The Gun - Public House- in The Docklands

"The Gun" gastropub in the Docklands is indeed a rare place. With several awards attached to its name, its has a fascinating and tangible history. It was Nelson's local, won the best dining pub title by the Good Pub Guide 2010 editor, beating about 6,000 venues; in 2005 it got the Time Out's best gastropub award and has recently re-re-opened after a muted and classy refurbishment. Last Friday, it offered us a once in a "some-time" experience. The first impression was that for all its history, uniqueness and awards, The Gun remains a local pub and a good one too.

The Gun's fascinating history.

There has been a public house on the site of The Gun for over 250 years. The pub dates back to the early 18th century. It took its current name from the cannon which was fired to celebrate the opening of the West India Import Docks in 1802.
In the late 18th century, Lord Horatio Nelson acquired a property just up the road (still known as Nelson’s House) Lord Nelson would frequent The Gun and regularly meet Lady Emma Hamilton in an upstairs room (now called The River Room) for their secret assignations.

The Maitre d'ho opened the River Room for me, it has recently been restaured to its former grandeur. Engulfed by the smell of wood and beeswax I had no difficulties to let my imagination run. I was on the deck of a boat with the sea around me, it even had an imperceptable sway that it because this room with its high ceilings is high up above the river so one get the impression to be at sea. In the river room you really are "at the captain's table."

In 2001, a terrible fire destroyed much of the interior of the old building and the pub remained closed for 3 years. Then, current owners and brothers Tom and Ed Martin acquired the premises and spent about 9 months painstakingly restoring the magnificent Grade II listed building in close consultation with English Heritage. And they have done a really good job of it.

Though now delicately painte white with its wood stacks in the walls enclosure, as a designer statement, but also as a practical way to feed the various rooms' open-fires, it has an air of repectability. But it has not always been the case.

The Gun has a long association with smugglers landing contraband on the site and distributing it via a hidden tunnel. To this day there is still a spy-hole in the secret circular staircase to watch out for “The Revenue Men”. The air of secrecy lives on.

In one of the room I was shown a conceled panel, with a small tape on the joint, the wood creaked and dropped to reveal ...........a portrait of one of its alumni.

As the docks on the Isle of Docks flourished so did the pub, becoming the local for dockers, stevedores and boatmen. Remaining very popular today. On Friday evening, the restaurant room was full, nicely busing. We were shown to a table for 2, snuggly placed at the back where we had a good view of the diners and yes the table wobbled but I am yet to visit a restaurant where tables do not quaver.

The Gun - a food experience

The waitress brought plain and rosemary square rolls, I am telling you square rolls are all the trend. That or it is a small clue telling you "Not only a pub but a gastro pub." In pubs, you normally don't get square rolls. Too often, you don't get any bread of any description, outside that in your sandwich. Pubs do not offer you bread, you have to ask for it....if you are brave enough.

I agonised over the choice of starters. I wanted Pig’s head terrine & Smoked eel. Of course these 2 traditional pub dishes don't really go together, I needed to choose. Decision, decision.

This is when I remembered that my neighbourg -Mrs Taylor- not long ago entertained me with the tales of the 40's, when she grew up. They (people in general) had only 2 delicacies to perk up the boiled vegetables, eel and pig.
By the look on his face, he possibly would have starved if he had been of a previous generation. The Gun's menu which offers game broth, ox tongue, snails, potted shrimps, oysters possibly feed his nightmares. However, on the specials board there were filet of venison with mushroom, shallots, girolles and onions that solved the crisis.

My terrine was slightly too "loose" but very, very tasty and he liked his venison. Though pulled a funny face when he realised the elegant starter was a carpaccio version and each thin slices had barely spent more than 30 seconds in a searing hot frying pan. It may well have been a first for my partner but I am sure that he liked it: "But not as an every day dish, you understand".

Quiet right as this is not every day's food, and in my humble opinion it deserves its Time Out’s Best Gastropub title.
Break/Onto the main, that gave us a little time to observe the service which was variable but definitely pleasant. On the main courses list, besides the fishcakes and the risotto reminiscent of pub food (at least in names), the rest of the offerings are more like restaurant food. I opted for Roast Swinton Moor (Yorkshire) red leg partridge, braised legs, choux farci, salsify, game jus which was definetly the best cooked partridge, I ever had, moist to perfection, certainly a satisfaying generous portion, the presence of salsify rejoiced me no end. He chose Mallard on a bed of mash vegetable with chips and extra chips from the specials. The wild duck was liked too.

By then, we were both full so we opted for the cheese to finish our Gigondas (as the expression goes in France: un petit peu de fromage pour finir ton vin? or if you are lucky, un petit peu de vin pour finir ton fromage.) In this case we also had a glass of aged Port.
The plateau was composed of
Golden Cross, East Sussex (soft, goat’s milk, unpasteurised)
Montgomery Cheddar, Somerset (extra mature, hard, cow’s milk, unpasteurised)
Fourme d’Ambert, Auvergne, France (creamy blue, cow’s milk, unpasteurised)

The bill for would have come up £128 for two including drinks and coffees.
It was time for our verdict in digits. The Gun scored a high 8.5.

"Proper" beer on the terrace with a view of the dome and the river added to the pleasure of an evening in a historical place which cleverly combines traditional British pub food and the restaurant experience.

Reservations: 020 7515 5222
Coldharbour, London E14 9NS

May not be the easiest place to get to but having said that it is not that difficult if you are prepared to walk more than 5 minutes and less than 10 from a tube station- buses are almost just outside-
Canary Wharf (DLR)
Blackwall (DLR)
South Quay (DLR)

The Gun has private dining rooms for 14, 22 or 70 people and we can host parties for up to 200
More Gun's reviews on

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