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Despite having a 30-seat cinema for screenings in the basement, the owners of the Garrison are adamant it has never been about names, celebrity chefs or trends. Nevertheless, their transformation of a south London boozer into a gastropub has steadily attracted a bustling crowd of foodies to its manor, Bermondsey Street.
Owners Adam White and Clive Watson now have three sites under the company name Village London, with the addition of brasseries Village East and more recently Riding House Cafe, but have pledged they are "a very independent group and are all about steady, smooth growth without inviting shareholders in to help us expand".
So far that ethos has kept them apart from the crowd. Described in the AA Guide as "a quirky hotch-potch of decorative themes" and "bouncing with life," this award-winning gastropub has gained a solid reputation as a friendly, neighbourhood pub just a short skip from Borough Market. It has 45 covers, opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is reportedly forever full and offers a menu that focuses on seasonal produce from artisan suppliers.
Besides the atmosphere, the cooking has attracted favourable reports from critics. The Evening Standard‘s Charles Campion has feted it as a lively place with the menu divided into three sections - good-value bar snacks such as Welsh rarebit, a brunch menu at weekends and a short "pukka" menu.
Dishes include beetroot carpaccio, whipped goats' cheese and basil, pea shoots (£6), and pumpkin, courgette and chickpea tagine nutty couscous (£11). To drink, there are real ales from Adnams, Breton cider and a few good wines by the glass.
To complement the food and drink, all the staff at the Garrison have been through an extensive customer-focused training programme, coached by internal and external trainers in management skills and company ethos.
Of course one of the important qualities of a pub - even a gastropub - is that it appeals to the neighbours. Happily, the Garrison sits companionably alongside its fellow traders and is part of the local business partnership, as well as supporting residents committees and getting involved in community events such as the annual Bermondsey Street festival. Not least, locals gather in the cinema to watch new and old films accompanied by a pint and fish finger sandwich.
Summing up, Jillian MacLean of the cutting edge Drake & Morgan group said: "The Garrison is a thoroughly deserving winner of the award. It really understands its market and delivers a great product."
Ashley Levett, Miller's Collection
â- Adam Marshall and Adam Saword, Grand Union, London
â- Alex Reilley, Loungers
â- Clive Watson and Adam White, the Garrison, London
Richard Hathaway, partner, head of travel, leisure & tourism, KPMG UK
Jillian MacLean, managing director, Drake & Morgan
Edward Martin, director, ETM Group
Paul Salisbury, director, Classic Country Pubs
Edward Turner, commercial director, Young's and Geronimo Inns