Harden's survey result
The food – brunch and European brasserie fare – and cocktails are “always great, and there’s a brilliant atmosphere” at this Bermondsey joint. On the downside, it can be so busy that “you feel squashed in” and “service gets a bit hit-and-miss”.
Village East SE1
Did you know that there is a Bermondsey 'Village'? (It even has its own website - bermondseyvillage.org.uk.) Presumably this helps explain the name of this new bar/restaurant. The 'East' bit is still fractionally puzzling. Presumably it's supposed to evoke Manhattan's Bohemian East Village. To us, however, it just smacked of 'trying too hard' - an impression largely confirmed by our recent visit.
You have to be convincingly cool, for instance, to get away with serving a pleasant but ordinary soup in a Pyrex cooking bowl: it's not funny, and it's not clever. Or to print a (perfectly respectable) wine list to look as if it's on the sort of squared notebook paper the French like so much. You would have to be very edgy indeed to get away with serving focaccia with butter (rather than olive oil), especially when the latter comes in a little silver dish, like at a grand hotel. Over our lunch, the question 'why' kept springing to mind.
The experience could have been 'saved' by the cooking, but none of our dishes really shone. Not to say they weren't all perfectly edible, just that all the striving to be cool tended to emphasise how ordinary they were. The rule that a restaurant that cannot get its bread right will have difficulty getting everything else right certainly held good here.
This may read as a rather carping review of a friendly new neighbourhood venture (from the people behind the Garrison). The staff are good-natured and the place is undoubtedly a useful addition to the area. It's also an attractive 'space' (which would suit a private-hire). Overall, though, they would do well to stop focussing so hard on things that don't matter, and to worry a bit more about things that do.
171-173 Bermondsey St, London, SE1 3UW
|Number of Diners:|
all day noon - 10.30 pm
Last orders: 10 pm, Sun 9.30 pm