“ 171-173 Bermondsey Street / London SE1 3UW / Tel: 020 7357 6082. „
Normally this section paragraph is where I write some witty (hopefully) mood setting babble, but this time, luckily for all of you review readers out there, there is no mood to set. So let's just get on with it, I am going to be reviewing Village East, it is where Snarf and I go when we can't be bothered to cook, or just want a quick drink, it is our closest drinking hole.
Where is Village East?
Village East is located on the fashionable Bermondsey Street, which is a very short walk from London Bridge Underground & Mainline station & about 5 mins from my front door. I have attached a map to help you all out.
Why Should I go?
There are plenty of reasons to be in this particular area of London, Village East is within a stones throw of many popular London attractions, such as Borough Market, The Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Tower of London & London Fashion & Textiles Museum (which is on the same street). Or if you live locally, or work locally, well, you have no excuse!
The people that created Village East are the same people that created The Garrison (a Gastropub half way between the Fashion & Textiles Museum & Village East), but, is more geared towards a chic bar atmosphere, rather than a traditional gastropub. from the name and interior layout, you would assume that they are trying to replicate a chic Manhattan bar atmosphere.
Village East has a quirky layout, I believe that Village East is housed in an old warehouse, the current owners have removed the front of the building and clad the whole lot in glass. The place is split into lots of different "mezzanine" levels, there are stairs going up and down everywhere. There are two sections to the bar, the first is on the ground floor and is the first part of the bar that you enter.
What sort of people frequent this place?
On a Friday and Saturday night the crowd is very different from weekdays, on a Friday and Saturday night a whole load of suits turn up, city boys, city girls, all chatting about how cool they are and how wonderful they are and how their latest stocks, shares, bonds or whatever have just bagged them another cool million. This is the sort of place that people go to be seen and a place that people go to compare themselves to others. The other sort of clientele are luvvies, Bermondsey street has become hugely populated by the gay crowd, and they all seem to like the finer things in life.
I would assume that a lot of the people in this bar on a Friday or Saturday are local to the area, there are a lot of luxury flats along this one street and in the surrounding area, as there are not that many bars in the area I assume they are all flocking here, as it really is a nice chic place and there is not much for the locals of a weekend evening.
During the week however, it is a different story, the bar is chilled out and relaxing, it is a lovely atmosphere and it does feel quite chic and elegant. Do not let my rantings put you off going down at a weekend for food as the dining area has a completely different feel and a lot of the city boys and girls are on the liquid diet, so stay contained to the bar area.
Filling your face at Village East
As mentioned Snarf and I come here on a pretty regular basis, there is a brilliant selection of food available, Village East's head chef, Martin Caws has an extremely impressive resume, two years at Mirabelle (one Michelin star), five years with three Michelin starred chef Marco Pierre White, a year with Tom Atkins, well you get the idea.
So what do you get from the kitchen of such a great chef? Well you will definitely not be disappointed, but there is a price to pay, there are a couple of dishes that are fairly standard on the menu and do not tend to change often, but there are always specials to entice you away from their regular menu. There are always a couple of veggie options available too.
Snarf and I have tried most things on the menu, and to be honest the food is OK, don't get me wrong, it is not OK like say a middle of the road restaurant, but I would have expected something more from such an acclaimed chef. To give you an idea of the menu starters include Duchy of Cornwall rock oysters (prices start from £9.20 - £20.50), to be honest, Snarf and I never really go for starters here, we are normally only looking for a quick bite to eat.
So swiftly onto the main courses - we actually ate here last Friday, and I noticed a new addition to their menu - a burger at the princely sum of £14.90, to be fair, the burger was served with foie gras, so I guess that makes it OK(!). In the end Snarf opted for the Steak Frites with Béarnaise Sauce, you can opt for anchovy butter instead (which we have had before and is very nice), for Snarf's steak avec frites, they demanded £15.80, I went for the Denham Estate venison sausages, sauerkraut, alsace bacon & thyme jus (which did look rather florescent green!) this set us back £13.70. Since a lot of the dishes do not come served with sides, do bear in mind that you might like to order some sort of potato dish & some sort of veg dish to go with your food, Snarf and I normally opt for the Fine French Beans (£3.00), these are divine, and soooo buttery ohh excuse me, I do believe my mouth is watering! Other options (all £3.00) are Sauerkraut (very tasty), Rocket & Parmesan, Purple sprouting broccoli (an excuse to make us pay £3 because it is purple), Fries, Mash etc etc.
