The Harwood Arms, London’s only Michelin-starred pub and the first in the U.K. to receive that coveted accolade, has announced that head chef Sally Abe will start offering its famous Sunday roast, in a box, for delivery across the city next week.
The offering, which can be pre-ordered from 13 June, will be delivered weekly, on Saturdays so long as it ordered by the previous Wednesday. The box will cost £70 for two (the same price as in the restaurant; a four-person box is available for £140) and includes a 500g piece of beef sirloin from Lake District Farmers, one of the country’s top meat suppliers to restaurants in the capital. The cut is the same as that which is served for the Sunday roast at the restaurant. But the cooking of it is left in the hands of the home cook. Abe told Eater that delivering the meat raw was the best option, and that she will provide detailed cooking instructions.
The range of sides, which ought to be simpler for at-home preparation, will include part-cooked potatoes, covered in beef fat, which can be placed directly in the oven to roast; carrots baked in hay; cauliflower cheese; greens for blanching; and a big Yorkshire pudding. Critically, a pot of gravy, enriched with bone marrow and braised beef short-rib, will also be included. Any roast dinner is only as good as its gravy.
With no fixed date on when restaurants can reopen following their mandated closure in late March, businesses have spent the last four weeks adapting to new realities: offering takeaway only, delivery, and in some cases completely changing their offering to suit new customer habits.
One thing most restaurants and pubs realise is that, even if they are allowed to reopen in some capacity in July, which is the tentative date set by the government at this stage, they will almost certainly not be able to do at full capacity. The Harwood Arms is just the latest high-profile operator to realise that alternative sources of revenue must be found and proven in the short-term if they are to survive in the medium- and long-term.
Securing a table at the Harwood Arms in times before lockdown would typically involve several weeks of waiting. Abe recognises that because of the lack of government guidance and no resolution around the social-distancing requirements for businesses, the pub cannot assume it will be opening, certainly not at full capacity, any time soon.
Abe told Eater that “if [social distancing] is two metres, no business is going to manage that. Our kitchen is tiny — the logistics of that are crazy.” Abe added that it would mean taking out half the tables, which would in-turn mean half the revenue. But that “doesn’t mean costs are also halved.”
The roast box is being used as trial and its popularity might determine whether she subsequently launches picnic boxes and barbecue boxes for home cooks. She also said that she’d been asked a lot about just sending out Scotch eggs and doughnuts.
In the same way that other restaurants have used their own meat suppliers for their specialism in logistics to deliver their food, The Harwood Arms will use Lake District Farmers’ vans. Abe said this was also in part because she couldn’t sanction giving 30 percent of the box’s revenue to a restaurant delivery company like Deliveroo. “It was not an option,” she said, adding that they had to factor in specific practicalities. “How on earth do you deliver [c.]100 boxes, and keep them cold?” she said of the decision to defer to those who have an answer to that question.
Decisions for the medium- and long-term are dependent on her conversations with part-owner, Brett Graham, the chef who announced yesterday that his two-Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury had made the decision to make its entire staff redundant and could see no current path to reopening.
Loath to use the p-word, she said at the moment, for chefs and restaurant owners, the focus is on figuring out what’s possible and waiting for fresh government guidance. “Everyone is trying to think of different ways to... pivot.”