THE OLD BREWERY: THERE’S A TERRIFIC DRAUGHT IN HERE
I did have my doubts as I made my way to the Old Brewery in Greenwich. It’s located in one of the buildings in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, you see, so my thoughts were drenched with images of some sort of dreary corporate catering like Searcy’s. Because that’s how these things usually work.
I could be wrong. There may indeed be some sort of shadowy bean-counter behind all this and not just those nice people at Meantime, but really I don’t care because what I do know is I had a bloody good dinner at the Old Brewery.
It was opening night. I was their first customer. But from the first bite of Chef Daniel Doherty’s food I knew everything was going to be ok. That’s how it works in the Dos Hermanos Universe.
Actually I had an inkling beforehand. The enthusiasm of GM Ben van Stellingwerff and his staff for instance. The excellence of master brewer Alistair Hook’s Meantime beer for another.
A glass of a crisp Meantime Helles was accompanied by some excellent bread from Greenwich-based baker, Rhodes. London Stout - all chocolately and malty - was the perfect match for six small Natives (cor lumme). The fresh and briny bivalves supplied by Wright Brothers but better here than the examples I’ve had there.
The first bite of crisp pig’s ear told me that this kitchen knew what it was about. It had been braised so that it was tender with just the slightest textural hint of that appendage’s gelatinous nature. It had then been breadcrumbed and fried (but of course it had). To accompany, excellent porky terrine served at the right temperature and a smudge of apple sauce which young, well-trained chefs are wont to indulge in. The only problem with the dish being not enough crispy ears to satisfy my greediness.
There was a little taster of the complex Hospital Porter which has a strong phenolic aroma imparted by the whisky barrels it’s kept in. It also commemorates the fact that there was a brewhouse on this site back in 1717 which made beer for pensioned sailors of the Royal Naval Hospital.
There was more joined up thinking in the kitchen evinced by giving me a decent break before my main course. When it arrived a big hunk of Hake had been cooked perfectly i.e. not overcooked. There was some fennel underneath and a clean-tasting crab broth thickened with plenty of crab meat.
At each course there are suggestions for beer matching but I went a little off-piste for the main course with the excellent Cantillon Gueuze – a tart refreshing mouthful – which may not have been the perfect match but, hey, I enjoyed it.
It was at this stage that I suddenly realised my meal at the Old Brewery was some sort of London analog for my lunch at Eddie Gilbert’s: Oysters followed by fried goods followed by a hunk of fish and accompanied by chips.
Oh yes, oh my, the chips. Billed as “hand cut” as they so often are, I was told they were actually made in a chipper. However they started out, they ended up like the perfect sort of chip shop chips you always hope to get but never do: very crisp on the outside and soft and light within, and the proper shape. They proved the perfect medium for soaking up the remains of the crab broth – a sort of superior chips and gravy.
Of course being opening night there were always going to be hiccups. In this case the sorbet hadn’t been churned to the chef’s satisfaction so it was taken off the menu. Understandable but a bit of a shame as that was my chosen dessert. In reality, I was too full to eat anything else – extra bread and those chips (damn those chips) had taken their toll - and it was also a small reminder not to enjoy myself too much on a school night.
Anyway, word is already getting out about this place amongst the locals so if I were you I’d sod the “let’s allow it to bed in” BS and get down there for a few beers and some ace scran. And don’t forget to try the chips. Cheers!