Pub grub isn’t typically much to shout about, it typically serves winter warmers of pies, burgers and fish and chips. There are gastropubs with food of a higher calibre but again I find their key strength lies in the nourishing warming end of the food spectrum. And the less said about bar food the better, attempting to be of a higher class, it invariably commands a higher price bracket and doesn’t come close in the quality stakes. And just because you’re dining and drinking with colleagues to let your hair down after work, it doesn’t mean that one can be fobbed off with food not up to par.
Enter Forge. Located just a hop, skip and jump away from Bank station, it was Abacus bar in a former life, now having undergone a major refurbishment. On first sight, it’s a slick operation, booths at the back for a cosy chat, a big long table in the middle to host a big do and a buzzing front bar. But it all seems to mesh, the vibe is fun and energetic, helped along by the band London Essentials, playing lively tunes that has the most part of the bar and restaurant and staff all mouthing along to the words with a bounce in their step.
It’s very easy to talk us into cocktails, its not a Friday but one of the things I love about London is that every night has the potential to be party night. The incredibly friendly waitress tells us that we absolutely have to try her favourite champagne cocktails and I’m not one to turn down anything with the magic bubbly word in it, so we get one of each – sister opts for no 81, a blend of champagne, St Germain elderflower liquer, mint leaves and peach bitters. It’s an intriguing twist to have mint leaves in a champagne cocktail and one that works very well indeed. I’ve gone for no. 82 which combines champagne with vodka, cucumber juice and a bit of spice in the form of green cardamom. Again, cucumber isn’t an ingredient oft seen in champagne cocktails and now that I’ve tried this combo, I cannot understand why on earth it hasn’t!
The menu is quite meat intensive so if you’re planning to eat, come hungry. You could feasibly I think combine a couple of starters for a lighter meal but most of the menu is meat. Everytime I see soft shell crab on a menu, I have to order it so I start off with the Tempura soft shell crab served with confit potatoes and sister, since she’s meat-ing out for her main, has gone for the duck egg and chive mayo with asparagus and walnut bread. The tempura batter on the soft shell crab is a tad thick and not the light airy batter it should be, but it’s freshly cooked, warm and great in taste. Sister is somewhat perplexed by her egg mayo on toast as a starter, but the walnut bread is delicious, asparagus stalks tender and there’s nobody in my family that doesn’t love an Egg mayo.
For the main event, we opt to share one from the pit and one from the spit. From the spit, it’s got to be the Cider Belly Pork, marked as it is with a little star indicating a Forge ‘absolute must-have’. From the pit, we go for the Sirloin on the bone and conduct a little canny halving and sharing to get the best of both worlds. The pork belly is a large portion of perfectly cooked meat that flakes away at a gentle nudge of the knife, the crackling crispy and crunchy on top. The sirloin is cooked exactly as ordered, which is never seen before at any other bar or pub I’ve ever been to, further proof that this lot do know what they’re doing on this front. One thing lets the side down and that is the horseradish bhaji, that is far too thick and gluggy and isn’t at all as crispy as a bhaji should be.
That’s about the only complaint I could make though, the food was perfectly hitting the spot after work, relaxing with a drink and swaying in time to the band putting a little pep in my after work step. All this fun meant that there was just no room in there for dessert, an error I shall be rectifying immediately.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Forge. All opinions, as always, are my own.