96 Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 0EF
020 3475 0030/greatgunssocial.com
As we witness the decline of the traditional British ‘boozer’ it’s fascinating to see how those spaces reinvent themselves. Great Guns Social calls itself “a creative hub and restaurant” and is set in a converted pub on the Southwark Bridge Road. It has become well known for hosting a rolling programme of restaurant pop-up residencies curated by Chef Maria Elia. It’s a smart move that allows new talent a space to develop whilst creating variety for the local clientele.Resident chef until 8th September at Great Guns Social is Grant Hawthorne, bringing “Southern Grill by African Volcano” to the Borough hotspot. Grant and African Volcano are regulars at nearby Maltby Street Market but the “Southern Grill” offer is a new venture for him. He calls it “an exploration of Southern-style cooking the world over; from Southern America to South Africa and Southern Europe”. African Volcano began when South African Grant and his wife Julie launched their own Mozambique-style Peri Peri sauces in 2012 with the next step being the launch of African Volcano as a street food offer.With African Volcano having been named as one of the ‘top 22 things to eat in London’ by GQ magazine and listed in Buzzfeed’s ‘21 London streetfoods to eat before you die,’ I’m really excited to see what the “Southern Grill“ concept delivers.The interior of Great Guns Social is dark and sexy with a boho, rock’n roll edge. Filament light bulbs and exposed pipe work add to the atmosphere.But all this appreciation of the design has made me thirsty. Cocktails were surprisingly elegant and delicious. A spicy dry Mai Tai was a blend of house rums with dry Curaçao, whilst a light and frothy London Sour mixed Sacred Cardamon Gin, lemon juice, egg white with sugar syrup topped up with red wine in a local take on the classic New York Sour. We soaked up the drinks with moreish sourdough bread, studded with olive and rosemary (£4).The menu offers small plates as well as larger so we ordered a couple as starters. Rich, spicy southern Peri Peri prawns came grilled with a tomato pilaf (£9). The Peri Peri sauce added a real depth of flavour to the prawns without overwhelming them. This was the perfect dish for a cold and rainy evening. Eat your heart out Nandos!Rissois – Mozambique style crab croquettes (£9) – were delicious with a crisp pastry shell (imagine crabby samosas) and the brown crab meat flavour really coming through.
After cocktails it’s always wine time. A mineral Grillo and a smooth Malbec were great accompaniments for the mains which had to be burgers since Grant had won second-place in the prestigious National Burger Awards earlier this year – it would have been churlish not to try them.A mushroom burger with Emmental cheese (£10) was rich and juicy whilst the beefburger with Emmental cheese and Peri Peri sauce (£13) and crispy bacon was tender and full-flavoured. I wish someone would teach me how to eat burgers this big though – so different from the old days at the Wimpy…We also had an excellent mixed leaf salad which came with with summer tomatoes and a smooth balsamic cream (£5).And then dessert. A creamy Portuguese coffee flavoured custard flan (£6) tasted like a Tiramisu but with the classic Spanish flan consistency. I loved this as a traditional flan can be a little bland at times.
I’d love to have a cool hangout like Great Guns Social near me. With the guest pop-ups giving variety on the food front it’s the perfect local joint and a clever 21st century reworking of the traditional pub. African Volcano is well worth checking out for an authentic Peri Peri experience and those Southern and Mozambiquean flavours.