A semi local of mine for a number of years has had it's most dramatic reinvention, from ugly local duckling to fully fledged gastro pub.
The owners, Capital Pub Co, are no newcomers to the market and (although owned by boozy behemoth Greene King) have form in taking down at heel sites and creating the kind of interesting, smart spaces that upwardly mobile locals don't mind spending their bucks in. They've certainly done it with near neighbours the Victoria, the Florence and the Actress, none of which I object to wasting time in at all.
Walking into the handsome Victorian space, there's an initial sense that the design team may have done it again. A bustling bar opens onto an extensive beer garden. The big open plan kitchen and a light airy space already full of Dulwich refugees would indicate the design team at least can award themselves another tick.
That being said, there's definitely a lot of settling in to do here. Both behind the bar and on the other side of the pass. If you're going to put burgers on the menu in the former site of a Meatwagon pop up then you'd better make sure that they're blood(il)y good. On examination, these are poor at best. A jerk chicken burger is a neat nod to nearby Rye Lane, but this verged on anaemic. If there was any seasoning to it at all it was a light dust that did nothing for the dry breast.
The too solid, too gray steak burger came without the cheese ordered (at an extra quid) but after a 50 minute wait we didn't send it back. Buns were workmanlike and nothing to write home about. Neither burger was hideous, but there was definitely an air of disinterest about them. Accompanying chips were prepped like mini skinless roasties but had spent too little time in direct heat and glistened, pale and uninteresting, on a cliched chopping board. Bread and olive oil was frankly random. The oil and (very cheap) balsamic came served in a tiny teacup, necessitating drowning the bread in oil to get any balsamic. We didn't finish it, they didn't ask why...
Service is another area of early concern. It's hurried, harried and amateur, if at least charming. A perpetual bugbear of mine, none of the staff knew who was next, picking punters at random and raising the temperature the other side of the counter. Despite there being four behind a not very busy bar, we still had a ten minute wait. Guys, you've got some really competent staff in the group, surely you could have shipped a couple in and not had an entire crew of newbies on at a new pub?
Sure it's a local boozer, and they've only been open a few weeks, but I think it's a fair comment if you're going to charge me £17 for two glasses of wine and a lager, and push food out at Michelin prices in Peckham. Admittedly the pricing is Arbutus rather than Ducasse but the point still stands.
Despite this, I know I'll be back. It's close by, convenient for mates and the allotment and I hope it will settle down, but they need to really up their game on this showing.