Thus far, the Guard House has staged an impressive re-introduction to Zone 4 and the up-and-coming ‘burb of Woolwich. In an area that’s becoming the prototype for the word ‘gentrification’, the swish new development inside the gates of the Royal Arsenal is scoring some well-deserved attention and rapidly gaining popularity.
Owned by Geronimo Inns, The Guard House is the latest addition to their string of “proper pubs”. Which is where we find this one on the gamut: not quite a restaurant, not quite a pub. Nonetheless, it’s presenting a decent border-crossing, however you define it.
Staged in an impressive 18th-century military building, The Guard House is split into four distinct areas — The Mess (the bar), The Conservatory (formal dining) and The Deli (café/patisserie) are all part of the existing dwelling, whilst the restaurant is situated in the uber-chic Glass House. This is where we spend our evening sampling some of the tasteful, hearty pub-esque food on offer.
We’re grateful for the gorgeous weather, as the floor to ceiling windows and doors that lead onto the terrace area provide a refreshing breeze and the perfect opportunity for a pre-meal alfresco drink. A glass of the Italian Corte Della Calli Prosecco goes down quite the treat. Back inside, the interior is a medley of distressed colourful wood, eclectic lights and humble furniture. It feels snug like a pub, with clashing cutlery and pints served on tap at the bar, but it maintains an upscale feel.
That classy vibe is extended to the wine list, which is certainly lengthier than you’d get at your local pub. Sorted into flavour profiles to help with swift decisions (and perhaps non-wine-buffs), we opt for another Italian, this time a red – the Roccalanna Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, we hear, will go seasonably well with our meal choices.
Speaking of, the kitchen at the Guard House serves up a decent array of gastro inspired British plates —a mix of classic dishes with a few surprises thrown in for intrepid diners. We go all out and order a starter and main each, assuring ourselves that this is purely for research purposes (cough cough). First out is the Ruby Beetroot, Blue Cheese and Chicory salad, which wins hearts for being well-dressed in a soft yet tart balsamic gown. Alongside this comes the Ham Hock Terrine — it’s a hearty starter, but the pear and cider chutney provides a sweet and sharp partner in crime.
Next up are our mains: we avoid the pub clichés of fish and chips, burger, and sirloin steak (despite the menu embellishing them to be equally as tantalising) and opt for the Barnsley Lamb Chops and Baked Hake in Mussel Chowder, Fennel and Leek Fondue. Seasonal fresh ingredients such as broad beans and asparagus accompany the lamb, and despite a few uninvited gristly bits, it delivers on promise and appeal. The Hake is equally as satisfying — the mussel chowder provides a sturdy (if not a bit too creamy) base camp for a perfectly tender portion of fish. It almost requires a spoon to catch the flakes that elegantly slide off into the chowder.
Despite these generous portions, it’s vital we sample at least one dessert. Sweet tooth’s the pair of us, we blame it on the presence of a treacle tart on the menu. Besides, who can’t resist clotted cream alongside this classic pudding? It’s a fruitful exercise for our stomachs —nonetheless we’ve eyed off the Apple & Rhubarb crumble for next visit.
In saying that, the Guard House isn’t typically something us Zone 1 & 2 inhabitants would venture out for, although it is proof that this end of the tube line isn’t a business graveyard: good things can indeed conquer beyond zone 2! Moreover, the Crossrail expansion will no doubt stave off obituary status.
The Guard House, No 1 Street, Woolwich Arsenal, London SE18 6GH, 0203 437 0900