Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon 1609–1674
That's fair enough, Ed, old bean, but let's be honest, the meat also plays a part. Picture the scene: Jay-Z is round your gaff for a party, smiling like the Grinch on a ruined-Christmas morning cos he's showing off his new yo-yo, but you've only got enough meat for a Jay-Z-less shin-dig. No matter how cheerful he is, your feast is now more uncomfortable than a seal at Crufts. That won't happen at The Red Lion and Sun, though (I got there in the end...). As well as being a generally ruddy good pub - the drinks are good, the staff friendly and the food well thought out and executed - they've also got a couple of tricks up their sleeves. Owner Heath Ball is no fool, and has realised the potential of having two beer gardens; a larger one out the front, and a more private, cosier space out the back of the pub. As well as inviting Yianni's Meatwagon and Petra's Choc Star van over to pitch up in the front garden, Heath also allows patrons to hold parties in the back garden. For £350, you'll get a whole roasted lamb, a ridiculous amount of sides and more sauce than the top shelf of a newsagent. The ideal number is 20, which then works out at £17.50 per person, though you can have a smaller party if you desire (prepare for leftovers).
As to how myself and 19 others found ourselves tucking into a whole lamb? Well, let me take you back to a month ago. Heath tweeted this, which instantly grabbed my attention. HOW MUCH? HOW DO I DO IT? GEE, THAT'S FOR SURE A WEIRD LOOKING CHICKEN, MISTER.
Price. Get twenty people. Choose a date. I knew what I had to do: I gathered twenty hungry meat fans and booked in for the evening of 4th July - America's birthday, my lamb day.
(Photo by Fiona Wong)
By the time we arrived the lamb had already been on the (motorised, electric) spit for a couple of hours, and was looking fantastic. Smelling it, too.
(Photo by Ken Chu)
The finished article. There were some grumbles questioning the size of our little friend, but it proved us wrong, the little soldier. The skin looked, on first glance, a little bit too cooked. Foolish human - the skin was delightfully crispy, whilst the fat hiding beneath had been rendered down and helped to baste the flesh as it turned.
We decided to set it up so we would eat buffet style:
Our fantastic host Paulo (pictured in the top picture, with the lamb) cut off huge chunks of lamb before handing them over to the chef, who further dissected the meat. It was visibly tender, with minimal knife motions needed to separate the flesh, before putting it into the tray.
Potato salad. A very nice potato salad, a worthy side to the magnificent lamb. The new potatoes were cooked until still crispy to the bite, while the mayonnaise and diced red onions provided the sharp and creamy flavours.
SO MUCH coleslaw. Far too much. Very nice though, a real oniony kick which I enjoy.
Skin-on chips. Big fan of fries with their skin on; I dig the earthy flavour. Good, crisp fries.
(Photo by Ken Chu)
Any place that gives you a ladle with your gravy is fine by me. It had a nicely alcoholic tang to it from the red wine.
Sam's plate. Surely only a girl would have a plate like this? Needs more meat, which was unbelievable...have I said how good it was already? Well honestly, the lamb was as tender as you'd expected after being cooked low and slow, though some bits were better than others. Rather predictably, the shoulder fared best, whilst the more expensive cuts (lamb loin/saddle) had unfortunately become a touch dry and flaky, though they were still delicious. The skin turned out crisp, caramelised and delicious, with not a lot added save for salt and pepper - the mint sauce (a little too vinegary) worked as the accompanying flavour, if required.
There was a surprising amount of meat on the animal. Enough for some (I shan't name names) to have four plates of lamb! I went for a reasonable three. Thank you, Red Lion and Sun, I'm already planning the next one...
Party size: 20
What's included: Lamb, mint sauce, gravy, sides, bread/butter
Where: The Red Lion and Sun, Highgate
Phone number: 020 8340 1780