The Sunday roast reaches new heights

The Sunday roast is a meal steeped in British tradition but that isn't stopping chefs across the country from creating exciting new variations. Fiona Sims highlights six restaurants elevating the dish above the humdrum

Words by Fiona Sims

Sunday roast at Claridge's
Sunday roasts are served at Claridge's Restaurant

It’s Sunday and Claridge’s Restaurant is buzzing. But forget the rarefied world of tasting menus that ruled here for more than two decades, thanks to three-star chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Simon Rogan, Daniel Humm et al, now it’s back to grassroots – albeit with a five-star sheen – via a contemporary British menu and a showstopper of a Sunday roast.

Families, couples, shoppers and tourists fill the dining room, drooling over the parade of stuffed Norfolk Black Leg chickens that roll out of the kitchen’s striking marble-framed Art Deco doors, as well as burnished roast ribs of beef that cosy up to towering Yorkshire puddings. Each are followed by waiters bearing enormous trays of seductive-smelling sides, all of which are served family-style. This can be yours for £75 for two courses or £90 for three. Welcome to the Great British Sunday roast makeover.

Tommy Banks at The Abbey Inn
Tommy Banks in front of The Abbey Inn, which is gaining a great reputation for its Sunday roasts since opening last year

Up and down the country, pubs and restaurants are ramping up efforts to elevate Britain’s most iconic dish. There’s the quest for roast potatoes with a glass-like crunch, spectacular Yorkshire puddings that reach the heights and a desire to serve the best meat, bone-enriched gravies and locally sourced veg. An increasing number of chefs are going a step further, adding their twists on the British classic through the considered use of humble cuts and the judicious incorporation of foreign flavours.

Further evidence of the Sunday roast’s standing in British culture is the popularity of Rate Good Roasts, an Instagram account that reviews roast dinners around the country and produces an annual top ten that’s now in its seventh year. It explores ten elements of a good roast, starting with the meat and ending with the sides. Its current number one is chef Tommy Banks’ The Abbey Inn in Byland, North Yorkshire, with The Loch & The Tyne in Old Windsor taking second place and Hawksmoor Manchester in third.

Hawksmoor has done more than most to reinvent the Sunday roast. Across its 12 UK restaurants, in addition to its dry-aged beef rump with all the trimmings, which was twice voted Best Sunday Lunch in the UK by Observer Food Monthly, it recently introduced ‘Sunday Feasting’ sharing cuts with no less than six sides, from Madeira shallots, celeriac mash and sausage gravy to roasted bone marrow and onions, all of which have been going down a storm. ‘If you don’t up your game, you won’t stay relevant,’ said executive chef Matt Brown.

Claridge's wine with sunday roast
Diners at Claridge's Restaurant can buy bottles in the hotel's wine shop to accompany their Sunday roasts without paying corkage

As you’d expect of London, there are some stellar Sunday roasts on offer in the capital these days and they aren’t all at plush hotels in Mayfair. From the slow-cooked fallow deer shoulder at the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms in Fulham and the Middle White porchetta with roast Tuscan potatoes at The Canton Arms in Stockwell, to the roast duck with bread sauce and liver toast at The Marksman in Hackney, there is a diverse range of dishes for Sunday-roast lovers to enjoy.

Back at Claridge’s Restaurant, they’ve introduced another couple of Sunday-roast firsts. You can now buy a bottle from the hotel’s wine shop, Claridge’s Cellar, and drink it with your Sunday roast without paying corkage. While there are many of the most expensive wines in the world on the shop’s list at some eye-watering prices, regardless of corkage, more modest bottles, such as Cullen’s Diane Madeline 2012 for £115 or a 2006 vintage of Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva at £110, look like good value treats in a restaurant context, given their average retail cost. And you get five regular-size puddings – yes, five – to share per table, including a chocolate dessert that you smash into with a little wooden mallet, prompting squeals of joy around the room. ‘Our Sunday roast is all about evoking nostalgia, with a generosity of spirit – just like at home,’ explains the hotel’s culinary director Simon Attridge, who declares Sunday roast one of his all-time favourite meals. If it isn’t one of yours already, trying one of the innovative takes on an age-old British tradition is likely to make it so.

