I have a soft spot for the Gladstone Arms. We discovered this place by accident whilst meandering aimlessly through the streets of Borough. Back then, it had been newly refurbished, taken over by a family and they were building their food and drinks menu.
Cut to the present: when co-owner Megha invited us to try their Sunday Roast, my interest was piqued. I was keen to find out how the pub was doing, almost one year on.
This time, we delved a bit deeper and discovered they had a roof terrace which pretty much sealed the deal for me. They also have a small taproom which you can hire and pull your own pints and a small private function room accommodating about 35-40, for family celebrations and special occasions. The spaces are all there; it just needs a touch of paint and some styling to oomph it up.
The Gladstone Arms is owned and run by a family. We have Abhinav who looks after the kitchen and food development. He earned his stripes from working in the much venerated Michelin-starred Veeraswamy, Chutney Mary and Amaya. He was a restaurant manager for ten years with this group and learnt a lot from working with all the chefs. He brings that expertise to the kitchen with the technique, flavours and preparation. His wife, Megha, looks after Operations and PR/Marketing. The third member is her brother Gaurav, who in my opinion, has the best portfolio of all three: he is responsible for the buying of beers. So it’s the power of these three that is poured into the heart of this place.
In terms of booze, they have about 16 taps which not many pubs can boast of, serving craft beers from local breweries and some mainstream standards. During our visit, we sampled a pilsner from Gypsy Hill Brewery in Crystal Palace and a lager from Harviestoun Brewery. The one from Gypsy Hill was nice and refreshing; there was a slight sweetness, bit of bitterness and a hint of effervescence on the palette. The second one was much more maltier than hoppy. It was sweeter and we couldn’t really taste the bitterness. It went down nice and easy. Both could easily be classified as good summer beers. The Gladstone Arms keep rotating their beers and are not tied with any particular brewery, which keeps it new and exciting every time you visit.
Onto the food front, the menu is short and succinct. They have a tiny kitchen so are restricted in terms of what they can or cannot serve. On weekdays, they do homemade pies and on weekends they offer a Sunday Roast menu.
So what’s the big deal, you ask?
Well, the menu does come with a slight twist in the sense that all the food has been given an Indian makeover. So instead of a standard Beef and Ale Pie, we have Anglo-Indian pies such as Kid Goat Keema, Chicken Tikka Masala and Scrambled Paneer (cottage cheese). From Mondays through to Wednesdays, they do a Pie+Pint deal for £10, which is great value considering the location and quality of cooking.
They also do Beer snacks: largely it’s finger food that you can chow-down in one go and are available mostly on weekdays. We sampled the colourful and vegan-friendly Avocado Paapdi Chaat which is a new addition on the menu. Normal chaat (a savoury Indian street food snack) usually has yoghurt in it; here they have substituted it with smashed avocado. The whole ensemble is peppered with some fresh tomatoes, red onions, pomegranate seeds, chilli, mint, coriander, tamarind chutney and homemade spice mix. The result: tiny flavour bombs bursting with sweet, sour, spicy and crunch that we scoffed down in minutes.
Another snack we tried was the Smoked Goat Bun Kebab. It was outrageously good. Presented like a trio of sliders, the meat patty was juicy and aromatic from all the marination and spice rub. The addition of mango mayonnaise added a silky sweetness to it. We also really liked the mini brioche buns that were toasted, so had a warmth and firmness to hold it all in. Overall, these are a must-order from the beer snacks menu. My only suggestion would be to pull back the quantity of the mayo slightly so it doesn’t overpower the gorgeous meat patty and would also make it less sloppy to eat.
The key focus of our visit, however, were the Sunday Roasts which they have recently launched.
I opted for the Smoked Delhi Butter Chicken (with Bombay Potatoes, Greens and Yorkshire Pudding). It was a nice twist to the Chicken Roast dinner. There was a glorious breast of chicken resting on top of a butter chicken sauce (with chunks of chicken in it). The potatoes were nicely done and delicious, humming with that subtle Indian spicing. Instead of root vegetables, we had crispy fried okra which, as I discovered, goes very well with meat and potatoes. They change the vegetables seasonally so I will be intrigued to know what they do on other occasions.
Kris dived into Railway Lamb Chops (with Bombay Potatoes, Greens and homemade Yorkshire Pudding). The tender, full-flavoured lamb came on-the-bone, splayed over a mound of minced meat (keema) full of rich combination of spices. Meat lovers would lap this dish up.
Speaking of the Yorkshire pudding: the batter has been pimped up with aniseed and caraway seeds, so really you are getting a version of a naan bread in the disguise of a Yorkshire pudding. As crazy as it sounds, it actually works and went well with the spicy keema and creamy butter chicken sauce.
The portions were pretty substantial. Unlike other pubs where the portions of meat are measly and overcompensated by giant Yorkshire puds and heaps of root vegetables, here they are very generous with the meat. This is very much a homely meal to be shared with friends and family.
I know some purists will want to pick on the fact that this is not a typical Sunday roast because there is no ‘gravy’ on the side. However, the dishes come with lashings of deep, rich, meaty curry. If you are still not satisfied, you can ask for extra sauce to slather on top.
I know when it comes to traditional dishes, some things are not to be fiddled with. But when it’s thought-through and well-executed, I am all in. The food here resonated with us; it is more hearty than pretentious and the flavours come pretty close to how Indian food should be, whilst maintaining the essential concept of the dishes. Moreover, it is not overly fiery in a bid to be authentic or wimped down for western audience.
The Gladstone Arms is a destination pub. So far, the people have been making a beeline for their crowd-pleasing craft beers and Sunday live music sessions. Now, with the addition of the beer snacks, fusiony pies and mouthwatering Sunday Roasts, they have all the trappings of a beloved local in the making.
Location : 64 Lant Street, London, SE1 1QN
More information can be found here.
N.B. I was invited to review but all photos and opinions are mine.