The Garrison Public House sits in those slightly odd streets around London Bridge that creep into Bermondsey. Amongst the renovated dry goods stores and warehouses, architects offices, artists spaces and bespoke marketing companies ply their trade, doing whatever it is a bespoke marketing company does. Lunch I imagine. A 2 bedroom flat round here can you cost you a million quid, but you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere to buy a pint of milk. It's one of those areas that thrives during the week, but seems to forget about the weekend, most of the bars just opting to close. Bermondsey Street snakes away from London Bridge through railway arches, old commercial buildings turned into live/work spaces, the odd patch of wasteground where the developers are biding their time or in prison and the rather shocking pink edifice of the London Fashion and Textile Museum.
The pub itself wears it's gastropub label at a jaunty angle, like your dad wearing a panama hat on holiday. They have opted not to go for the default gastropub dark wood and leather decor, instead it is light and airy, looking like a collision between a New England country residence and an Edwardian parlour. Despite it's pretentions at being a public house, it feels more like a restaurant, though a nice touch was the fact that if a table is not yet being used by anyone dining, or a reservation have not turned up, you are welcome to sit down until they do.
The staff are irritatingly efficient, everytime you look up thinking, "I wonder where our coffees are?", the waiter is usually just bringing them. They live just on the edge of what is comfortable, appearing quite surly at first but then breaking into huge smiles and cracking a joke just at the point when you were deciding to get annoyed.
The menu is a bit old school French meets modern Italian with a sideline in old English. I broke the cardinal rule and had mussels to start, the girlfriend opting for smoked haddock on potato cakes. My mussels were good, plump, tasty and vibrant. The smoked haddock was fine too, with simple strong flavours. Good clean fun all round so far, nothing too stretching, just the sort of simple food you want in a pub setting. The mains were a bit of a departure from your normal gastropub fare. I'd chosen a parmesan battered pork with bacon and cabbage and chicory and the girlfriend a vegetarian dish, featuring courgettes and mushrooms. To be honest I wasn't really paying attention. I do tend to fall asleep at the mention of vegetarian food in restaurants. The pork was pretty full on, the parmesan working nicely with the meat and the accompanying cabbage and chicory adding warmth and bite to the dish, the whole thing surprisingly light and fresh tasting. The courgette and mushroom dish was a resounding success according to the girlfriend.
The Garrison Public House: 99-101 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XB. Telephone: 0871 0756983 Map