This Really is Social Media – Great Guns Social, Borough
18 Nov 2017
Great Guns Social. Despite expectations, neither a beary club night nor the opener to my last ill-advised Tinder escapade (oh, if e e cummings did dating apps), but a stealthily delectable bar and kitchen on an unassuming Southwark street corner.
Once a local boozer – old acanthus-topped columns still stand inside – draught pints and pork scratchings have been swept aside for tiptop cocktails by the talented Ash Lambert served beneath ubiquitous faux-industrial pendant lights and exposed air ducts. Like yours truly, it’s a handsome package whose early charm can’t quite mask the odd short cut in the finishing. Mind, I can overlook the feel of veneered MDF about the tabletops (just about) for a dinner and booze this good.
Owner Laura Gregory – by day the dynamo who heads creative content hub Great Guns from her HQ upstairs – has played a clever bet for her first gastronomic opening. With Maria Elia, latterly of Delfina and the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, nominally curating a roster of resident guest chefs, and the supremely practised hand of Khalid Dhabi nominally the kitchen’s first resident, I did worry that my belly might be aching from the clang of industry name-dropping. Not so.
From wherever in his far-flung empire he presides, Dhabi has his kitchen on point. His British-Moroccan menu is a rose-tinted souq of flavour and spice, and leagues above expectation for a Southwark boozer turned leather-trimmed restaurant. Small plates at around a half dozen sterling each showed us the gamut of sweet, sour and spice. Purple Aubergine, Caramelised Figs, Hazelnut Butter Couscous and Toasted Almonds. Smoked Mackerel Pâté, Apple & Walnut Salad and Melba Toast. Best of all, the slivering werqa dough-wrapped Caramelised Chicken & Almond Pastilla with Crème Fraiche, Saffron and Cinnamon.
Then the great guns rolled out at around £16 apiece. Glazed Tangia Of Jacob’s Beef Rib with Caramelised Prunes and Sesame Seeds was deep and yielding as the desert sky at midnight. Salt Marsh Lamb Lollipops with Shallot Puree, Cumin and Watercress were less candyshop namesake and more fine French-trimmed chops with a grown-up alium sidekick. Chermoula Marinated Hake with Romero Peppers, Spinach and Pickled Fennel shot the farthest with the type of deeply satisfying agrodolce argument that inevitably ends in make-up sex.
Speaking of which: pudding for £6. Rosewater Mohalabia with Pistachio and Sugar Moss was all summer palaces and silken girls bringing spun sugar. Chocolate with Cardamom Anglaise and Edible Flowers presented a tender chocolate domino imprinted with dark, sweet blackberries. Shame that its cardamom crème anglaise whiffed mildly of the silken girls’ bathwater.
From the bar, Ash Lambert’s pitch-perfect cocktails had me at hello, repeatedly. Knowledge and skill sit behind each invention named after a media monolith. Paint It Black is one I’ll be playing over and again, with its wicked punch of solera and overproof rums spiked with maraschino, fireside caramel and other things nice. Worth the trip in themselves for less than a tenner, before young Ash gets snapped up by some spendier haunt.
Can Great Guns Social pull off its difficult second album when Dhabi steps aside for the next resident chef? We must wait and see. For now, I’m off to brush up my Tinder openers in the hope I get fewer unsolicited youknowwhat pics in return.
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