With a name that sounds like it should be the setting of a Guy Richie movie, the Gunmakers is the sort of pub that, well, should be the setting of a Guy Richie movie. On the ground floor, it’s a nicely made over, very smart but old school boozer, as befits the sort of Marylebone pub that dates back to the 18th century and can claim one Winston Churchill as a former customer. Upstairs has been turned, apparently, into a comfortable, boutique hotel while the basement has been given a makeover into the Gunmakers Steak House, overseen by chef Mark Jarvis and sommelier Xavier Rousset. And very nice it is too, all greens and scarlet leather, wood tones and black and white tiles.
The menu is a lesson in economy that many places could do to learn, a single A4 sheet that takes you from starters to desserts, via steaks, sides, sauces and other mains. It’s a very efficient list of things you’d like to eat, at quite reasonable prices for the postcode, although on our visit, the overall experience was a little uneven.
It all started well enough, with the fine ale and oat bread, served with beef fat butter – I mean, it’s butter with beef fat, how could that not be a good start? – alongside decent whitebait because, well, it’s important to snack while perusing the menu.
Those were followed by good soft shell crab, with a cucumber, avocado salad and watercress aioli, and a very pleasing burrata, with chicory, orange and smoked almonds. No, there’s nothing big and clever here but that’s not a complaint. As mentioned above, it’s things you want to eat, well sourced, prepared with little fuss and left to their own devices.
Fish and chips too is a fine plate of food, a pub classic executed to the sort of high standard that is, somehow, still all too rare these days. The fish is pearlescent and perfectly steamed within its crisp, light, batter jacket, the chips are chunky, crisp without, fluffy within and taste of actual potato.
Where it goes wrong – well, not so much “wrong”, more “almost hilariously odd” – is with the steak. My colleague, another journalist and one similarly au fait with quality ingredients and restaurant weights and measures, has ordered around 200g of wagyu. When it comes, the one saving grace of its size is it gives me an opportunity to crack that old joke about the waiter asking “so, how did you find the steak?” and the customer replying “I just moved a couple of chips and there it was.” It wasn’t quite that miniscule but it certainly wasn’t the quantity billed. When we raise the issue with the server, he listens attentively and then says the sort of thing no server should ever say. “Oh, interesting,” he replies. “Our owner is in and he said exactly the same thing!” Er… so why has it happened twice then?
Regardless, while it sounds like someone in the kitchen should have sent back a delivery to the butchers rather than sent it out to punters, the problem is more the sourcing than the saucing as what’s there is well cooked and delicious. We also put a more positive spin on things by sharing mains and deciding that allows for a dessert, and the resulting sticky toffee pudding is exemplary. I should also note that the accompanying drinks are from a short but excellent by-the-glass list.
Judging by the online menu, things have been changed up a little at Gunmakers, with a greater focus on c. 200g bits of wagyu, which suggest that our hiccup has been sorted, and judging by the number of happy diners surrounding us, problems were the exception rather than the rule anyway. The Gunmakers was always a decent pub. Overall, it just got a little better.
33 Aybrook Street