Restaurant Reckoning: The Mug House
When I was a wee bairn I practically wore out my VHS copy of Oliver! There was pretty much nothing I didn’t love about that film, batey Mr Bumble bellowing “ONE BOYYYYYYYYYYYY BOYYYYY FOR SAAAAAAAALE”, the Artful Dodger’s opening gambit, “Ain’tcha never seen a toff?” (which I can verify from experience, does not work well as a chat-up line) and the way Bill Sykes hollers “BULLSEYE. CAM ‘ERE” (is it a bit weird that I fancy Oliver Reed quite a lot in that film? The bit where he goes to Nancy, “COURSE AH LOVE YA AH LIV’ WIV YA DUNNEYE” always gives me a slight fanny gallop.) I fell in love with the portrayal of Dickens’s London, the lively characters meeting in the nooks and crannies of the city to make their deals and swig their gin. So I was really quite charmed by a visit to The Mug House in London Bridge this week, as it felt as if Dickens had conjured this place right out of his pages.
Hidden away under London Bridge itself, this little gem fared exceptionally well for a pre-theatre scoff (‘The Color Purple’ at The Menier by the way- I mean, I WEPT and SOBBED.) Upon walking in the door you’re slapped round the face with the atmosphere- regardless of the fact it was one bazillion degrees outside, in here wax dripped down candles and I felt as though I was drinking in the very vaults of London Bridge. Pewter tankards hang from the bar, the ceilings are low and sawdust gives a slight crunch under your feet as you pad about the place. I am also massively intrigued as to what a mug of ‘Wallop’ is. I imagine a bit like a Victorian pint of Hooch.
For such a charismatic boozer, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. I am not ashamed to say that we used a 50% deal via Toptable (not all us fabulous female lifestyle bloggers can afford to eat at full price all the time I always think it tastes better when you know it’s a bit of a steal as well.) and we tucked into a menu teeming with well executed British classics. I started with Squid, Garlic and Parsley on Toast which came perfectly cooked with a healthy dollop of garlic mayo. Squid should only ever be easy and a joy to eat. If it feels like you’re chewing away on something rubbery enough to be used as a breast implant, the chef has done it wrong.
My Ma went for Shaved Raw Asparagus, Soft Goat’s, Cheese Oven Roasted Tomatoes & Sherry Dressing. Crunchy asparagus, creamy cheese all held together with a piquant sherry dressing. WELL PLAYED MUGS.
I went all out and had sirloin steak, which was solidly great- perfectly cooking and dripping in herb butter. However, the real star here were the chips. My Pa says he’d love to chuck it all in one day soon and spend his days roaming the country on the hunt for the nation’s best chip. Too oft are we served up soggy little waifs of french fries masquerading as chips. They should be crisp on the outside, piping hot and soft on the inside with a slight saltiness to them. ENTER THE MUG HOUSE CHIPS STAGE RIGHT. Cooked in beef dripping (SO Dickens-fab) these ticked all the boxes. Dukan who?
Madre opted for the char-grilled chicken, which to be fair was a bit like a tarted up Caesar salad, although with more of that show-stopping aoili to boot, this Caesar salad was dressed to the nines in it’s Sunday best.
Another slug of gin and an ooh and an ah at the old fashioned curios dotted about the shelves and walls and we stumbled back out, blinking and bewildered onto the streets of the modern day city. As we wandered to the theatre via Borough Market, I couldn’t help but absent-mindedly hum ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’ under my breath. Half-price steak, large gins, decent chips, with flavours of musical theatre and literature? I CONSIDERED MYSELF thoroughly satisfied. This joint might just be my new favourite. I’LL ‘BE BACK SOON’ (I’ll stop now).
The Mug House
1-3 Tooley Street,
Nearest Tube: London Bridge