By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
The term “gastropub” has become a little tricky and somewhat controversial. Coined in 1991 by David Eyre and Mike Belben, proprietors of The Eagle pub in Clerkenwell, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as: “a pub, bar, or tavern that offers meals of high quality”. However, ever since the phrase came to being over 20 years ago, far too many of the UK’s pubs have (wrongfully) rebranded themselves. Let’s face it, if every single pub in the land that sold hot food was, in fact, a gastropub, the term would be completely stripped of reasonability. We’d never know where to draw the line between high street chains such as Wetherspoon’s and O’Neill’s or local pubs that manage to actually serve high-end food worthy of the title.
A few years ago, Gordon Ramsay’s expansive restaurant empire moved in to the site where The Barley Mow pub once stood. Opened as Gordon’s very own riverside Bar and Restaurant, The Narrow sits alongside the River Thames, just a short walk from Limehouse station and the Northern mouth of the Rotherhithe Tunnel. The interior of the premises is fetching, to say the least, with its bright, airy conservatory area for dining, although the venue does lack some character, juxtaposed to some of the country’s finest pubs to have adopted the ‘G’ word prefix. The food that The Narrow has to offer, however, is actually very good.
Reasonably priced and simple, The Narrow’s food is refreshingly unpretentious, not forgetting the fact that everything we order is served on a plate rather than a wooden board (Mr. Ramsay is one of the worst offenders, unfortunately). Considerably more accessible than some of Ramsay’s most popular restaurants, we’re able to choose between a set menu with three-courses available at £25 per person, an Á La Carte menu, as well as a Children’s menu, just to prove how family-friendly the restaurant/pub can be.
Starting with the hand-made milky Burrata Di Puglia (£10) that’s served atop a bed of multi-coloured Tomatoes and topped with Basil and a scattering of black Olives, absolutely perfect for a summertime lunch. My starter, on the other hand, is the restaurant’s own take on a dressed-up Caesar Salad (£9). Garlic Croutons, Lettuce and a Caesar dressing accompany strips of succulent smoked Chicken, resulting in a satisfactory dish, although a little more dressing would’ve been welcome.
Unable to choose between the Hake and Beetroot Tarte Tatin (£14.50), the waitress insists that I must sample the Tart. Well-sized and overflowing with Beetroot of all different colours and varieties, alongside whole Shallots and Goat’s Curd, the Tart is remarkable. Glazed with deliciously rich Balsamic Vinegar, although the sheer amount of Watercress as garnish would’ve been enough to feed a family of four as a side salad. A “gastropub” classic, the Fish & Chips (£17) is also delicious, although pricey. A sizeable tranche of Haddock is soaked in Beer-batter before being fried to perfection: the Fish is soft and falls apart with ease, while the crisp Batter delivers a magnificent texture. Not forgetting the well-seasoned Chips, comforting Mushy Peas and homemade Tartare Sauce (bonus!).
Desserts at The Narrow are also impressive (all priced at £7), my companion’s Dark Chocolate Brownie with Honeycomb Ice Cream is well received, although far too rich for myself, while the Eton Mess is a delightful finale to a well-enjoyed weekday lunch.
The Narrow can be found at 44 Narrow Street, London, E14 8DP.