SE1: The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

After my high praise for SE1 as the pub destination I thought I was onto a sure-fire winner with the Garrison on Bermondsey Street. It’s been a few years since my last visit but it seemed like the perfect place for a December Supper Club (albeit Sunday lunch) and another tick for SE1. This unfortunately wasn’t to be the case with an experience that is truly frustrating. There are aspects that I would rave about and others that ultimately had us walking away disappointed.

So in the interest of fairness the positives. Firstly the food. We all agreed that it was very good. Cockles going as far rating as one of the beat roasts he’s had in years. Then there’s the little things; those nice touches that stick in the mind and ultimately should bring you back. The barman volunteering a small taster of the beer was a good start and the Garrison jam recipes with the bill should have bookended a great Sunday lunch experience.

Without even stepping through the door things had already taken a turn for the worst. Despite having booked a month previous a confirmation call the day before told us that our leisurely lunch would be curtailed with just 90 minutes available for our table. I fully understand the rationale in turning tables but to find out with less than 24 hours notice gives you little choices to change. Throw in Transport for London and Gio’s Italian time keeping and 90 minutes isn’t a great deal of time.  Add the service at a snails pace and things don’t look good.  On this occasion any hope of getting a drink at the bar without waving your arms was unlikely. Once seated with the clock ticking starters are off the menu and we move to the mains; a shame as we all have something in mind; and the point of the Supper Club is indulgence, when thoughts of cost and fat content are forgotten. The mains as said are great and as the plates are cleared the dessert menu is offered. At this point there may be enough time but it doesn’t materialise for 15 minutes at which point we are told to order quickly as the table is booked. To me, in fact to all of us, this was a final disappointing act which left the bill as four mains plus drinks. Service was excluded and when explaining why it hardly seemed to register. The website boasts Michelin recommended which for the main course stands up. I obviously cannot comment on starter or dessert, but service needs to take a huge leap forward. Perhaps Supper Club will next reconvene North of the river.

99-101 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB

SE1: The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

Intoxicating Sweet Shop: Draft House, Tower Bridge

I first heard that the Draft House had a new Tower Bridge outpost through Twitter and a look at the website revealed a soft launch with 50% off all food before the “real opening” on 13th September. I suppose the thing with a soft launch is that it a kind of forgive us if you we make mistakes but we are only new, we’re not really open yet. Whatever your thoughts on that I thought it a fair enough deal at 50% off and based on my visit to Battersea I spent the rest of the day clock watching.
Captain English took little convincing and we spent more time debating how to get there. Now he holds a Boris Bike token walking seems so, well, pedestrian. Vernon as usual was a tentative and with that we had our three. I made it to Tower Bridge quickly through the City backstreets and all that stood between me and the a much needed beer was the tourist throng. I weaved my way through, taking no regard to stop while the fifth or sixth or seventh tourist took a picture of a loved one pointing at the bridge, at the river, at City Hall. It took on an almost Top Gear challenge anticipation as I got closer to the Draft House, expecting to see the Captain fly past. 
Stepping in, I saw him just at the bar, wiping the slightest glint of sweat away, which seems to have been more from the mission to find a docking station than the actual ride. The décor is somewhere between gastro pub and diner with melamine tables and a pea green banquette around the walls and a centre high table with stools. The walls, as with the Battersea Draft House are hung with classic music posters and despite the table service by smart staff in shirt and tie it feels relaxed enough for a quick beer, a longer session or a proper meal, which seems to be the main focus.
Attention soon turned to the pumps. Despite the array of bottled choice, the first had to be hand pulled, but with a choice of 10 or more it wasn’t proving to be easy. We started with something we know, the Wandle Ale and steadily worked our way through Junction, Porterhouse Red and Sharps’, Chalky’s Bite, to name those that I recall. From the bottle we had Mort Subite Kriek (in place of dessert) and an Aventinus. It has been said that when faced with this kind of choice I am like a kid in a sweet shop, albeit the most intoxicating of sweet shops. This was no exception.

Food is an easy choice once I spy Pork Belly, served with a Black Pudding mash. Vernon has arrived by this point and turns his nose up at the thought of Black Pudding. In my mind unless you are a Vegetarian or acutely Hemophobic you have no business turning your nose up at Black Pudding, not least when it is mixed with mash potato  The pork is good as is the crackling, albeit sparing in its portion. My appetite does however grow in proportion to the volume I have drunk, so I’d maybe have to return to comment conclusively.
Compared to my last Draft House experience this was comparable; with a great beer selection, good food and friendly and knowledgeable staff. Service was a little unsure at times, though there was always a more experienced barman to hand, but as I’ve already said this is early days. I will return, when I’m sure the service will be as flawless as the beer. 
Intoxicating Sweet Shop: Draft House, Tower Bridge