All my early childhood memories seem to involve smells of some sort, but the most powerful of them all is the smell of roast Sunday dinner.
In my house growing up we occasionally had lamb or beef but most weeks it was roast chicken.
There is one sound inextricably linked to my Sunday roast memories and that is the theme tune for the RTÉ Radio 1 programme This Week which still starts at 1pm — almost always the exact moment at which my mother would add the Bisto mix into the meat juices for the gravy.
This Week still uses the same theme tune and when I hear the music I almost invariably smell my mother’s roast chicken and her thyme and parsley stuffing.
Sunday is not an easy day to find good food in Dublin with only a handful of restaurants actually open, so for Fathers’ Day recently we decided to go to the Exchequer for what they claim is the ultimate Sunday roast.
Exchequer Gastropub opened in 2009 and has been a success, winning awards for their food and cocktails — rugby fans may be interested to know that one of the owners is Gordon D’Arcy.
Their Sunday Roast concept is simple — for €59.95 you can order a roast chicken or a rack of pork and for €69.95 a full rib of beef — vegetables, unlimited gravy and a complimentary bottle of house wine are also included.
The house wine was a straightforward but tasty Castilla y Leon Tempranillo made from organic grapes but I was less pleased by the lack of decent draught beer with all taps taken by macro-breweries except for a lone (uninteresting) lager.
The bottled beers that were suggested were little better so I reluctantly settled on a Pilsner Urquell.
I’ve had good cocktails here before but on this visit I need to mention that I did not like their take on Aperol Spritz which seemed to emphasise Prosecco rather than Aperol.
We were warned that there was no need for starters but we couldn’t resist.
Four golf-ball sized cheese and bacon croquettes disappeared almost instantly, followed a little later by crisp and reasonably flavourful falafel — each was a bargain at €4.50 a portion.
The enormous rib roast of beef could have fed six and arrived with a bowl of silky smooth mashed potatoes plus a bowl of crisp carrot chunks, an excellent herb and onion stuffing and a meaty and rich (if slightly sweet) gravy.
I had attempted to order the beef rare but was strongly encouraged to change my order to medium-rare on the advice of the chef.
I acquiesced but this was a mistake.
Approximately half of the meat was indeed medium rare but the rest was either medium-well or well-done.
Given the size of the roast I expected this, and I also expected parts of the roast to be more tender than others, but the problem was that some of the most tender parts were over-cooked and this had nothing to do with their level of doneness.
Overall however this was still a delicious piece of beef — textured and complex as only true Irish grass-fed beef can be.
We need now to talk about the roast potatoes.
These arrived on the same platter as the beef and were the only real disappointment.
A good roast potato should be crispy without and fluffy within, preferably with the exterior tasting a little of the fat the potatoes were cooked in — beef dripping is my preference.
Sadly these were cooked with the skin on so more resembled baked rather than roast potatoes — bottom line: They simply weren’t crispy enough.
Desserts were not really needed by any of us but proved to be a good decision as both were excellent — rich goo oozed from the chocolate fondant as quick as we could scrape it up and the solid rich sponge of the frangipane tart disappeared almost as quickly.
We left clutching our large portion of left-overs and gingerly made our way back to the car, barely able to move such were our swollen tummies.
This was a tasty enjoyable meal and while I doubt any of us will remember it in years to come, it is probably better than most mammies or daddies can cook except in our memories.
Three-course lunch for four including bottle of house wine and pre-dinner drinks — €110.25
Sunday roast: 12.30pm – 9pm – Booking by the Friday before is essential.
Also possible to order from the Ranelagh branch.
A good gastropub.