JJ and I were browsing the TLL map the other day and realised that we have done ZERO reviews in and around the London Bridge area. For this I would like to offer a massive apology to all our lovely readers who live and/or work in SE1. We are West End bunnies and both live in NW so it’s a little out of our way. No excuses however, so I decided to immediately remedy this and will shortly be eating and drinking my way round the area to bring you updates on my finds (recommendations welcome – tweet me @helenafleur or leave a comment below. We love to hear from you!).
Now, it’s not that I don’t like SE1; quite the opposite in fact! Borough Market is one of my favourite places in London to really indulge in ultimate food porn, and Vinopolis nearby hides the incredible Whisky Exchange shop, a true Aladdin’s cave of rare bottlings for all you whisky lovers. I just don’t know the rest of the area that well.
With this in mind, I called up a couple of my mates who live in the area to get their top dos and don’ts and decided that the first port of call was going to be The Garrison, a little Gastropub on Bermondsey Street. I booked a table immediately and we wandered down.
We were seated at a cute little booth near the back filled with comfy pillows and ordered some Bellinis. The chefs were busy at work in the kitchen to my left (I love an open kitchen. It makes me feel they’ve got nothing to hide) next to crates of fresh veg. A chirpy waitress came over to talk us through the specials (chirpy was impressive seeing as she’d just got back from Bestival so 10 points to her). I love the fact that they change the menu here every 8 weeks so that it remains interesting for the regulars, and ensures that all the dishes are seasonal. Hunting season must have just started as there was lots of incredible looking game on the menu. Unfortunately they had run out of wood pigeon which was my first choice for a starter (my own fault as we’d booked a really late table) so I opted for a lush boccocini and cherry tomato salad (I am a cheese fiend) while The Boy had a perfectly cooked chorizo salad. People often think that it’s impossible to get chorizo wrong, but my experiments in the kitchen would beg to differ (and I’m actually quite a good cook). I’d take The Garrison over my efforts any day. This was all with a side of some proper chunky bread and nice salty butter. So far, so good.
Our mains followed shortly after. I went for the seabass fillet with pepper caponata and romesco sauce which, again, was cooked to absolute perfection. The Boy has been training for a triathalon (clever him) so was super hungry and ordered rainbow trout off the specials and the venison haunch steak – which came deliciously pink and on a bed of a rich leek and spelt grain in red win jus. I have to say, I am a bit of a carnivore anyway, but this particular dish was honestly phenomenal. Tender, full of flavour and incredibly rich, as it should be! I might have to go back before 8 weeks are up and they change the menu so that I can try it again. I’m not surprised they did venison exceptionally well though, as these guys are notorious for doing a mean Sunday roast.Â Clearly they know how to handle their meat.
One of our friends who lived locally had dropped in to join us for a drink and the three of us laughed and drank and soaked up the cosy atmosphere. Dim lights, little nooks, lampshades made of tea cups, individual little flower pots on each table and mis-matched furniture gives it a warm and laid back feel to perfectly compliment the rustic and homey menu. I ordered a whisky (I’ve got a cold it’s allowed) and we shared desserts. He had a naughty chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream that I am going to venture was homemade based on the tell-tale pale green colour that only comes if it’s been made with actual nuts. I spied Eton mess on the menu which is one of my absolute favourites, but decided to go slightly off-piste based on the waitresses recommendation (an excellent recommendation at that) and tucked into some of the best gingerbread I’ve ever had topped with ginger ice cream and caramel (we’re only two months away Christmas after all). We carried on laughing and chatting, totally relaxed until before we knew it we were the last ones there! Somewhere that makes you forget the time is always a good thing in my books.
We sauntered home, stuffed and satisfied. For me, this is the ideal example of local dining executed fantastically. I honestly couldn’t fault a single thing, so it comes as no surprise to me that this place comes recommended by Michelin. The Garrison is a slick and professionally run outfit in terms of offering bloody good cooking, but lacks any pretence that can be associated with traditional fine dining. It also lacks the hefty price tag that usually accompanies it. With starters hovering around £7, mains at about £14 and a glass of wine around the £6 mark, I think is place is excellent value for the quality you get. My only advice? Book! This place apparently gets rammed and it’s expected. Local dining at its best.