Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Garrison - Bermondsey Street

Exterior - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

The sniffles and coughs and seasonal tummy bugs finally caught up with me a few weeks ago and I have been feeling absolutely sorry for myself. I did, however, manage a nip down to The Garrison down by London Bridge before the seasonal viruses set in.

Kitchen - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street
The kitchen hard at work

Condiments Shelf - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street
The charming if rickety looking sauce cabinet below the serving window

I'd been told how good the food was, the menu online looked promising and it went on the 'definitely try' list. I asked a friend who lived in the area what she thought of the pub and her answer was, "oh, the poncy one?". I took it to mean it was less of a boozer and more of a gastro-pub. Bodes well for a meal then. The website does warn diners to book a table but we thought, "fiddlesticks that, we'll just turn up for an early dinner!". Ahh but apparently 6PM on a Tuesday evening is not quite early enough at The Garrison. Diners really do take the reserve a table warning seriously, very seriously. For every table that was occupied, there were probably another 2-3 with reserved signs in them. We were told we could either wait 45 minutes for a proper table or try to squeeze onto the high stool and bar area in front of the open kitchen. Squeeze, we said! Not exactly the most comfortable seating but it gave us a brilliant view of what was happening in the kitchen (very efficient if I may say so) and all the lovely food that was coming out.

Daily Specials Menu - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street
The daily specials

Wild Rabbit Terrine - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

We were probably being painfully picky but nothing on the menu particularly captured our eye that evening (be warned, several dishes shown on online are missing from the actual menu - if they are going to put a menu online, why don't they keep it up to date? Like I said, I was being picky). There was plenty of oo-ing and ahh-ing,very normal for me, but a little irritating for our perky waitress. She came to take order 4 times before she exasperatedly told us to call her over when we were ready. Egging each other on, JN and I decided we would go for the full whack - 3 courses. I started with the Wild Rabbit Terrine served with pear & grape chutney and chunky brown bread toast (£6.80). I remember the first time I had rabbit, I cried. All I could see was Thumper, a dead Thumper on a stick (my first rabbit dish was satay). I ate that stick of satay and have never looked back. My portion of terrine was very generous. A thick slab of shredded rabbit in jellied broth, thick slices of toast and a healthy portion of chutney. Unfortunately for this dish I must say, thank heaven's for the chutney. Whilst the meat was tender, the terrine was lacking in "umph". Eaten on it's own, the sweet flavours of the meat and jelly came through (studded throughout with little nuggets of carrot) but it barely held its own against the punchy chutney. And for a starter, there was definitely too much bread.

Warm Smoked Haddock - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

Warm Smoked Haddock - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

JN's Warm Smoked Haddock with a poached egg, blinis and a chive & lemon beurre blanc (£7.40) fared a lot better. The fish was flaked very nicely and was well cooked, the yoke of the poached egg burst forth beautifully and the chive and lemon beurre blanc was lush - butter sauces are just so hard to resist, don't you think?

Braised Guinea Fowl - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

I a little torn between the pheasant from the main menu and the guinea fowl on the specials. I've never had either before so whichever I chose was going to be interesting. In the end I went for the guinea fowl (£13.50) - it was on the specials so perhaps the chef had something good up his sleeve. Guinea fowl tastes like chicken. I say that in amazement because I rather hoped something great would be revealed to me - like a a brand new favourite meat. That might not have been the case but I got a very generous portion of game-y chicken (earthier with a deeper flavour). The 3 generous sized thighs were falling off the bone tender, the sauce had bags of flavour but the fresh tagliatelle was a little boring. The sauce was a little too thin to lend enough flavour to the big mound of noodles - they should really think about cutting down on the portion size.

Pan Roast Haddock Fillet - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

Being in a fishy mood JN opted for yet another haddock dish for her main, this time the Pan Roasted Haddock Fillet served with red onion, parsley and aubergine couscous (£14.60). The portion of fish generous and was well cooked but the couscous flavours was a bordering on bad. The first thing that came to mind was airplane food. Whilst it wasn't terrible but who wants to eat non-descript food if they didn't have to?

Sticky Toffee Pudding - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

Insistent we plough on with our decision of a 3 course dinner (we started to falter after our starters), we ordered decided on dessert. JN had the Apple Crumble with vanilla ice-cream (£5.50) and I went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with ice-cream (£5.50). I am a huge fan of sticky toffee pudding but have never found one as good as Delia's recipe (which is GORGEOUS). The Garrison is not Delia but it certainly does a mean sticky toffee pud. I love how there was still a slight grittiness from the dates and they didn't stinge on the thick sauce.

Apple Crumble - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

The crumble was nice - there was nothing wrong technically and taste wise but after the crumble from Roast in Borough, there are few that seem to match up. I personally like my crumble topping with a bite to it. Here it was too fine and really too little of it - the top barely covered the fruit beneath.

Muscat Beaumes De Venise 2003 - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

I also ordered a glass of Orange Muscat Essencia 2005 but ended up with a Muscat Beaumes De Venise 2003 instead. I'm no wine expert (to be fair, I know very little about wine) but what I had in my hand didn't quite taste right. By the time I had figured out I was given something else, I had already drunk half and really wasn't in the mood to get it changed.

Bill (Original) - The Garrison, Bermondsey StreetBill (Revised) - The Garrison,  Bermondsey Street
The bill(s)

What I did get changed was the bill. My main was overcharged by £3.40. Not a big deal and it was sorted very efficiently by the manager. Other than a few hiccups, service was good. There were some very nice dishes - the smoked haddock starter and the sticky toffee pudding - but there wasn't enough for me to give it a full thumbs up. Maybe just half of one.

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