There are three main reasons to visit The Gun. Firstly, if it is good enough for Admiral Nelson then it is good enough for you (he ‘entertained’ his mistress, Emma Hamilton in the River Room, and I don’t think they were playing backgammon, if you get my drift). Secondly, this quaint Docklands pub, lovingly restored after a destructive fire in 2001, has one of the best river terraces in the whole damn city.
The terrace, a low-slung affair that brings you to almost eye-level with the Thames, has a commanding view of the river looping around the Greenwich Peninsula, affording you majestic views of the O2 and, well, some kind of factory that seems to manufacture sand or grit. Still, there are few better places to spend a summer’s evening after work.
Unfortunately, these draws make The Gun a rather popular place to go – coupled with its ‘snuggly’ size, it all adds up to a usually chocablock terrace and pub. And it was exactly this way when a mate and I visited last Friday night to immerse ourselves in reason-to-visit number three – The Gun’s beef shin burger.
There is a lot of food to be had at The Gun – as you enter, you are left standing in the restaurant, which serves a hearty British menu (and Sunday Roast menu) that is star-studded with quality such as oysters, bone-on rib eye of beef and exciting-sounding things such as beer-battered seaweed or olive crumble. Feast menus subject groups to voluminous grazing, such as whole suckling pig or a log of Beef Wellington. Jars of snacks – a true test of a proper pub – are plentiful. Soon, an open-air English-buffet-bar called the Gin Garden will open for the summer, as well as the intriguing ‘Slider Decider’ event on 16th May. That sounds a bit good.
But the Gun is a pub, and therefore it has a pub menu. Correction, the pub menu. A pub menu with a sub-menu of cheese. A pub menu that serves oysters. There is a ‘Coldharbour sausage roll with HP sauce’ which, despite sounding a bit Greggs-y, you just know would be awesome, as will the black pudding with Scotch egg and English mustard. One day I will get around to trying the macaroni and cheese, but that beef shin burger is addictive, and it is the only thing I seem to eat when I visit.
Served pink or cooked-through, the burger itself is a fist-sized hulk of flaky, chewy shin, swathed in ‘proper’ cheese. There are few burgers better in London, and those that come close don’t have chips that walk the talk (the comparator here is the Goodman Burger – watch this space). The Gun’s chips are exactly how they should be – crackly-covered fluffiness. The burger is more plentiful than the usual, to the point of dangerous instability (don’t even try to attack one without a knife and fork) and the bun is a little dry, but you’ll be too busy losing yourself in the little-appreciated wonders of cow shin to care.
The burger defines The Gun. Sumptuous but simple, inexpensive but bedecked in quality and care. The staff are representative of such – one night on the terrace last October started off warm but gradually degraded into traditionally more seasonal weather – it was saved with a complimentary round of blankets from the waiter.
In a way, it’s a shame – The Gun was once my local. Now I am stuck with The Narrow – a pub of similar concept and history. However, whereas the former is famed for Eighteenth Century seafaring dalliances, the Narrow offers an emotional and quality-driven experience on a par with a quick grope behind the bins of a nightclub in Milton Keynes. And their terrace is rubbish.
Pub menu from £five to £fifteen (burger is £fourteen). For the restaurant menu, you’re looking at about £twenty to £forty per head including a few drinks.
www.thegundocklands.com | @thegundocklands | 0207 515 5222 | 27 Coldharbour, Docklands, London, E14 9NS (a ten-minute, meandering walk eastwards from Canary Wharf)