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Great pubs are becoming harder to find in London. Cheap supermarket alcohol has seen to it that many can simply not afford to stay open. For the initiated in South West London The Ship bucks the trend, harkening back to a simpler drunker time.
A brief walk down the river Thames and I often find myself rounding the corner of a cobbled street taking in the majesty in front of me. Sitting next to the river, The Ship spans an impressively large area. During cold winter nights the main pub is your refuge, propping yourself up next to the wood burning stove is a wonderful way to while away a bleak evening. When the days lengthen and the sun peeks out from behind the clouds the terrace will be your salvation. Basking like reptiles, yuppie patrons from miles around descend chatting and drinking, chinking glasses and smoking cigarettes as the shadows move around them. As a pub The Ship is wonderful, however the feather in this treasured establishment’s cap is the fantastic restaurant that sits on the side.
Walk through the main bar to the seductively lit area sectioned off at the back and you will find the restaurant. The atmosphere could not be more different, bare wood tables adorned with place settings and wine glasses, candles flickering in the centre. The noise from the bar dissipates as you follow a waitress to your table. On sitting down you are handed a menu, whilst also being told that the “Pub Classics” are on the board. These are your fan favourites, beer battered fish and chips, The Ship Burger, Pie and Soup of the day. It almost makes the menu surplus, draw your eyes downwards however and you will see why it is not. The menu screams refinement. Starters of Pheasant and Partridge, Crayfish Ravioli and alike immediately signal to you that this is no ordinary pub dinner. Main courses of Pork belly accompanied with fondant potato and bacon dumplings or Sea Bass with cauliflower purée and mussel cream look like they would be at home at the latest celebrity chef inspired creation.
I have tried many of the dishes on offer and I am yet to be disappointed. Beginning with the Pub Classics, the burger is something special for a pub and has the flavour and attention to detail to rival even the best that the capital has to offer. The chef Shaun Harrington understands the difficult simplicity required to make a burger special. Fantastic ingredients put together with care, love and attention. Each bite fills your mouth with wonderful clean flavours of beef, mustard, and cheese. The Meantime battered cod is always wonderfully crispy and accompanied by fresh hand cut chips cooked to perfection, not a frozen potato in sight. For those in a pie mood every offering is worth a try. Topped with deliciously golden puff pastry again it is unpretentious yet the ingredients and flavours in the filling scream quality.
For those who want a more refined experience the main menu delights and inspires. The Old Spot Pork Belly is an extremely accomplished crowd pleasing dish. Presented with the finesse of a Masterchef finalist and with flavours to match it is difficult to go wrong here. The Sea Bass reminds you of the ocean with wonderful salty fishy and mussel cream balanced out by the rich buttery leeks and earthy cauliflower purée, extremely satisfying and cooked very well. Reading the menu from top to bottom it is difficult to imagine receiving an unsatisfactory meal.
The Ship is more than a local pub, it is a venue for many an occasion. Pop in with your colleagues or friends for a quick drink, set yourself up for a sunny Sunday session by the barbecue and outdoor bar, or go there to enjoy a delicious, refined, very reasonably priced dinner with someone you care about. There are many reasons The Ship draws people from miles around, and I implore you on the next sunny weekend, take some time, get yourself down there, and find out what all the fuss is about.