Last year, B's birthday fell on the day we moved flat. I had flu, we made at least 6 car trips back and forth between old and new flats with cars packed with our belongings, a few glasses were smashed, and birthday cake was eaten in the couple of spare minutes grabbed between towers of boxes, heaps of bags, and a lot of stairs.
This year, a proper birthday was in order, to make up for the non-event of the year before. His birthday was on a Sunday so a proper Sunday lunch was the birthday boy's request. The Marksman on Hackney Road re-opened a few weeks ago, and had had a rather swanky upgrade to a gastropub. We hadn't heard a bad word said about it, and, after the most perfect lunch there, we are certain we will never hear one.
The Marksman is an ideal Sunday lunch location: comforting pub design, without the smell of stale beer, without the stained carpets, without the soggy chips, and with the freshest, most balanced food, and a rather wonderful drinks menu to accompany all that.
B started with the much praised beef & barley bun with horseradish cream. It was doughy and light and fluffy and stuffed with succulent meat. Sitting alongside a dollop of horseradish cream, B couldn't have asked for a better birthday treat.
Chard, beans and goat's curd was surprisingly summery; fresh, zingy, with just the right amount of crunch.
The main events were roasts for us both. Pork shoulder for B and the most succulent roast chicken for me. Both pork and chicken were incredibly rich, juicy, tasty, and balanced atop sticky, sweet carrots, with crispy potatoes, simple, fresh cabbage, and a boat full of perfect gravy.
We were stuffed full but couldn't leave without sharing a slice of brown butter & honey tart. It takes some guts to serve a single slice of tart completely alone on the plate. But luckily the Marksman team had lots of guts, because this tart with a magical wobble, a deep, nutty flavour, and a great amount of sweetness, needed nothing else.
If we weren't leaving London in two weeks time, I'd say we'd be back very, very soon. But as it is, I've got to hope that the Marksman is still here, and still serving those roasts and that tart, when we come back in several years.
Highlight: Brown butter & honey tart
Lowlight: Service from people who know little about the amazing food and drink they're giving you.
The Marksman, 254 Hackney Road, London, E2 7SJ