ATTENNN-SHUN! | The Guard House, No 1 Street, Woolwich Arsenal, London SE18 6GH
It’s not very often that we venture out any further than Zone 3 to eat. We do try to visit different areas, Brighton for example, but time never seems to be on our side to explore properly. So when we heard that Geronimo Inns had opened The Guard House, not too far from us in Woolwich – Zone 4, we got ourselves down there at the double. The only other restaurant in Woolwich that we’ve eaten at is the fab family run Eritrean Blue Nile, well worth checking out.
Geronimo Inns have been opening ‘cracking places to eat and drink’ for over 20 years and have over 30 establishments on their books – 1.5 new openings a year, so they must be doing something right.
Now, Woolwich used to be a stomping of mine but I hadn’t been back for years. To be honest there was no reason to, the once thriving market town was in decline, although it looks as if things are on the up. House prices are rocketing, fuelled by the Crossrail works, whilst the site of the old Royal Arsenal is being developed beyond recognition. It’s here where the clever bosses at Geronimo have opened their latest restaurant and bar.
The Guard House has taken over an impressive 18th-century military building. The bar, deli/café and club room all sit within the old building whilst the restaurant is situated in the uber-modern glass-walled conservatory. Decor in the bar has a feel of an officer’s mess room, with its plush leather chairs, golden pine furniture, parquet flooring and luxurious deep turquoise walls.
The rest of the old Guard House was a mix of exposed brick and whitewashed walls, stone or tiled flooring and splashes of olive green and tropical leaf print wallpaper, giving it a slight colonial feel. The conservatory dining area was, as you would expect, bright and airy. The bar and partly open kitchen were clad in colourful distressed reclaimed floorboards, with splashes of jewel colours dotted around restaurant. Very modern and very pretty.
The bar and restaurant are open all day, serving from breakfast right through to dinner but we were here to do a full family road test of their lunch menu. One of the main reasons that we decided to visit was my daughter, Charlotte.
She is the world’s fussiest eater (although she has improved of late) and the menu here looked like the perfect solution – a great mix of classic dishes with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. My son, Oliver, on the other hand will try anything, although he does always tend to order the most expensive item on the menu. In his mind a big price tag equals a big portion, he’ll learn that that’s not always the case.
And if there wasn’t anything savoury on the menu then there was always the website’s promise of ‘delicious freshly squeezed fruit juices and some truly epic milkshakes’. Unfortunately these weren’t available (these have drinks have since been removed from the online menu).
So after a short-lived sulk, she ordered a Coke, in fact the waiter wasn’t too sure what other soft drinks were available. Possibly just teething problems – a little more staff training or even a printed drinks list would be the solution. Whatever they do, it’s easily fixable.
All of their food is prepared fresh in their open kitchen by head chef Xavier, using ethically sourced ingredients. We decided to share a couple of starters between the four of us, well, the three of us, Charlotte didn’t want anything.
Taking advantage of the seasonally changing fresh ingredients, we ordered the Scallops (£9) from the specials menu. Perfectly cooked pan-fried scallops with a silky smooth celeriac purée, crisp apple and cress salad and a drizzle of hazelnut dressing.
From the regular menu the Ham hock terrine, pear and cider chutney, sourdough toast (£7), caught mine and Oliver’s eye. Again a well presented dish, obviously using decent quality ingredients. The chutney was especially good, we’d never tried that combo before and it worked incredibly well – sweet and sharp!
Apparently kievs are now ‘a thing’, just as long as they aren’t served with Birdseye potato waffles. A little fact for you, the humble Chicken Kiev was the country’s very first chilled ready-meal introduced by Marks and Spencer in 1979 – the same year as Saff’s birth!
Looks as if The Guard House is getting in on the act too with their Guinea fowl kiev, served on a bed of savoy cabbage, dotted with chunks of bacon and chestnut (£14). Crispy golden breadcrumbs and a not too overpowering garlic butter moved this dish away from the processed chicken kievs of my childhood.
Saff ordered the 21 day aged 8oz sirloin steak, fries, house butters (£18) after eyeing up another customer’s plate. Charlotte eventually opted for Cod and chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce (£12.95), it was available as a half-portion for kids although not stated on the menu. These were exactly what was expected from the more traditional pub food staples.
Oliver, on the other hand, was a tad more adventurous and ordered the massive serving of Cornish Mussels (£11), cooked in a white wine and cream sauce and served with a big side of French fries. Oliver picked his way through the seemingly bottomless pot of mussels then proceeded to tip in his fries to mop up all the sauce. That’s my boy.
Time for dessert. The girls were full, so ordered a couple of scoops of Sorbet (£1.70 per scoop), mango for Charlotte and lemon for Saff. Oliver and I both had our eye on the Treacle Tart (£6.50), served with a dollop of clotted cream. But for research purposes we had to order different desserts.
So, as I was the one footing the bill, I got the treacle tart and Oliver had to settle for his second choice, the Apple and rhubarb crumble (£6) with a cute little jug of vanilla custard. Now Oliver got a bad case of dessert envy, he was practically scowling at me as I ate. So I did the selfless thing and swapped. I can see why Oliver wanted to exchange desserts, he is used to his Nan’s deep filled sweet version, this was quite sharp in comparison and the crumble top was a touch burnt giving a bitter aftertaste.
As we finished our drinks and settled the bill we saw a bit of a skirmish outside. Don’t worry, it was only a turf war between a hyperactive squirrel and a couple of boisterous pigeons. You’ve heard of Kung Fu Panda, well this was Ninja Squirrel. Bouncing off lampposts, backflipping off trees, somersaulting off walls and biting my finger – yes really!
A fun, if slightly random, ending to a good meal. I don’t think The Guard House will ever be a destination restaurant especially with its lack of parking. But Woolwich has finally got themselves a great venue for a decent meal – about time too!
Book a table online
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 8am–11pm
Friday to Saturday 8am–12am
Sunday 8am – 11pm
Nearest station: Woolwich Arsenal mainline and DLR (5 mins walk)
We ate as guests of The Guard House, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.