Old School Atmosphere, New School Cooking
Tucked away off Clerkenwell Road, The Gunmakers offers delicious Asian inspired food and kitsch charm. It’s definitely a pub that sells grub, so the atmosphere can be rather raucous if you’re looking for a quieter meal
Review by Martin Stickley
If, like me, you work in or around the City of London you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to drinking and dining options. Around Farringdon, Bank, Clerkenwell and Old street traditional boozers and wine bars are ten-a-penny. It’s not exactly difficult to find somewhere to eat either; there is a glut of eateries be it those fulfilling the lunchtime rushed-snack trade or more up-market restaurants. Something which has always puzzled me is the fact that there don’t seem to be many places who fit the middle ground between drinking establishment and eatery. The higher end restaurants occasionally take themselves far too seriously, lacking charm and atmosphere whilst most pubs and bars who serve food often do so with a mass-catered approach where quality takes a back seat to the ability to shift plates fast or simply sheer carb-indulgence. Hoping to buck this trend is Gunmakers in Clerkenwell, an old-school pub which aims to deliver high-quality food and drink in one neat little package.
Gunmakers is located on Eyre Street Hill (just off Clerkenwell Road, walking distance from both Farringdon and Chancery Lane), easy to miss without a map as it’s a narrow back-street but at least this keep the place relatively tucked away from the busier main street. The inside is surprisingly kitsch; verdant shades of pastel green adorn the walls with decorative vines and hops festooning the bar. The drinks selection, as you would expect, is great with a decent selection of beers, ales, wines and spirits; don’t forget that this is primarily a pub which happens to also offer food. The bar-tenders can also whip up a mean cocktail if that’s more your cup of alcoholic tea. The restaurant area is split into two parts, a small less-formal seating section next to the bar and a more private dining area upstairs.
Don’t be fooled by the appearance of the main bar, the food at Gunmakers is a breath of fresh air and rather excellent. Thankfully the restaurant steers well clear of typical pub-fare without a greasy burger or stodgy pie in sight. Instead chef Madison Duffy (ex-Wright Bros and Coya) has used Asian inspiration to create a menu which is refreshingly creative and exceedingly tasty. Ingredients are seasonal too so don’t expect to see the same menu week-in-week out. The king January cabbage with jalapenos, mint and ginger was delicious. Crisp, sweet and spicy it was the perfect small dish or starter for the recent cold snap which came back to haunt us. Equally delightful was the Skate Wings which I had for my main. The flesh firm, sweet and accompanied by that now familiar oriental spice which Madison is keen to bring to even the most traditional ingredients.
So, whilst utterly sold on the quality of the food was I convinced that the pub/restaurant blend works at Gunmakers? Well not quite, and here is where I feel the need to offer a word of caution. It goes without question that I would genuinely recommend the food; the chef has obviously taken time to create a vivacious and well-crafted menu but by mixing it with a pub environment there comes obvious conflict. On my visit I was unfortunate enough to be seated downstairs on a table next to a group of young gents who had obviously enjoyed more than one or two post-work ales. Normally I wouldn’t let this sort of thing bother me but when they started spilling drinks and singing the owner didn’t do enough to deter them, despite needing to speak to them several times. Now I’m no shrinking violet but the last thing you want when enjoying good food is some hooray splashing you with Doombar. Obviously, this sort of thing isn’t going to occur every night, and revelry can come part and parcel with eating in a pub in the City but I would have expected a firmer hand from the proprietor. I don’t want this to put you off visiting, but maybe book ahead or pick the night carefully when visiting Gunmakers for the first time, if you do, I can at least guarantee that the food won’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Enquires: The Gunmakers, 13 Eyre Street Hill, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 5ET / 0207 2781022 / www.thegunmakers.co.uk/