What do you think of when you hear the word “roast"?”
For some it might instantly conjure memories of holiday campfires and ooey, gooey marshmallows, while others might dream of family dinners at Grandma’s where a dome of something delicious would bathe in a puddle of its own juices. Some might suddenly hanker for a roast beef sandwich while yet others might envision a whole pig on a spit spinning into perfection. Roasted garlic, roasted chicken, roasted veggies—everything turns out better roasted. It seems this simple little term imparts a huge impact.
Enter Roast Restaurant and Bar. This place popped up in 2013 when owners Andrew and April Thompson found the space they’d been searching for in the historic R. I. Barnes and H. H. Bell Building, built in 1925.
“We loved the location,” says Andrew, “and the fact that the building is so steeped in history. We wanted a building with European influences and we had a vision of its potential as soon as we stepped inside.”
Those European influences don’t stop at the walls. Andrew hails from London, where he built quite an impressive resume over the years. Andrew—or Chef Thompson, to be more precise— fed Londoners for years, when he opened The Clerkenwell and The Chancery, and served as executive head chef and proprietor alongside April, a certified accountant who managed all the books. Andrew was also the head chef at London’s L’Escargot and Manhattan’s Lenox Room, and trained with Marco Pierre White, Charlie Palmer and Philip Howard. If those names don’t mean anything to you, they should. Thus, it’s a pretty big deal to bring a chef so worth his salt to Sarasota’s food scene.
“Everything is cooked from scratch,” Andrew continues. “This is a chef ’s restaurant and it’s all about the food. And that’s very important.” He’s referring to the impressive menu, a robust selection of almost anything you could ask for, including tongue. “I’ve been very pleased with the public’s readiness to diversify. I work closely with my purveyors to be able to offer several offal specials, such as lamb kidney or calf tongue. They go down really well, far outweighing my expectations,” he adds in a British accent as thick as the Chairman’s Reserve Filet or the 35-daydry- aged 20-ounce rib eye that Roast serves regularly.
The menu boasts a variety of items, from Salmon Sashimi to Tandoori Chicken, but, of course, it’s the roasts that best represent the restaurant. Pot Roast, Chef’s Roast of the Day, Herb-Roasted Cornish Hen, Roast Grouper served with meat juices, Roast Scallops served with crispy slab bacon and a Bordeaux reduction, Roasted Artichoke Ravioli, Roasted Beet Salad with goat curd and truffle honey—uhhh, is this place being serious right now? The diversity of the combinations is not only impressive, it’s outstanding and perfectly showcases the technique and skills that Andrew accumulated from years of working in big restaurants in big cities. Lucky little Sarasota, eh?
These days, good food is more than just technique. “We’re very passionate about our fresh fish,” Andrew says. “We buy it daily, we buy it whole, and we break it down ourselves. We don’t buy bits, we don’t buy pre-portioned cuts. We use day boat grouper, which means it was swimming in the ocean the night before we get it.” Roast also uses Central Market, a local produce company, as well as purchasing its dairy from Dakin Dairy Farms, just a quick ride away in Myakka. “We source as much locally as we possibly can,” he offers emphatically.
What’s good food without good drink, right? Roast’s wine list is impressive as well, listing a slew of established names to complement its extensive menu. The handcrafted cocktail list offers fan favorites such as the Dark & Stormy, the Moscow Mule and a House-Barrel Aged Manhattan.
The restaurant enjoys changing with each season. In Sarasota, seasons aren’t marked by temperature so much as how many people are sitting in traffic with you. Thus, when fall rolls around and the snowbirds fly down, Roast makes a point to cater to the crowds. Over the summer, when it was slower, Roast offered weekly pig roasts on Saturday nights to better connect with the locals. Fall and winter will also usher in something special for season, as well as Florida’s, ahem, cooler nights. Also, Roast’s proximity to the Opera House means opera-inspired menus, including October’s French classic, La Boheme.
Get ready to lick your plates clean, folks. It’s pretty evident, there’s more than one reason to get fired up about Roast.