A discovery of food through travel
There is a peculiar franchise eatery around the UK called Toby Carvery. As the name suggests, it is a restaurant offering carved roast meats, but the beauty is it’s done buffet style, allowing you to select from a range of meats and a plethora of accompanying UNLIMITED veg to feast your face on. All for the bargain price of 6.29 pounds. It’s like roast dinner, but fast food style. Only in England would such a thing exist.
Every time I walk to the train station, I pass this Toby Carvery, but have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to go. Last night, my Aussie high school friend Anneliese stayed with me in Harlow after arriving back from a weekend stint in Copenhagen and is sadly flying back to Sydney this Friday. Having never been herself, it seemed only right to share this experience with a fellow non-native before she leaves the country and god forbid never tries a carvery dinner.
I honestly cannot explain my excitement for this carvery dinner. Anneliese is non-plussed. But it must be something about the buffet and UNLIMITED sides because I know too well that when it comes to food I’m rather greedy and love value for money.
We came in, got a table and vaguely perused the menu, both knowing we just wanted the carvery. Whilst waiting for our waiter, I also perused the restaurant’s cliental. I expected this place to be filled with old, retired people who love a good roast. A similar demographic to those who enjoy Sizzler back home. But to my surprise, this restaurant was comprised of not only the elderly, but families, work mates just knocked off from shift, solo diners and group Christmas parties. And even though it’s a Monday night, it’s packed and bustling. Then there’s me and Anneliese. Two Australians in their early twenties, a little out of place; let’s just say, it’s not exactly popular with the young people.
We skipped starters and proceeded straight to the buffet where we joined a queue of fellow diners. The way it works is you go up to the buffet where you have a selection of four roast meats—turkey, beef, gammon (that’s ham) and pork, of which you get a few slices. It’s not generous and less than I would normally eat at home. Luckily, there’s an upsize option, which gives you a few slices of extra meat and two chipolata sausages on a whole platter, which also conveniently allows for more room for sides.
I opt for the turkey while Anneliese goes for roast beef. We get Yorkshire puddings then proceed to the sides. This is where I go a bit crazy because I have no awareness of portion control, especially when there is so much choice. I go for a broad selection of peas, wilted red cabbage, cauliflower cheese and both roast potatoes and mashed potato for good measure. There was also a whole bowl of stuffing from which I took a generous serving. Man I love stuffing. Then to finish it off, there’s a selection of gravies, mustards and sauces to complete your heart attack of a meal. My plate looked something like this…
And Anneliese’s was something like this…
Everything was pretty damn delicious. Our main complaint was that the roast potatoes were too roasted, making them excessively hard and crunchy. The mash is a much better option. Nice and salty and thick and sticky like homemade glue, but in a good way. Our other issue was the Yorkshire pudding. What even are they? Like the outer crust of bread, but soft and filled with air. And with no apparent flavour. Even with gravy. I don’t really like them, but that didn’t stop me from eating it in confusion.
I wish I could say that my eyes are larger than my stomach, but I cleared my plate in 10 minutes flat and went back for more cabbage (that stuff was delicious) while Anneliese struggled through and eventually gave in. I even polished off her last few potatoes. I’m a machine when it comes to unlimited food, and it is a problem. But a delicious one.
We were done within half an hour and fortunately had a 20 minute walk home to help digest some of the food. I was so full I remained sedentary on the lounge for the rest of the evening, but I had no regrets. Toby Carvery, I will return!