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The Gun Docklands – Great Food and a Fantastic Riverside Setting:
I have to say that we were really looking forward to lunch at the Gun; we have friends living in Docklands, this part of London, and we have been there several times for the annual Carolling event, which comes complete with Dickensian Carol Singers to lead the way, a hog roast, and mulled wine. We have also been to a dinner in the private dining room on the first floor to celebrate our friends’ 10th wedding anniversary, so we knew that the standard of the food would be good.
But on a summer’s day, our minds were far from Christmas; we wanted to enjoy the riverside view across to the Millennium Dome, the river traffic, and even to watch a cormorant fishing. After a sizzling summer, there was finally a break from the heat, and the day we went was perfect weather for a traditional Sunday lunch.
There has been a pub on this site near Canary Wharf for over 250 years. It is named after the cannon which was fired to celebrate the opening of the West India Import Docks in 1802. In the late 18th century, Lord Horatio Nelson acquired a property just up the road from The Gun (still known as Nelson’s House) and he regularly visited the docks to inspect the guns up until his death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Lord Nelson would frequent The Gun and rather saucily meet Lady Emma Hamilton in an upstairs room (The River Room, where our friends held their party) for their secret assignations. Smugglers also found it a handy place to stash their contraband. Today it’s owned by Fullers, who have made this one of their flagship gastropubs, it has an AA rosette, but we felt it deserved more. The brilliant thing about Fullers is that they’ve given their chef’s free rein; this isn’t a standardised pub chain menu.
There’s a dining space at the end of the front bar, but we’d opted to sit on the Terrace and observe river life. To get us into a seafaring vibe, we chose to share half a dozen Mersea Rock Oysters. These were as fresh as could be and delivered the essence of the sea that we were after.
The chef then treated us to an amuse bouche, which consisted of a mussel beignet served on pressed ox cheek with a smoked mushroom broth. The ox cheek just fell apart, whilst the mussel was a lovely tasty morsel. We mopped up the soup with our bread and were told in an approving tone that in Italian this is called ‘scarpetta’.
We couldn’t resist one of the Sunday specials, the 45-day aged Hampshire rare breed rib of beef to share. This came beautifully cooked to medium rare, served with whole grain mustard cabbage, roasted carrots, beef dripping roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower gratin, Yorkshire pudding (of course!), and a red wine jus.
- Needless to say, there was no way that we could do justice to that beautiful meat (I think it would have fed about 4 people). We enjoyed it with a nice bottle of Sollione Primitivo from Puglia, served by a waitress with amazing multi-coloured hair. She assured me that I’d look great with mine done in many colours too, but I’m not sure how that’d go down at work!
I was too full to eat anything else, so Alex ordered a pavlova made with roasted peaches and raspberries. I did get a spoonful and can report that it was delicious.
Needless to say, the chef wanted to show us other skills and sent out a dessert amuse bouche of a lemon madeleine with biscotti.
We then took a look at the newly refurbished private dining room, which has amazing river views reached from walking up the smugglers’ staircase.
We then retired to the bar to start editing photos, where I was intrigued by the Enomatic machine. This stores fine wines at the correct temperature, allowing the customer to enjoy something more special than the usual wine-by-the-glass, which has to be opened and used quickly. The Enomatic means that The Gun can open a bottle and the contents will remain perfect for two weeks.
I cannot stress enough, how fabulous every aspect of this pub is. I wish that we had something of this calibre nearer to home – having said that, this is worth a special trip, not just for the river view, but also for the fabulous food and attentive friendly service. If you work in Canary Wharf, they will even provide a return-free taxi service weekday lunchtimes if you dine from the A La Carte menu.
See you at the Carols!
We were guests of the Gun.
London E14 9NS
020 7519 0075