No longer le Guildford, the quiet demise of the most recent incarnation of this former pub could have been an utter disaster I used to love the place – never had a bad meal there.
Happily, unbeknown to the rest of us, Guy Awford from Inside had been negotiating for some time about taking over and within a week or so of the delightful French guy (whose name I never knew) leaving, the decorators were in.
He has big plans for the place. Downstairs will be the gastro-pub side of things – simple food and, at some point some interesting beers. Upstairs, just as soon as they can get the builders to make the staircase bigger, will be a place for fine dining – finer, apparently than the current Inside offerings. I’m really looking forward to that – Greenwich is in real need of top-end restaurants for special occasions.
In the meanwhile the downstairs part has been hastily rejigged and is already enjoying hefty business – when I went in there more than half of the tables had little ‘reserved’ signs on them and the sofas were full.
I have to say from the outset – I am not a fan of the nauties’ minimalism that encourages bare walls, bare tables and clattery wood floors, so I confess that the new look is not for me. I miss the understated sumptuousness of the old incarnation – the warmth of the old red walls, the fancy chandeliers and the cosiness of the sofas by the fire, which have now been shoved to one side near the bar. But there are plenty of people who like the minimalist feel and I’m probably alone in feeling that the new look is a bit cold and forlorn.
The food, though, is great. We had a good selection from the gastro-pub menu – which ranges from hearty soups (the squash one came with its own cheesy croutons which were fantastic) and mussels (plenty of them and nicely cooked, though perhaps a teeny-tiny bit creamy for some) to main courses of beer-battered fish and chips and hearty shepherd’s pies.
They came in reasonable time, with a smile and a chat, despite it warming up to be a busy night, and we felt welcome and included, which is not always a given when you’re not from around these parts in a local restaurant for local people.
The new incarnation of The Guildford has all the promise of becoming a Greenwich favourite, especially if he can make a go of the fine dining part upstairs. I’d guess that 80% of my fellow diners had walked less than five minutes to get there, and they are the sort of people who will return if a place is good. Guy Awford’s good at getting people to return. For me, I just wish he’d get some curtains and a few chandeliers…