A pub that’s welcoming to all, even if its food won’t be to everyone’s taste
Pubs may be a home away from home for many, but that’s not the case for everyone. As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, pubs were forbidding places when I was coming of age. Full of soaked, potentially aggro punters, unspoken rules I didn’t fully understand and overpriced soft drinks – pubs were places in which I did not feel welcome. Gastropubs, on the other hand, were a completely differently kettle of fish.
Gastropubs felt, looked and worked enough like restaurants that I could acclimatise myself to the booze-stained ways of my adopted homeland while filling my stomach. Some pubs serve old school pub grub or Thai food. The Perry Hill Pub, a 2021 revamp of a previously closed pub in Catford, takes a different tack.
Alongside a rotating selection of ill-defined yet you-know-it-when-you-see-it gastropub dishes, there’s a grab bag of American-style barbecue. With the sad demise of Miss P’s Barbecue in Croydon, the Perry Hill Pub is one of the few places serving US-ish BBQ in the south east London suburbs (that I know of).
Don’t break out the confetti though, not yet anyway.
Barbecue at the Perry Hill Pub
Pulled pork at most pubs tends to be an unspeakable abomination, a sign of a kitchen overreaching so far that they’ve fallen flat on their faces as a result. The effort at the Perry Hill Pub won’t set the world of barbecue alight, but it was respectable enough. Tender and lightly smoky with a meaty tang here and there helped along by dabs of sauce. There wasn’t enough bark or bounce though.
Brisket was tender, but that was really the only thing it had going for it. It didn’t have anywhere near enough bark or connective tissue for the multilayered mouthfeel and taste that makes barbecued brisket so rewarding to eat. If anything, the brisket here tasted more brined or cured – like its relative pastrami – than smoked low and slow.
Curiously, beef short rib was not only largely interchangeable with the brisket but also had the indignity of being served smothered in a sticky, generic sauce. It was almost not worth bothering with.
Gastropubby dishes at the Perry Hill Pub
If only the barbecued dishes showed even a fraction of the skill on display in the bacon loin. A firm bite with a tender follow-through tinged with fat and a light smokiness, its scoffability quotient heightened even further by helpings of mustard and tarragon. Not to mention the runny richness of a crisply-coated Scotch egg.
The quality of the bacon loin only made the so-so nature of the pork chops all the more baffling. Although the chops were ringed with reasonably plump strips of fat and had been browned relatively well, the white meat was still a little too hard for my liking.
Butterflied sardines made for a fine starter, all fleshy and briney.
The sloppy and oozy construction of the double cheeseburger may well have been designed for Instagram, but it also had me reaching for wads of napkins and hand sanitiser afterwards – which isn’t ideal for what is essentially a glorified sandwich. Even so, this was a highly respectable sandwich – the coarsely ground and gently chewy patties were full of meaty pleasure, even if they had been cooked well-done rather than something more pink. The melted American cheese and overabundance of chopped lettuce gave this burger a McDonald’s homage feel, but don’t hold that against it.
Deep-fried, the squidgy unctuousness of the lamb sweetbreads was lost amidst the crunch of the fine-crumbed coating. Still, these grease-free quasi-croquettes were enjoyable enough – especially when dunked in the hollandaise sauce. Even so, you’d be better off opting for the deep-fried celeriac if it’s available. Sweet, starchy and toothsome celeriac chunks came enrobed in a bready coating similar to the one wrapped around the sweetbreads, but with its vegetal qualities shining through much more brightly.
Desserts at the Perry Hill Pub
Oddly chewy peaches made for an unbalanced peach melba, but at least the citrusy, zingy ice cream was smooth and bracingly, refreshingly cold. The Perry Hill Pub apparently uses Hackney Gelato which explains why the ice cream was consistently pleasing – that’s one of the better ice creams available in the supermarkets.
Pecan pie suffered from stiff, cardboard-like pastry and not nearly enough caramelised brown sugar. But at least the kitchen hadn’t skimped on the pecans.
The best of the desserts that I tried had to be the raspberry jam doughnut ice cream sandwich. For once, the reality lived up to the billing – candy sweet jam and smooth, refreshing ice cream wedged into a sugary, soft and gently chewy English-style doughnut. It’s uncommon for fried dough and ice cream to feel and taste so at home with one another.
The Perry Hill Pub really isn’t worth bothering with if you have a hankering for barbecue. Texas Joe’s not only remains one of the best barbecue restaurants in London, it’s also a short jaunt up the mainline from Catford.
The Perry Hill Pub is on somewhat firmer ground with its gastropubby dishes, although even here there are wobbles and missteps. For every cheeseburger, celeriac or doughnut ice cream sandwich worth having, there’s a pork chop, lamb sweetbreads or peach melba that generally isn’t.
There are still good reasons to call this pub a home away from home though. The plentiful outdoor seating, protected by either palatial parasols or a gargantuan gazebo, count for a lot in a time where mixing indoors without proper ventilation can still pose a public health risk. When spliced with the friendly service and a generally efficient web-based ordering system, everything around the plate can be quite pleasing – even when the plate’s contents are not. Given the chaotic, liminal phase of the pandemic in which we now find ourselves, all of that counts for far more than it once did.
Name: The Perry Hill Pub
Branch tried: 78-80 Perry Hill, Catford, London SE6 4EY
Phone: 0208 161 3311
Opening Hours: Wednesday-Sunday noon-22.00.
Reservations: probably a good idea.
Average cost for one person, including soft drinks and service charge, when shared between three: £33 approx.