Monday, 1 July 2013

The Gun, London Docklands - a wonderful pub for great food

Sometimes I wonder whether food lovers are their own worst enemies. They discover something new, fresh and exciting, and embrace it wholeheartedly. They talk, with evangelical zeal to anyone who will listen about this new gastronomic wonder, and wouldn't-you-know-it other people actually listen. Before you can say 'latest gastronomic trend', it IS the latest gastronomic trend. Whichever is the establishment or culinary movement-du-jour becomes popular and suddenly the food fans don't want to know any more. Why, if the actual experience and food continues to be good quality, would you turn your back simply because a few other folks have caught on?

The 'Gastropub' is one such trend. When the gastropubs first arrived, food fans went crazy, travelling across town to sample the latest big name spread by word of mouth. But when other people started to cotton on to the movement, it began to be derided and lost its desirable and trendy status. I don't understand any of this. I remember the pubs of old. I remember smoky, stinky places, with dingy decor and miserably threadbare carpet serving food which often was ready frozen and simply heated up in the oven. Pub food used to be the same everywhere, and the most exciting thing on the menu was onion rings. Those bad old days were replaced by the Gastropub, making a night out drinking an informal and pleasant experience and a Sunday lunch genuinely relaxing. But somehow this is not what the food fans are interested in any more. My mind boggles that suddenly it is fried chicken, sliders, and "reclaimed fast food" which appear to be the latest food trend when actually there continue to be amazing pubs serving great food.

The Gun in London's Docklands is a pub with unique historical pedigree. Literally across the river from the O2 Millenium Dome, it has nautical history in spades. What other pub can boast that it was the scene of Admiral Lord Nelson's secret meetings with Lady Emma Hamilton? It's a lovely old style pub building with wood panelling, beams and wood burning fireplaces. 

I recently visited it for Sunday lunch as I had heard very good things about it. Somehow Him Indoors and I managed to go on a sunny Sunday (wonders of English weather never cease!) and rather than sit in the comfy and cosy interior, we chose to sit outside with beautiful views of the river. 

You need to make hay when the sun shines, and we had every intention of doing so! 
The view from the terrace on a lovely sunny day

Onto the food.....

I was pretty shocked when Him Indoors decided to order the salad. He doesn't mind the odd salad every now and then, but rarely orders it when we eat out. Even more surprising was the fact that it was a vegetarian salad. However, he has recently taken to being a lot more adventurous with his menu choices, and at least this means I get to try something completely different that I might not have ordered myself. 

Evesham asparagus, pea and radish salad, caramelised seeds, blood orange dressing £7.50

So here is Him Indoors' salad. It has a few pea shoots for their leafy texture, some lovely sweet spring peas, and shavings of seasonal asparagus. To give a little crunch and flavour punch, there are French style stubby red and white radishes. The soft cheese was gentle and delicate but not bland. I particularly liked the caramelised seeds, they were not overloaded in their lightly burnt sugar coating, just enough to give crackle and sweetness. It is something I would like to attempt at home as an alternative to plain seed salad sprinkle. An original combination of textures and tastes, well presented.

My choice was the "starter special of the day", the Duck Liver Parfait, £8 

Here was my Duck Parfait, generously spread on toasted brown bread,. The parfait was creamy, smooth, and satisfying. For a change, the bread to pate ratio was perfect, since I find it very annoying when you get a lovely big pot of pate with not enough bread, making you feel greedy and guilty when you need to ask for more. The parfait came topped with finely sliced fried duck liver and onions. By the side was a fruity passionfruit coulis, cutting through the unctuous parfait and salad leaf sprinkled lightly with vinaigrette. Rustic yet sophisticated, this is exactly what good Gastropub food ought to be.

Because it was Sunday, we had to have the roast dinners. We had the choice of other dishes. We could have gone for the Braised Yorkshire rabbit (£18.50) or Wild garlic poached Scottish salmon fillet (£17.50). I had felt tempted by the "surf and turf" option of Pan fried fillet of Cornish John Dory with roast Old Spot pork belly, pickled cabbage, liquorice jus (£24), but had a feeling it was more than I could handle by myself. The special of the day was overnight braised veal on a bed of risotto and the vegetarian option was Asparagus risotto (£14). Sometimes, you just want a roast, and today was one of those Sundays.

Him Indoors chose the Beef roast as his main course. Here it is:

Roast rump of Cumbrian Shorthorn beef, fresh horseradish, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, roast potatoes, honey glazed carrots and green beans £17.50
Ordered medium rare by Him Indoors, this was incredibly tender. Perhaps cooked a little beyond the level requested, this was still delicious and highly enjoyable. The roast potatoes were fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, just how they ought to be. 

I went for the Pork option, which I am sure you will agree looks fabulous. 

Roast belly of Kilravock Farm pork, apple sauce, Yorkshire pudding, sage gravy, roast potatoes, honey glazed carrots and green beans £17.50
I was very surprised with how much pork I actually received on my plate. This was a very generous double belly portion! The pork was cooked well, not overdone. I was very pleased with my choice. My only criticisms are that I prefer my parsnips parboiled before roasting, but this is a very small quibble. Secondly, I prefer more crackling. Here the crackling was only crispy and crunchy in places. But having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed a roast dinner which was made with care, dedication and attention to detail. The beans were just cooked with a decent bite. The carrots had a good hint of sweetness, and retained their texture. These were not the overboiled veg that some of us will remember from pub lunches of old; greying, soggy and cooked to a pulp.

There was simply no space for desserts after those platefuls. It's a shame, as we saw other diners scoffing some very nice looking puddings. 

The service at The Gun was very good indeed. I would describe it as non-intrusive and thoughtful. We were given a sensible amount of time to choose our food, it wasn't brought too quickly, the courses were spaced out well, and when we were deep in conversation we were not disrupted. Exactly what you want on a pleasant lunch for two. 

We had a very good lunch indeed and will definitely be back. Maybe we will have enough space for afters on that occasion!

Snigdha and Him Indoors paid for their Sunday Lunch using their much overused debit card.  

The Gun on Urbanspoon

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