To assert that Sunday roast is a much-loved British institution is as clunking a statement of the obvious as an allusion to the Pope’s Catholicism, to bears’ woodland lavatory habits or, indeed, to S. Cowell’s self-regard.

Dating back to medieval times, the meal – consisting of spit-roasted oxen – was served to serfs on their one day away from work and after a morning at church.

Hefty joints, if not whole oxen, continued to define the feast in succeeding centuries. When I was a boy, the dinner – as it was still called in the 1950s – settled what was eaten in the days following.

There were cold slices with bubble and squeak on Monday while mother laboured, in those pre-twin-tub days, at the washing, with the last chunks of beef transformed into rissoles – still a favourite of mine – later in the week.

These days – indeed for many years past – the Sunday roast has been for a lot of us, like as not, served in our local pub.

In 50-plus years of indulgence in such, I have noticed peaks and troughs in availability. At present, I am observing the offering to be on the up again, perhaps in reaction – a return to the traditional – to so much food faddery, of the vegetarian sort especially.

For some months, my riverside local The Punter has been pulling in crowds with roasts – poussin and beef usually, nuts for veggies. And the first pub downstream, The Head of the River, has a name for its even wider range.

With various birthdays – four in fact – among our team of regulars from the former, we decided to venture for celebration to the latter – not least because Rosemarie had been emailed a 25 per cent off the bill birthday treat.

A life-long fan of Fuller’s, and especially of its London Pride beer, she had seized the opportunity to sign up for the deal during a pre-opera pint at the brewery’s Lamb and Flag, in Covent Garden.

Pride was, of course, her choice as we assembled at the Head of the River’s bar before our ‘lunch’, as all now call it.

In a rare break with usual practice, I went for lager (Fuller’s own tasty Frontier), surprised to find how much prices had gone up (£5.65 here) since I regularly swilled the stuff.

All seven of us having assembled – plus the loveable Labrador Bella in expectation of her own tasting from the festive board – we headed to our reserved table (actually tables) by the front door. Hardier folk were outdoors on the terrace where the best tables by the river are now reserved, very sensibly, for people eating.

For starters, we decided to share in a selection of the ‘light bites’. Rightly guessing their popularity, we ordered two plates of the grilled lamb koftas, juicy and delicious with cucumber, pomegranate, and mint raita.

The smooth duck liver paté hit the spot, too, while one of our number gave his ‘best of show’ to the avocado and pesto bruschetta with roasted tomato salsa.

The only disappointment was the brown crab arancini with citrus aioli, which had a nice texture but were widely judged crab-lite.

There was nothing in the least lite, though, in the whole roast Norfolk chicken that Joe and I divided between ourselves (and Bella!).

You can see the giant platter, with accompanying roast potatoes, pigs in blankets (six of them), carrots, green beans and lovely crispy balls of cauliflower cheese.

Oh, and Yorkshire pudding. We all got this – once reserved only for beef (or with golden syrup as a pud) but now offered with roasts of all kinds. There was even some for Martin, on the beef brisket cottage pie (a definite hit).

Three of our number had roast sirloin of beef, perfect in all respects as might be expected in view of its supplier, the respected family butcher Owton’s. That it was cooked ‘just so’ was hardly a surprise either, with chef Thomas Berry in charge. Jill’s lamb shoulder was excellent meat, too.

Raspberry and lime posset (x3) and treacle tart were enjoyed around the table, along with British cheeses (mature cheddar, Somerset brie and Stilton).

This being a celebration, we pushed out the boat a bit over wine and had both Fleurie and a splendid New Zealand pinot noir (Lanark Lane). A fine lunch indeed.