you just ask for some more – but what if you’ve got too much gravy? It’s not something I’ve had to deal with before, but then, I’ve never had gravy quite like this. Made with Midnight Bell beer, it was thick and very, very rich. In small amounts, I’m sure it would be lovely, but there was no escaping it.
My beef, which was perfectly cooked, red in the middle just as it should be and tender too, was overpowered by the gravy, and I found myself wishing it away. Across the table, my fellow diner was having a similar problem, but for her, it was the Yorkshire pudding that was the victim. Mine, while darker than usual in colour, was crispy on top with just the right amount of gooey on the bottom. Hers was too, but it was filled with gravy – and that put a dampener on things.
Luckily, her perfectly crispy crackling was untouched by the gravy, and her pork, which was well cooked and in generous supply, also escaped unscathed, so she still very much enjoyed her meal and her plate was practically empty by the end.
All in all, Crowd of Favours roast had highs and lows, but if you plan ahead and order your gravy on the side (or if they, perhaps, water it down a little so it’s not quite so rich), this will make a mighty fine roast you’re likely to repeat – especially when you think that those piled high plates cost just £23.50.
Crowd of Favours, Harper Street, Leeds, LS2 7EA.