I was so looking forward to a lovely boat trip down the Thames. It’s one of my favourite London things to do (along with a trip to the top of Parliament Hill on a sunny day, a Primrose Hill picnic, a stroll along a sunny South Bank, a glass of wine in the membership bar of the Tate and a myriad of quirky and delicious things that you can do in this lovely city – I must write about them someday). Anyway, I was looking forward to the boat trip, until work intervened. I wasn’t going to make it in time. So I took the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and endeavoured to catch up with the rest of the crew a little later than planned.
The Docklands Light Railway, half train, half rollercoaster, is quite the piece of public transport. At one point I expected everyone to raise their arms as we ascended/descended a hill through a tunnel. It’s utterly bizarre as there is no driver at the front, which can be nerve wracking. A small price to pay, however, for a trip to lovely Greenwich. In Zone 2 but as far removed from the mania of central London as possible, I always feel like I am on holiday when I am there.
I was on my way to The Old Brewery, a new restaurant in the heart of Greenwich, located within the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, a really charming location. It is a brewery – as the name suggests – but it is also a bar, and in a vaulted high ceiling room next to it, a restaurant resides, by night at least as it’s a café by day.
There is no escaping that beer is the thing here. An impressive installation made almost entirely of Meantime beer bottles hangs over many of the tables. Being a touch chicken licken by nature, occasionally I worried that it may fall on my head, but I am sure they have ensured against that. Eight enormous 1000 litre copper tuns grace the space, shiny and magestic, like ancient high kings surveying their lands. It’s quite a nice touch that the microbrewery is located within the restaurant.
We tucked into a delicious matched food & beer dinner led by 2008 Brewer of the Year Alastair Hook. What surprised me most was not the quality of the food, which was very good, but just how much I liked the beer. I mean, I loved the beer. I am much more of a wine drinker normally so I was very pleasantly surprised. And I loved that they called their stout Porter, stouas it is still commonly called that in Ireland today.
Up first were oysters, served with Meantime Porter. They serve a little jug of the porter to put on the Oyster as you would with Tabasco. I didn’t try that this time as I can never resist shallots & vinegar plus I was drinking the porter with it, so it seemed like overkill, but we were told that it is traditional and also very good. The Oysters were fresh & meaty, tasting only of the sea and childhood summer holidays. The Porter was smooth, velvety and rich without being overwhelming as porters can sometimes be.
Next was the star of the show for me, a confit middle white pork terrine, crispy pig’s ear, apple sauce & granary toast with Meantime Wheat Beer, a bargain at £6. It was superb. The terrine was meaty and dense and oh-so-porky as you would expect. The pigs ear was crisp and moist and divine with a comforting but not frightening amount of fat. They were very well cooked and the texture was perfect. I would love to feed these little fritters to lots of unsuspecting offal haters and see how much they love them before I tell them what they are. The apple sauce was a nice piquant counterpoint and the beer was a fine match.
I’ve had a few beers by now and have lost track of the next beer matches, apologies dear reader! A Meantime Pale Ale braised neck of Herdwick mutton, ratte potatoes, anchovy & parsley gravy followed which was rustic and delicious. The mutton was deeply savoury and rich, good honest food that was packed with flavour. It’s always nice to see the much undervalued mutton on a menu too.
There wasn’t much room left for dessert but I had to try the lemon tart with Kent hop meringue. The meringue had hops in it which were incredibly bitter on their own but blended really well with the lemon curd underneath. In fact, I didn’t notice the hops until I took a bit of meringue on its own to sample. There are hops along the side too but these were a little too much for me.
I managed to get the boat back which was great fun, so all was not lost. It was a great evening, The Old Brewery offers solid food that’s packed with flavour, it’s rustic but has been created with a delicate hand. It’s the perfect place to go with friends or visiting parents. The food is excellent but not intimidating in anyway.
So, there’s a bank holiday recommendation for you: get a boat to Greenwich and have dinner at The Old Brewery. And do try the pigs ear – it’s really very, very, good!
Disclosure: I dined as a guest of The Old Brewery. An opportunity to eat with the Brewer was too good to turn down! You would, wouldn’t you? :)