REVIEW: Sunday lunch at The Dartmouth Arms, Forest Hill

The Sunday Roast. It’s a British Institute and one I’m keen to uphold in my two-person home – but there’s rarely the time, patience, mouths to feed or available work space. It’s such an effort for just us and it more often than not results in a war over who gets the top oven rack, Chief Chicken Roaster or Professor of Potatoes. So, we’ve taken to dining out for our Big Roastie fix. And I’m saddened to say, it’s quite hard to get a good roast dinner in London. It’s not for want of trying, I assure you, and I’m not too fussy, I promise, but it seems that the balance of great-tasting meat, interesting-but-not-too-out-there side dishes and generous-but-not-sickening portion sizes is tricky to come by. Several jugs of rich gravy is also essential.

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In a bid to keep it local, we took our Sunday Roast-less tummies to The Dartmouth Arms in Forest Hill, which is probably no more than 12 steps from our flat. Forest Hill has a couple of nice eateries, but I’m yet to explore our little town in all it’s glory. We have however, been to The Dartmouth Arms a couple of times now. It’s a great pub-but-nicer-than-your-average-pub to take visiting parents for dinner and pint-craving friends for, erm, pints. Inside it’s an eclectic mix of traditional pub and collector of oddities with a splash of swinging 60s style thrown in. It all works, but it’s strange to write. The restaurant area at the back benefits from an open kitchen so you can see the chefs hard at work and there’s plenty of space, so you don’t feel like you’re out for dinner with the strangers at the next table. There’s a beautiful ceiling window adorned with lights too.

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You don’t have to eat in the restaurant though, as we often don’t, instead choosing to enjoy our roast at the front by the bar, looking out onto the street on this particular Sunday afternoon. There’s a great selection of starters, things like Duck and Pistachio Terrine, Pumpkin and Saffron Soup and Stilton Fritters with Sour Honey, but we decided to dive straight in to the mains. I had Oxfordshire Beef with Horseradish Cream and Yorkshire Pudding, Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Carrots, Braised Savoy Cabbage, Glazed Parsnips and Buttered Green Beans, and my dining partners chose Loin of Pork with Crackling, Black Pudding and Homemade Apple Sauce, and the same sides as me. With loads of gravy. We asked for more, they obliged, I was thrilled.

The beef was generous, thick and still a bit crumbly – just how I like it. The Yorkshire pudding was the size of my face and a bit puffy with a nice doughy bottom. The potatoes were soft (I’d have taken them a *little* crisper, but they were delightful none the less) and the veg was all cooked really well. I have it on good authority that the pork was good too, really succulent and juicy. Again, great spuds and veg. Everyone loved the gravy. Can you tell we like our gravy in my group?

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We were all feeling pretty well fed, but close behind gravy, is our collective adoration of sticky toffee pudding. It’s hard to ignore when it’s on the menu, so we didn’t. If you love the classic pud too, try this pub’s offering. A dense square of cake-y sponge, it comes dripping in thick toffee sauce and topped with smooth and sweet vanilla ice cream. Hot meets cold and it’s all pretty wonderful.

If you’re in Forest Hill on a Sunday, The Dartmouth Arms’ roast (and dessert!) is certainly worth your time. It costs about £20 a head without drinks – not bad in my book.

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Freelance writer, eater, drinker and cook living in London.

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