Oh England. England, England, England, with your soggy summers and bitterly disappointing football scores, we do still love you. And what better way to remind ourselves of just how much we love you than to pay a visit to a royal borough to experience your heritage and parks in all their rich green lush splendidness, to seek out some hidden gem of gastronomic delight in a tavern where we might replenish our spirits by feasting on seasonal fare, slaking our thirsts with an extensive wine list and chugging down a selection of hand-pumped ales? No better way.
For some inspiration on visiting Greenwich for a day out, one might consider taking the ferry boat from Westminster pier so as to soak in the sights along the way. It’s a great way to see parts of London you might not usually get to witness, and there is also a guide on board to talk you through some of the history and points of interest.
Once at the historic naval heart of Britain that is Greenwich, there is a raft of things to see and do. You can visit the National Maritime museum and learn about England’s rich maritime past, or the Royal Observatory and planetarium to learn about star charting, and pop off on a voyage through the universe. I’m rather intrigued by the show “Back to the moon for good” which chronicles the efforts of teams to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, for which they must land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon, navigate 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to Earth. “This global competition is designed to spark imagination and inspire a renewed commitment to space exploration, not by governments or countries – but by the citizens of the world.”
Of course there is the legendary Cutty Sark, a Grade 1 listed dry docked clipper vessel with a fascinating history. As wikipedia tells us: “Willis considered that the bow shape of Tweed was responsible for its notable performance, and this form seems to have been adopted for Cutty Sark. Linton, however, felt that the stern was too barrel-shaped and so gave Cutty Sark a squarer stern with less tumblehome. The broader stern increased the buoyancy of the rear of the ship, making it lift more in heavy seas so it was less likely waves would break over the stern, and over the helmsman at the wheel. The square bilge was carried forward through the centre of the ship.” Clear on that are we? Yes, thank you midshipman, clear as the waters of the Baltic.
Lazy good-for-nothing-but-strolling-and-lolling folk may might consider the rolling green hills and woodland of Greenwich Park, and once again – yes you guessed it, rich history, royal heritage, glorious open green spaces. Yet this is the Culinary World Tour, a website devoted to finding you the best of the best places in which to dine as well as inspiration for travel, so the question remains, where to sojourn for supper?
I had occasion to dine on a tasting menu at The Guildford Arms, and let me tell you, well, just let me tell you ok? The ethos of sourcing is bang on the money, being local and seasonal. Fish comes in from Billingsgate market every morning, meat is all British and mostly from the South East of England, herbs and vegetables come from New Covent Garden market as well as those they grow themselves in their spacious sunken garden. As I settled and downed a pint of Exmoor Gold which was their seasonal ale and one of my all time favourites, I looked around at the spacious interior designed by architect partner Jon Hallett, musing that their description of the building being a handsome Georgian gastropub was indeed accurate. I imagined moustached and bearded gentlemen of the Admiral’s fleet, sat stuffing pipes and puffing away here back in the day, exchanging tales of derring-do on the ocean wave and slapping each other across their broad shoulders as they’d throw down rum and gin and sing salacious songs.
It’s always refreshing when the food that arrives on your plate is as good or better as it reads on the menu, even when it does read well on the menu, and such was the case at the Guildford. Flavours were well balanced and overall I got the sense that the ingredients came first. It is that sort of mild-mannered respect for nature that typifies modern British gastronomy in my incredibly humble yet dashingly handsome opinion.
Pork and chorizo meatballs were soft and succulent, a tomato and marjoram salsa, silky smooth and subtly smoky in flavour. Tiger prawn and langoustine was the freshest I’ve had in some time, the langoustine so evocative of the sea that you could almost hear the clatter of buckets and spades and the waves lapping at the shore. A lively lime and Pernod dressing was the creative touch that gave the dish substance.
Fresh tagliatelle with broad beans and smoked pancetta came bathed in ricotta and wild garlic, lifted by lemon and sage oil. This may have been the winning dish for me as the smoky creaminess of the sauce was just perfect alongside the delicate crunch of beans that swam in amongst reeds of super fresh pasta.
Spiced coley with red lentil dhal didn’t have quite the same wow factor for me but was a perfectly acceptable and very healthy dish. In essence, a light and delicate piece of fish with some vegetable curry.
Marinated Kentish lamb chump was also something of a show stealer as the lamb simply hollered tenderness and had great depth of flavour. This was a lot to eat in the space of a couple of hours, but we all managed to save room for a delightful baked chocolate cheesecake which rounded things off nicely. I would definitely go back for more, and if you’re looking for a stunning garden in which to dine on such delights, The Guildford Arms is the place for you. Highly recommended!
55 Guildford Grove,
020 8691 6293