The Guildford

Guildford Grove, SE10

I first went here for lunch with friends a good few months ago, and really enjoyed it, but wanted to experience the full evening atmosphere before a review. It’s a newish conversion from old-time-boozer to gastro-pub and I had heard very different opinions of it, so at least two visits were necessary, I felt…

As pub-restaurants go, it’s not cheap. Most of the meaty mains are around fifteen quid, and the alcohol is also pricey. But I have to say that I like this place as well, if not better than many similar-priced eateries around here. So shoot me.

It’s cosy – the lush red walls and curtains, the squashy sofas by the modern fire and slightly kitsch chandeliers take care of that, and the tables aren’t too close together. The drinking area is pretty small, really, with funky wood surfaces and a vase that looks like it came out of Professor Branestawm’s lab, though even on the very quiet night we were in there (actually it wasn’t full on the lunchtime either) there were a couple of well-heeled-looking regulars sitting at the bar with newspapers. There was only one other table of actual diners the whole time we were there.

The service was relaxed and very friendly indeed – a cheery chap, happy to let us sit with drinks on the leather sofa until we felt like ordering at the tables, and knowledgeable-enough about the excellent compilation CD on the sound system to be able to tell me who was playing on a particular track without having to look it up.

Now. I know this is going to sound like some dodgy local paper review, but I really did love everything I ate that evening. The aubergine-sunblush-tomato ensemble I scoffed as a starter was beautifully prepared – lots of funky drizzled bits and sumptuous layers that melted into each other in my mouth. The Phantom Companion’s duck rillettes on toast were equally enjoyable.

The mains kept-up the side. I’d already had the risotto on another occasion so tried something different – a rather splendid cod confection, beautifully executed. TPC couldn’t decide whether to have the beef or the pork, so asked the waiter, who recommended the pork, in spite of the beef costing considerably more. It was a good shout – done to perfection.

I’m squirming as I write this. There’s normally something I can carp about. But this really was a hugely enjoyable meal. I didn’t really fancy the puddings (a good thing really; this Phantom-gig is piling on the pounds…) so we just had a coffee and cleared off.

The price of this place is going to mean I don’t get to go back there as much as I’d like to. But for a nice semi-special-to-special night out, I’d say this would be a good choice indeed. A few more visits (I want to try the garden as soon as it’s warm enough) and this could join the list of Phantom Favourite Haunts…

The website promises an upstairs restaurant area with more brasserie-type downstairs food, though it hasn’t materialised yet. Maybe they aren’t getting enough custom yet. That’s a shame. From what I experienced, they deserve it.

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