The day: 26rd May 2008, Dinner.
The place: 27 Cold Harbour, Docklands London, E14 9NS
The venue: The Gun Pub and Dining Room
The food: English
The drinks: Reasonably large wine list, French at the core, also by the 175ml glass and by the 250ml carafe.
Gastropubs can be the equivalent of a good Italian trattoria, affording you good and nicely priced food, as we recounted for example about LMNT. This time we go for a less exotic and rather straight English gastropub. Near the Billingsley fish market, it specialises in fish; we are in the mood for some good fish; and we go in fully expectant to have some. Will we succeed? Follow us…
You open the door to enter a pleasant environment, the dining room area contiguous to the pub area, with lots of dark wood (floor and chairs) and the tables even covered by that rarity, proper tablecloths: you don’t find them in 5 star hotel restaurants (right, Brunello?), but you do in pubs. We begin moaning that the world is turning upside down, we must be getting old….
The service immediately gives the idea of being springy, fresh and friendly: you are welcome in the right way.
On the menu choices from sea and land. Starters go from the £5.50 of the pea soup to the £7.50 of the Croquette of chicken and foie gras, mixed leaves and truffle dressing. And the mains range from £13.50 for the Leek and truffle pithivier, green beans and Madeira jus, to £19.50 for the Scottish sirloin steak with sautéed truffle potatoes & béarnaise sauce.
The bread soon arrives to the table:
It may not be a fantastic offering in absolute terms, but we welcome the very existence of a bread plate here, and the raisin and nut bread is not too bad.
Our choice of starter is:
– Dorset Crab and toast (£6.50)
– Risotto of broad beans, peas & soft herbs (£6.50)
The crab, which comes in a very very tiny portion, is quietly pleasant, although it does not vibrate with freshness or intensity of flavour. The bread slice is also really nothing to write home about. The accompanying pink dressing is on the other hand quite good.
The risotto is not a risotto: it is simply boiled, in fact overboiled and possibly reheated, rice. Apart from this, and also apart from the fact that the advertised broad beans were a rarity to find in the plate (which was on the other hand generously endowed with peas) if one concentrated just on the flavour ignoring the texture, she might have had some joy, courtesy mainly of the fresh herbs that offered a distinctive, abundant and clear signature.
Our mains appear:
– Pan fried sea bass, fricassée of carrots, morels, pearl onions, baby gem and noilly prat velouté (£16.50)
– Sea bream (special of the day) £17.95
The seabass dish looks colourful and visually attractive, but the smallness of the fish portion causes some discomfort. There are just two sad looking paper thin tails (who gets the chunky fillet, we wonder, the chef?). They have however been pan-fried as if they had been chunky filled, therefore for too long: they are mortifyingly overcooked. The best part of the dish is the array of small vegetables (and tiny bits of morels), which are on the contrary cooked well and left nicely crunchy, and of good quality. And now Man and Woman have to disagree on the sauce (dubiously described as a veloute’): Woman found it too creamy and almost disgusting (bringing up certain memories), whereas Man found it too fat, yes, but liked its decisive taste.
And finally with the bream we learn that the chef can actually cook something properly. The fish has a nice consistency, although once again it is not generous in flavour (incidentally this portion, i.e. a whole fish, is many times the size of the other dish. We worry we are missing some trick). The accompanying asparagus, as well as the potatoes, are also good, and the hollandaise sauce, served in a separate cup, was very well made. So far probably the best dish.
We conclude with our desserts:
– Pear tatin with pear ice-cream (£5.50)
– Crumble with rhubarb (£5.50)
The ice cream is mediocre, partly frozen, with crystals all over making the texture poor. Woman insists it tasted of vanilla rather than pear, while Man hypocritically convinces himself it really tasted of pear. The tatin, while a little burned underneath, was not bad.
The crumble is overwhelming in the generosity of the portion. The custard is excellent, the crumble pleasantly irregular, the rhubarb perfect. A well interpreted classic.
With a basic Muscadet (£15) and a 0.75 litre bottle of water, the bill comes to (oh, we forgot the bill…but we can still do some sums…) around £85. With a ‘normal’ (for us) wine we would have paid as much as in our fine dining favourites. This is very bad news for a gastropub.
The service is a real bonus of this establishment. It is informal and ‘young’ but professional enough, with the waiters constantly but not overwhelmingly enquiring about your welfare, and even serving wine correctly. It is clear that there is good management behind this performance, something we admire.
And in the kitchen? Well, whoever is cooking clearly is not completely devoid of technique, as evidenced by some sauces. Nevertheless, the cooking in our dinner left much to be desired. This is rather basic food, which relies much on cooking and the quality of the ingredients. We said what we think of the former. About the latter, the vegetables were definitely above average, but the seafood and fish were less than wowing. We had an acceptable dinner; but, at these prices, it is definitely not worth it, in our opinion. So long, the Gun.