A meal marked only by the quality, or in this case the quirkiness, of the waiter really doesn't have a lot to recommend it...
The venue was The Garrison on Bermondsey Street, a thoroughfare that always manages to convey a certain happy air: everyone just seems so pleased to be there. There's a decent range of pubs and bars, among which The Garrison is a well established representative of the gastropub genre. It's an attractive space, with regulation scrubbed floors and cleaned up furniture and enough eclectic knick-knackery to remind you that it remains a pub at heart. It's a comfortable enough place for a drink, but the laid up and reserved tables leave little room for doubt that food is the priority.
On the subject of which, I'd tried to book a table at 8ish and been met with the now almost universal response of "I can only do 9:30 or 6:30, but I'll need the table back by 9:15." Please. This is a second string (at best) South London gastropub. Can they really not make enough money if they only fill their tables once an evening? I can (just about) understand this attitude at a destination restaurant, but not a place like this. I decided to call their bluff, go for the early sitting, deliberately arrive late, encourage the others to do the same, and see how they coped with their second sitting. Needless to say we didn't seem to be keeping anyone from their food when we finally left after 10.
The food was OK at best. A clam chowder was tasty enough if a little uneven, some cubes of potato collapsing into a pleasing creaminess, others barely cooked through; smoked salmon was OK; duck liver paté was lazy and horrid and two king prawns atop a spicy salad seemed a poor catch, especially as three had been promised (apparently they were bigger than at lunchtime...). A roast pork ensemble looked the pick of the mains; Alice's tuna was generous in size but alas also in stringiness. I had the "steak du jour", which seems a strange thing to have on a daily roster. If you have a butcher you trust and fancy you can turn out a decent steak surely you'd keep a small selection of classics on the menu all the time? It was a generous enough thick-cut rib-eye but was far from tender and lacked any convincing flavour beyond its over-caramelised outer surface. I insisted on chips rather than the herb mash they wanted to serve. Probably a mistake. Disappointing. We cut our losses and called in a night with coffees rather than desserts.
I was really looking forward to going to the Garrison, having previously only visited for an entertaining Saturday brunch a few years back. I'd checked the sample menu on the website and had high expectations of interesting, seasonal fare. Alas such dishes were conspicuous by their absence, and the only real highlight of the evening was the engaging service we received from the spectacularly monickered Royce Thomas Crown, who made full use of a sense of humour that was presumably the only thing that got him through his school days. Even Royce let us down with the wine list, though. From a Hobson's choice list - single examples of standard international varietals abounded - he steered us in the direction of the house white. Safe to say I won't be making that mistake again.
The Garrison, 99-101 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB 020 7089 9355