Roast report: how roast dinners became award-winning

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Best British Roast Dinner winners

Related tags: British roast dinner, Roasting

The roast dinner is an institution on these shores and British Roast Dinner Week ensures no one fails to get a good helping of this all-time favourite.

There is a well-known phrase that goes “give the people what they want and they will keep on coming”.

Now, with 40% of consumers recently telling Unilever Food Solutions they would like to see roast dinners on pub menus every day, there is no questioning the importance of this great British staple.

According to the same research, which was carried out by Unilever on behalf of British Roast Dinner Week, UK consumers eat their way through a whopping 1.2bn roasts every year, and the meal tops the list of things consumers love most about Britain (T-Mobile research).

While customers want to see roast dinners on pub menus, they don’t want a substandard offering and flock to award-winning venues. Since British Roast Dinner Week has been running, each year it has awarded one UK pub the title of place to visit for roast dinner.

Passionate about quality

Roasts with the most

Now in its sixth year, the Best British Roast Dinner competition is part of British Roast Dinner Week (24 September to 1 October) and will see one UK pub named as the country’s best roast provider.

The campaign, which is sponsored by Unilever Food Solutions, inspires pubs to serve a roast every day.

The winner will take home £10,000 worth of PR and the competition will also crown regional champions for south England, north England, Midlands, Wales and Scotland.

With the exception of the national winner, each regional winner will receive a runner-up prize of £2,500 of PR to help put their pub on the map.

To enter, pubs need to explain what makes their roast dinner great and should visit​ for
full entry details, terms and conditions and to enter the
completion online.

Nick Otley, owner of the Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd, south Wales, which won the competition last year says: “We’ve always been busy but since winning the Best British Roast Dinner competition, we are taking bookings for Sunday service weeks in advance.”

The Phoenix Inn, Hartley Whitney, Hampshire, beat four other finalists to take home the award in 2012, by impressing the mystery diner judge with its offer.

Licensee Sisi Ryder says: “We are passionate about the quality and provenance of our raw materials and have established relationships with local suppliers, who understand our ethos and deliver the best produce.

​Add to that the combined skills of our talented chefs and the structure of Sunday service, which ensures the roast dinner is as fresh off the carving board as one would serve at home.”

Keeping recipes in the family is just one secret to the success of the pub’s roast, alongside attention to detail in every aspect of the dish.

Ryder adds: “Preparing everything fresh on the day makes our roast stand out from others. As well as our chef’s grandmother’s recipe for the wonderful York-shire puddings, and the varied seasonal vegetables.

“We roast the pork loins on pork bones with cider and onions. Our 28-day dry-aged sirloin of beef, roasted on beef bones with red wine, Lea & Perrins [Worcestershire Sauce] and onions, whole free-range chickens roasted on chicken bones, white wine and herbs de Provence.

“Garlic and rosemary marinated legs of Suffolk lamb from Botley, roasted on lamb bones with red wine and onions. The unctuous pan juices formulate the base of the individual gravies. Fresh Bramley sauce is served with the pork, home-made killer horseradish with the beef, bread sauce with the chicken and mint sauce with the lamb.

“The potatoes are roasted in duck fat and served with roasted garlic and rosemary. The parsnips are honey-roasted and the cauliflower cheese has a unique aromatic recipe.”

Better than all the rest

Best British Roast Dinner winners through the years:

2016: Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd, south Wales

2015: Larwood & Voce Pub & Kitchen, West Bridgford, Nottingham

2014: The Truscott Arms, Maida Vale, west London

2013: Kyloe Restaurant & Grill, Rutland Hotel, Edinburgh

2012: Phoenix Inn, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Having a good roast offer is one thing, keeping it going and ensuring it is still relevant to consumers is another. Ryder adds the pub makes its roast better than the rest by never taking short cuts and maintaining consistency.

She explains how crucial it is for a pub have a roast dinner on its menu in order to please diners and their taste buds, adding: “The roast dinner is so important to a pub’s food offer because it is the bastion of British cooking and it is an event that brings friends and family together.”

Edinburgh’s Kyloe Restaurant & Grill at the Rutland Hotel, which tasted success after winning the Best British Roast Dinner in 2013, also taps into the consumer demand for a family occasion.

Rutland Hotel operations manager Charlene Robbie says: “We became award winners because we wanted to showcase a great British classic and over time we have perfected what our guests want.

“We have a family-style service where our guests get a feeling of warmth and tradition while having their every desire catered for.

“Each week we have returning families, excited to have delicious roast rib of beef and see what classic British dessert we have created.”

But Robbie says just offering guests a roast dinner is not enough. There needs to be something more to keep diners interested.

She adds: “Our roast is not just about the meat and veg, it’s about the theatre. The guests watch as the joint is brought to the table and carved, while tantalising the taste buds, it brings back that true hearty feeling of someone carving the meat at the head of the table at home.

“Our team interacts with our guests and give them a unique offering.”

However, keeping the roast traditional seems to be a reoccurring theme with this dish and Kyloe is no different.

Robbie says: “We continue to uphold tradition and keep it consistent. We use only the best suppliers who are local to the area and provide amazing quality to our guests.

“The roast is important to Kyloe because it brings families together, it allows them valuable time to be able to enjoy a great tradition that is slowly being lost.

“At Kyloe, we like to move with the times but it is great that we can still showcase a great British tradition.”

Secret’s in the sourcing


the number of roasts that UK consumers get through every year


Source: unilever

The Larwood & Voce Pub & Kitchen, one of Moleface Pubs’ sites, took home the award in 2015 and managing director of the group John Molnar says the secret is in the sourcing.

He adds: “It’s key that the quality is right coming in the back door so when we send it out the front, there’s very little that can go wrong.”

When it comes to adapting the pub’s roast to ensure its quality, the Larwood & Voce changes the way it is served rather than just the raw ingredients.

Molnar says: “It’s about consistency but we now hold an event called ‘Host the Roast’ where customers can pre-order a suckling pig, a leg of lamb or a rib of beef for the table.

“We are doing a lot more dishes to share. We don’t do it every week but we try and make the roasts as interesting as we can.

“We are not trying to change how we make the gravy or the cauliflower cheese but we look at what we would want if we went out for a roast.

“A big table, loads of veg down the middle, tonnes of gravy, loads of Yorkshires, a massive rib of beef, a suckling pig or a leg of lamb and that’s how we evolve.”

But Molnar also believes catering businesses often miss out on a crucial part of the roast dinner – the vegetables.

He says: “The veg needs to be as key to the meal as the meat. A lot of the places I have visited have great meat, Yorkshire and gravy but then there’s just this mixed pile of boiled vegetables.

“Whereas we have local allotments that grow our runner beans for us. We always have that classic Sunday roast-type veg rather than just focusing on the meat.

“But [the roast] is that classic pub British dish that will never go out of fashion.”

Gareth Hutt has been the general manager of last year’s Best British Roast Dinner winner the Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd, south Wales, since 2013.

He says pubs should put their heart and soul into their roast to best capitalise on the dish and ensure they are genuine about it.

Hutt adds: “When it comes to a roast, it’s very often a family dinner. Our Sunday service is very different to the services throughout the rest of the week because it is more relaxed.

“Roasts are as much about getting people together and the meal being a social occasion as they are about the food itself.

“For pubs, the roast dinner is traditional, it suits the setting and the meal is wholesome.”

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