Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Earlham Arms

The important thing about generosity—often overlooked—is that it only works with good stuff. Last weekend, we saw excellent comedian/Abby’s new BFF Bridget Christie at the Playhouse. Not only did we get a condensed version of her award-winning 2013 show, A Bic For Her, but her entire 2014 show as a ‘second half.’ And she didn’t even pick on us when we came back late from the interval. That’s generosity.

So when we revisited the Earlham Arms for a classic roast the next day, we were primed to receive, and receive hard. The recent Flying Kiwis refurbishment is a vast improvement on the weird sporty hybrid it used to be—though simply taking the Astroturf off the wall is enough to do that. The Earlham Arms now boasts an excellent selection of beers, including offerings from its own brewery.

The roasts weren’t mentioned on the menu, but our waitress kept us in the loop, and they came in at under £10 a head. Not every kitchen-pub in the area manages that, somehow. I have good memories of my last roast here, when my slab of beef came out pink enough to fight breast cancer, so when the waitress ‘warned’ us that the topside was served rare, I said something encouraging: “good.”

“You’ll love this,” or some similar sentiment, I said. Not to Abby, but to long-term Friends of Grub along for the ride, famously meat-hungry Morgan, and Richard, proud owner of Apple’s new flexiphone. ‘Love it.’

 I should have kept my damned mouth shut.  The beef, when it came, was cooked grey. Maybe the lovely rare beef had been sent back to the kitchen by part-time carnivores once too many. It was bad enough for Richard to leave a decent chunk on his plate, but not so bad that it stopped me taking what he’d left for myself.

Nut roast doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and with the beef doing so badly, it had a perfect opportunity to step up and shine. It’s a pity, then, that this nut roast contained only peanuts, and managed to be both too hard and not nutty enough. Abby, famously fast eater (recall the Case of the Thirty-Second Baguette,) was chewing for a good two days on it.

It wasn’t all bad. The roast potatoes were excellent, crispy and fluffy, and the Yorkshire puddings good. Good beers are perhaps the closest equivalent to a Get Out Of Jail Free card that you have when in trouble with Enduring Grub, and The Earlham Arms has stacks on stacks of these, and decent knowledge of them too.

Sadly, the kitchen staff hadn’t seen Bridget Christie’s acute, angry, and physically silly masterpiece in generosity the night before. They chose to be generous with—of all things—cabbage. Do I look like Kay Carroll? A little bit. Do I like cabbage as much as her? No. Nobody does.

So that doesn’t count as generosity.

That’s padding.