Five more Sunday roasts with a twist around the UK

Yorkshire pudding with foie gras

Luxury trimmings at The Star Inn at Harome

North Yorkshire

Taking the Sunday roast to a new level is always the aim at this Michelin-starred restaurant in the pretty North Yorkshire village of Harome. Chef-owner Andrew Pern offers a unique upgrade on his already refined Sunday roast offer with the Yorkshire Pudding Royale, a pud that’s stuffed with a luxurious mix of pan-fried foie gras, fresh truffle shavings and Madeira juices. This complements the sirloin of village-reared beef with roasted Roscoff onion and Black Sheep ale gravy, the most popular roast on the menu.

Another roast to try: Roast loin of pork with a fig and orange sausage roll, orchard apple and damson compote, cider juices


A taste of the Med at The Orange

Pimlico, London

If you want a Sunday roast with a Mediterranean influence then look no further than a Cubitt House pub. That’s because the privately owned pub group has celebrated chef and author Ben Tish at the helm – he of best-selling cookbooks Moorish, Sicilia and soon-to-be-published Mediterra. The Orange is the latest pub in the stable to get a makeover and it’s the place to eat roasted porchetta with accompaniments of pork, orange and sourdough stuffing and baked quince, plus the usual Sunday roast trimmings. Steamed Seville orange pudding is a great way to finish.

Another roast to try: Slow-cooked lamb shoulder with pistachio and mint pesto


Homegrown produce at Heckfield Place


Heckfield Place is a country house hotel reinvented for the modern age, where sustainability rules and your food is mostly homegrown, with ingredients plucked daily from the on-site biodynamic market garden. There’s also an organic farm, a dairy, seven greenhouses and an impressive no-waste philosophy that’s earnt Heckfield Place a coveted Green Michelin star for its Marle restaurant. It’s overseen by celebrated London chef Skye Gyngell and a veg-centric, weekly-changing, no-choice (apart from a vegetarian option) Sunday lunch is offered family-style. Starters, such as a salad of beetroot with an apple reduction and goats’ curd, are followed by dishes like roasted guinea fowl with parsley sauce and farm kale, and then a walnut frangipane tart.

Another (veggie) roast to try: Stuffed mammole artichokes with farro and preserved lemon


Meat at Asador 44

Fire-cooking at Asador 44

Cardiff, Wales

It’s all about the flames at this Spanish-inspired restaurant in Cardiff run by three Welsh siblings, brothers Owen and Tom Morgan and sister Natalie. Inspired by their travels across the Basque region, where the use of a revolving wood-fired grill is common (hence the name, asador), they deliver expertly cooked Sunday roasts coaxed to perfection over hot coals. Alongside the a la carte menu, Sunday offers sharing cuts of sirloin from ex-dairy cows served with a bone marrow-rich Rioja sauce, jamon-fat roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, plus other Spanish-inspired sides, such as the Manchego cauliflower cheese.

Another roast to try: Segovia slow-roast suckling pig shoulder in a cider sauce


Three Horseshoes bar

Nose-to-tail eating at The Three Horseshoes

Batcombe, Somerset

The Three Horseshoes in Batcombe is no ordinary country pub thanks to the stewardship of Margot Henderson from London’s Rochelle Canteen. Situated near Bruton in Somerset and offering space for 70 diners, the pub opened in its latest form in 2023. Pot roast beef chuck with carrots and horseradish, and roast pork belly with lentils and green sauce are typical of the Sunday menu, both of which should be accompanied by arguably the country’s best roast potatoes. The pub’s treacle tart has already acquired legendary status and quirky wines from a French-leaning list are worthy partners for the food on offer.

Another roast to try: Duck leg with sour cabbage and prunes