The Garrison, which originally found fame some years ago as the Honest Cabbage, can be found on Bermondsey Street, an increasingly gentrifed area ten minutes walk from London Bridge station.
As befits its description as a 'gastropub', the main reason to come here is for the food. Those looking to settle down for a few pints would be better served crossing the road to the not-so-gastro pub 'The Woolpack'.
The food itself is exceptional although tough to classify beyond that. While carnivores are certainly catered for the Garrison does offer a fine line in vegetarian options. On a recent visit with two friends the three of us (none vegetarian) all chose a different veggie option and none of us regretted it. Prices are not pub cheap but certainly not outrageous - expect to pay around £10-£12 for a main course. Side dishes (new potatoes, runner beans etc) are an extra couple of pounds each but are often not required.
On the drinks side wine drinkers are very well catered for from house white/red at £12.50 a bottle to 'fine wine' such as a £62 Chateauneuf du Pape. Beer drinkers will not feel out of place although options are limited and draft Staropramen is the chief option.
So far so good. Now the downside. The Garrison is not a large pub and the emphasis on food means that tables (which can be booked) dominate the floorspace. Attempts have been made to make the interior light and airy but space is a major issue - tables really are packed in and you are likely to end up on nodding terms with your dining neighbours whether you want to or not. When packed to capacity - which as a popular venue it often is - the noise can be horrendous and shouting across the table to your dining companions is the only option. Come on a quiet evening mid week and the situation is very different - very relaxed and a much more pleasant experience.
Staff are amiable enough and pretty efficient given the crowds. The clientele vary from Bermondsey Street locals (lots of creative types) to foodie tourists checking out the pub's reputation. You won't feel out of place either in a suit or in jeans and the overall vibe is very relaxed.
Overall the Garrison is definitely worth the trip and a convenient detour from the much more commercial outlets available around London Bridge. If you fancy checking out the food then I would recommend a visit on a Monday to Wednesday evening which tend to be much quieter.
Finally there is a downstairs room / cinema available to hire at a reasonable price. For details on everthing from food and drink to room hire I recommend the excellent website - www.thegarrison.co.uk
The Honest Cabbage in Bermondsey is one of those places I can't imagine ever having a bad meal in. Granted, I've only been once, but every single thing that passed my lips - and those of the two friends I was dining with, they assure me - was perfectly lovely. Some of it was exemplary. The service is charming and laid-back, much in line with the casual decor of the restaurant; interesting but comfortable tables and chairs are arranged in a slightly haphazard fashion. The room is well lit by large windows onto the street, with funky art, stained glass and fresh cut flowers setting the mood in the small dining from area which, if memory serves, you can peek into the kitchens. I had mussells to start, a large serving with very few that were sufficiently dodgy-looking for me to cast them aside. The sauce was nice, garlicy and creamy - perfect for dipping pieces of rustic bread into when the mussells were finished! For my main course, I couldn't resist ordering the steak and fries, both of which were not only delicious and done to a turn, but also served in mammoth portions. As an American in Britain, I do not say this lightly - the portions are vast; consider skipping lunch before going here for dinner! Having said the above about portion sizes, after such an amazing meal, my friends and I felt it would be wrong not to sample the desserts. We settled on sharing one banana tart tatin and one chocolate moussey cheesecakey thing. The chocolate thingy was lovely - velvety and rich - but my imprecise recollection of it goes to show just how far eclipsed it was by the banana tart tatin, which was quite simply the nicest desert I have had in living memory. My friends and I, normally considerate and gentle people, were duelling with our spoons to get at every last morsel. With soft drinks and a glass or two of wine each, our meal came to approximately £30 per person. Some people may prefer to spend that amount at a more formal
restaurant, but given my personal preference for a casual atmosphere and the quality of the food, I feel it was money well spent. Here are the details for anyone who wants to give it a try. The Honest Cabbage 99 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3XB Underground: London Bridge Telephone: 020 7234 0080