Other notable options on the menu are:
The chateaubriand, which comes served with green beans, chateau potatoes & béarnaise sauce (£34.80 allowing 30mins preparation time), which actually has to be the most barganous option on the menu, since it comes with sides and is one of the only dishes on the menu that actually has sides included, oh and it is for two people to share, and it is also quite romantic to share food - people do not do enough sharing of fodder these days.
Grilled lobster, montpellier butter & fries (£16 for half & £29 for a whole lobster) this is really good and looks very impressive, but even a whole lobster is probably only enough to satisfy a small appetite.
Fish and chips, peas and mint purée (fancy mushy peas) & tartar sauce (13.50), another barganous choice - two large slices of fish, big enough to satisfy any appetite!
Finally, not always on the menu, but pretty much always available - muscles, very good value, and about £14, although I can't remember whether you get fries with that.
What is the service like?
Paying these sorts of prices, you would expect good service, every time we have been the service has never been exceptional, but it has never been bad either, the staff are very laid back, and I suppose this is down to the atmosphere that they are trying to create. Last Friday however, the food wasn't great, we arrived at about 9pm and managed to get a table (booking is not always required, but it is advisable if you have arranged to meet friends for dinner, we have never booked and always got a table, even at 9pm on a Friday night), as usual, we were seated & not hurried. As we were waiting for our food, we heard a table next to us complain that they had been ignored for 20 mins - all they had wanted was the dessert menu! We patiently waited for our food and when it arrived we found that Snarf's steak was not only over-cooked, but cold. My sausages were warm, but I think that was to do with the sauerkraut being really hot and they were being warmed by the sauerkraut another thing was that neither of the plates had been warmed - which I thought was unacceptable. We actually complained and sent the steak back, and to the staffs credit, a new steak, perfectly cooked this time, along with new beans and new fries were replaced within 8 mins. I have a feeling that the timing in the kitchen was off that night and they left the steak to one side.
When we asked for our bill, the waitress politely pointed out that there was a service charge on the bill and asked if we wanted to pay it, we paid it anyway, as it wasn't the waitresses fault, which we thought was really nice.
All the food is also available in the bar area and bar snacks are quite good - don't expect a pack of crisps, expect wasabi nuts (£2) or something along those lines.
To sum it all up
Village East is a cocktail & wine hang out, although they do serve quite a few beers, cocktails start at about £6.00 & there is usually a guest cocktail being featured. There is a good selection of wines (by the glass, half bottle & bottle) also champagnes (by the glass, half bottle & bottle) & a couple of beers.
The food is OK, but don't expect too much, expect to be paying inflated "trendy" prices for OK food, drinks are not overly expensive and Village East is a nice place to hang out or have a gathering of friends for a party (private rooms are available if you need). I know I haven't really bigged this place up, but it is a nice place to go, if you dont go regularly (like we do) it is a nice treat in a nice atmosphere, but to be honest after a while the city boys & girls doing coke in the toilet can get a bit tiresome, especially if you really need to pee!
Stuff to Know:
London Bridge is the closest mainline & tube station, Village East is leisurely 10 mins walk.
Currently half the bar & half the restaurant allow smoking.
All major credit cards are accepted.
Opening Hours - Mon thru Thursday midday - 11:30, Friday & Saturday, late closing at 1:30, Sunday early closing at 11.
www.villageeast.co.uk - a nice quirky website, with floorplans and other useful stuff, notice the background of the main site is the same as the place mats (which always provide Snarf and I hours of entertainment whilst waiting for our food!)