Easter is a big deal over this side of the Pond. It’s the Monday after and people are allowed to recover with a Bank Holiday (I love that term). Bellies full of Cadbury Cream Eggs, gammon roasts, and plenty of ale, pastel-colored eggs collected in baskets and straw bonnets worn, another holiday and symbol, to many, of spring, passes on.
The pub tradition of the Sunday roast seems to work magically with Easter Sunday. Basically roast a lump of meat (beef, lamb, chicken, goose, pork, whatever) until it’s grey and dry, drizzle with the appropriate sauce (red currant, horseradish, dill, mint), add some potatoes cooked in animal lard and some vegetables boiled beyond recognition, and voila! Your Sunday roast awaits. Now it isn’t always that bad. My mother and I had a lovely Sunday roast beef with horseradish sauce and doughy Yorkshire puddings last fall at a pub called the Holly Bush (pictured above). It’s hard to find. Up a staircase off the main drag of Hampstead High Street, it sits quite openly on a crooked lane that’s home to mansions hidden behind tall stone walls. Once inside the ceilings are low and the rooms are warren-like, with communal tables and a mishmash of furnishings. It’s easy to imagine the poet John Keats and his friends climbing up the hill from their homes near Hampstead Heath to grab a pint.
I think, more than the cuisine of the pub Sunday meal, it’s the idea of community that delights me. Here in London, everyone heads out of their homes, weekend edition papers tucked under their arms, to grab a large table and meet up with friends and family. Kids and dogs are often part of the ritual, generational lines are crossed, new friends are made – down at the “local.” The food, good or bad, is important in that it’s a familiar prop in this scene, but really it’s about catching up with friends, catching up on neighborhood gossip, and catching your breath before a new work week begins.
And really, isn’t this what all good meal should be about?
You can find the Holly Bush at: 22, Holly Mount, London, NW3 6SG
I recommend reserving ahead for Sunday lunch: 08721 077 077