Living the high life at home

I happened to be in London in October 2010 when The Savoy Hotel, situated on The Strand, re-opened its doors after almost three years of extensive renovations. Sad to say I wasn’t in London for the opening, I was just there at the same time. It opened to much fanfare and local media coverage and I did have a stroll through out of interest in that first week. It oozed old world elegance with magnificent sparkling chandeliers reflecting off the seemingly vast acres of art deco floor tiles dotted with tastefully upholstered furniture and punctuated with giant vases of blooms. And yet the understated opulence was inviting and welcoming; I didn’t want to leave.

The Savoy Hotel has a rich history hugely linked to the London Theatre. It was originally built in the late 1800s by the famous impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas. At the time it caused quite a stir as it was the first luxury hotel in Britain. It had electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts and, practically unheard of at the time, en suite bathrooms in most rooms. Constant hot and cold running water and lavish furnishings were the icing on the cake. Naturally in our modern world all of the above are pretty much standard in a budget hotel today but at the time they were magical innovations. The real gems, though, were the people employed. Mr Carte hired manager Cesar Ritz (yes he did eventually go on to own his own hotel!) and French chef Auguste Escoffier. Between the two they set the bar high and established an unrivalled standard of hotel service and elegant dining. The Savoy attracted royalty, the wealthy and the famous, even Winston Churchill frequently took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel.

Today, of course, the hotel has many rivals in the luxury market, but few can compete with such a fabulously rich history. Enter the elegant deco mirrored dining room that has persevered the table layout from last century and the decadent semi circular banquettes, and it’s not hard to imagine those halcyon days of Churchill dragging on a cigar, Oscar Wilde holding court, Frank Sinatra regaling a story over dinner or Marilyn Monroe making heads turn as she sashayed to her table; all of whom have dined at the Savoy.

Today Gordon Ramsey has his name over the door at the Savoy Grill and everyone is welcome. I came across one of the Saturday and Sunday lunch and dinner menus on line the other day and found an interesting option called ‘The Weekend Roast’. The idea is that at lunch or dinner you select one starter, one roast main course and one dessert from a choice of four, to be served to your whole party at £55 Sterling per head. Effectively it’s what you do at home, everyone eating the same dish. And you would be wrong to think it was all very fancy. I have no doubt it will be perfectly prepared, cooked and presented, but here are the current choices on the main course:

Rack of pork with crackling and apple sauce

Roast sirloin of beef with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish

Leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary and mint sauce

Roast Creedy Carver chicken with bread sauce

All served with a selection of seasonal vegetables

It just goes to show that in our constant striving to do ‘something different’, the guys at the top are taking the classics and just doing them really well. I suppose what I am trying to say is that for a lot less than £55 Sterling per head, you can have a spectacular weekend roast at home. (Asking the family to pay you an additional 12.5% service charge is up to you!)

You can come into James Whelan Butchers or go to our website and choose any of the above roasts. You will be guaranteed grass fed, succulent roasts ready to pop into the oven. On our website and in store we will help you with the best way to cook it and even suggest the seasonal vegetables to go with it.

It’s not that hard to get a roast right. As a quick rule of thumb there are two schools of thought on roasting: cook the meat from start to finish at a consistent medium temperature, which produces a juicy, evenly-cooked roast; or put it in a very hot oven to start, and then lower the temperature for the remainder of the cooking time, which helps brown the roast and its juices. Always let the meat warm up to room temperature for at least an hour or two before putting it in the oven.

Preparing the meat is also worth considering. With a chicken I would always make sure the skin is dry to the touch and then generously butter it while also placing knobs of butter at the leg and wing joints. A sprinkling of salt and pepper never goes astray at this point either. With lamb I have always found success with making small slits in the surface and sticking in a slice of garlic and a sprig of rosemary at measured intervals. When it comes to beef I would dust the fat surface with a mixture of flour and mustard powder. Don’t salt beef at this stage as it will draw out the juices. I like to baste meat, even if it is supposedly self basting, but always remember that every time you open the oven door you are affecting the temperature, so you’ll need to take this into account when calculating the overall cooking time. And finally, rest, rest, rest….the joint. This is vital regardless of the meat you are serving. Take the meat from the oven and let it rest for a minimum of 20 minutes before carving or serving. Don’t worry, in a warm working kitchen it won’t go cold.

A roast dinner is all in the planning and preparation, but once underway it is actually much easier to cook than most people think. While I love to embrace and experiment with new food ideas, we should never loose sight of the value of a roast dinner enjoyed by family and friends. The memories will last forever and are therefore worth every minute of the preparation. If you have any queries by all means drop by the shop, James Whelan Butchers in Oakville Shopping Centre where we will be happy to help or check us out online. Enjoy your weekend roast. I welcome your feedback to

Roast Ribeye of Beef

Ask your butcher for a ribeye of beef, which is an excellent cut for roasting and perfect when you’ve got to feed a crowd. Always allow a joint to come back up to temperature before roasting to achieve the best flavour.

Serves 10


2 kg ribeye of beef

2 teasp. chopped fresh thyme

2 teasp. sweet or smoked paprika

½ teasp. English mustard powder

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

2 tablesp. Dijon style mustard

1 tablesp. olive oil

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

2 teasp. plain flour

300ml beef or chicken stock

Creamed horseradish, roasted root vegetables, to serve

To Cook


Place the thyme, paprika and mustard powder in a bowl with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then mix to combine. Wipe the meat with damp kitchen paper and then spread a thin layer of the mustard all over the fat side of the joint. Sprinkle the spice powder on top, patting it down gently to help it stick.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7, 220ºC (425ºF). Pour the olive oil into roasting tin and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. Add the onion and carrot, tossing to coat. Season with salt and black pepper. Sit the beef on the bed of vegetables. Place the roasting tin in the pre-heated oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to Gas mark 5,190ºC (375ºF). Roast the beef for 1 hour and 15 minutes for rare, an extra 15 minutes for medium-rare and an extra 30 minutes for well done.

Remove the beef from the tin and place on a large dish. Rest in a warm place for at least 20 minutes before carving. To make the gravy, stir the flour into the juices in the roasting tin and then gradually stir in the stock. Place directly on the hob to heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to release any sediment. Season and pour through a sieve into a gravy boat, discarding the vegetables that the beef has been roasted on. Carve the beef into slices and arrange on warmed plates with a dollop of creamed horseradish and the roasted root vegetables. Hand round the gravy separately.


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