Oh, the Great British Sunday Lunch: where meat and two veg (and yorkies and roast potatoes) come together to soak up any residual Saturday night shenanigans, soothe acidic tummies and induce sizeable food comas. It is something that many adhere to as religiously on Sundays as those piously inclined, and to be frank, there aren’t many places around Brixton that serve Sunday Lunch the way God intended. You can go to the Crown and Anchor, which is pretty good but you have to get there far too early for a Sunday to nab a table. You can hit up The Florence in Herne Hill, and with it enjoy damn nice bloody marys and 3000 screaming children. Or you can go to the Effra Social, and while away a Sunday afternoon drinking well and listening to live music, but being rather underwhelmed by the food.
This is not meant to be a negative review of the Effra Social as a whole. Oftentimes when reviewing restaurants, food becomes the sole focus, and quite rightly too, but I want to point out before I mention the food, that the pub is really quite a splendid place to spend your Sundays. The staff are warm and helpful, and completely accommodating to little kids. They’ve got a great selection of ales and wines, and I heard positive grunts from my severely hungover friend as to the state of his bloody mary. The live music was a mellow backdrop for getting squiffy; I can easily recommend settling in for several hours. However, it is likely that if you are there for a few hours you’ll want to eat and therein lies our problem.
Sunday Lunch is not about the starters, so I won’t spend much time waxing lyrical about the tender ox heart with salsa verde, or complain about a mediocre version of duck pate. Nor shall I grumble that my moules marinière came in a thin broth with far too many onions, milk instead of cream and no celery. Instead, we were there to eat Sunday Lunch. Two of us chose the roast lamb, with all the trimmings, and to give the other menu items a try, another friend ordered sausages and mash, and I decided upon the braised ox cheeks with mash.
The lamb was cooked medium well, the meat a decent flavour when you could find it between large bits of unappealing fat. Its accoutrements were more erratic. Roast potatoes practically begged for a baptism of duck fat and salt, anything to make them taste of something. Rock hard yorkies lacked any pillowy softness. Carrots and cabbage were cooked well and the gravy was a blanket of improvement for the entire plate. My friend’s order of sausages and mashed potatoes, as she put it, lacked any charm. The shining light in the meal was braised ox cheeks. Slow cooked, the meat gave way at the slightest mention of a fork. Its sauce rich and full of beefy-tomatoey-winey flavour, melting into the creamy, buttery mash. The side of Savoy cabbage was undercooked, but I barely noticed; the mash and sauce could make shoe leather palatable.
Sunday Lunch is a sacred beast. If done well it can be a thing of greatness; anything less and your left with something that, while admittedly fills a hole, is entirely joyless. The Effra Social is a lovely spot, but those with more unwavering faith in the powers of Sunday lunch might be better served going elsewhere. It is, after all, what Sundays are for.
Sunday Lunch for 4, including drinks £90