And what a view indeed. Positioned on the edge of the Thames, overlooking the water and the O2 centre in the distance. However, A Grelha is not technically a restaurant in its own right, rather it is a make shift al fresco area of The Gun, which opens during sunny days and warm nights (May to September). As we are knee deep in the sweltering summer, I accepted the PR’s invitation to this docklands restaurants. I’ve done so partly because The Gun[1. Read Dan of Essex Eating's review of The Gun] is frequently cited as one of the best pubs in London, food is mostly praised by the community, even though I hear rumours of its apparent waning star power. I’ve not been to The Gun in case you’re wondering.
Belonging to Tom and Ed Martin (who also happen to own a chain of respectable pubs including The Cadogan Arms), the PR story goes that they love Portugal, and the al fresco way of life over there, and so have ported the experience to their Docklands pub. The result of which (unsurprisingly) is A Grelha, which stands for ‘The Grill’ in Portuguese. The concept is pretty straightforward really: jugs of sangria, the smell seafood and meat sizzling away on the barbie …seagulls flying over your head… taking in as much of the good weather as I could, for a moment, I felt like I was in Sydney.
Seafood is sourced from the nearby Billingsgate market, and the menu itself isn’t nothing to shout about either, aside from Cataplana (a seafood stew) and hanging lamb skewers, the rest is a case of simply grilled freshness.
(Warning! This meal was comped by The Gun’s PR, so please don’t take my word for it.)
We start with …a can of Manna sardine pate.
Unsurprisingly, a Portuguese product, and pretty good actually. We’ll be ordering them online from this website shortly.
Next, baby squid pan fried with garlic, coriander and chilli, £6
Yeah, this is what I came for. Nothing too exciting here, just grilled squid, with abit of pepper, chilli, roasted cloves of garlic and coriander, and a squidge of lemon.
Clams cooked in white wine, garlic, coriander and lemon £7.50
More of the same really, juicy clams, garlic and white wine sauce for seasoning and more lemon juice. Garlicky, simple pleasures.
Chicken Piri-Piri and chips, £14
The better half and I were debating the ‘authenticity’ of chicken piri-piri, aside from making comparisons to Nandos, neither of us have had the real deal. It really just tasted like grilled chicken to us, but it was as if the chef forgot to season the bird, it was a little dry to add. It was really plain. The waitress also landed a piri-piri sauce, looked like a kind of chilli mayo, it was mostly bitter, overpoweringly so. The chips were pretty good – crunchy and fluffy – and the large bowl of salad (tomato, lettuce) was alright. We were just puzzled with the chicken, I mean it doesn’t even compare to Nandos….. is this a case of me being used to an anglicised version of a Portuguese dish? Can any of you add to this perhaps?
Golden Bream (Dourada) , £3.50 to £4 per 100g.
I’d say this was about 600g, so say £15 for the whole fish? Well, it was nothing but simply grilled fish with sprinklings of sea salt. I thought it was a little overcooked, or that could just be the firm texture of the fish.
Yeah… two more jugs please… ohh…. what al fresco is all about right?
Honestly I wasn’t jumping for joy, the cooking was blasé, reflecting the general atmosphere of A Grelha really, the effects of summer mentality permeating the kitchens. It feels abit like a half rated resort for some reason, and the seemingly backyard style cooking is uninspired. I ordered some strawberries and creme fraiche ice cream to finish… but the strawberries were shockingly sour, come on chaps, it’s in season, surely you can source plump and juicy ones? It didn’t even deserve a photograph.
I wasn’t under any illusions, its got the sun, its got the cocktails, and its got the fresh seafood. One shouldn’t expect much more than that, but I had expected a more exotic choice, no lobster, crab, oysters or steak on the menu. I’ll give food a big fat zero (ok one and a half for the clams) but a seven for atmosphere (minus three for the giant flying ants using my plate as a landing strip).
In my humble opinion, A Grelha is more about enjoying the view and the weather, food is merely a distraction.
And so I’ll leave you with the view from our table during the visit…
The Gist of It
A Grelha at The Gun
Al Fresco, £30pp…
27 Coldharbour E14 9NS
Tel: 020 7515 5222
Tube: Canary Wharf
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