You’re not spoilt for choice when it comes to pubs on the Greenwich peninsula. Luckily, The Pilot’s monopoly is welcome, dishing out well-kept beer and refined food in a neatly renovated setting.
Much of the Greenwich peninsula sits in the shadow of the O2, while the recent building work opposite is equally striking, garish and modern. This richly historic maritime district has not, however, been entirely stripped of its antiquities. Standing like a bastion against the march of modernisation – in part thanks to the grade II listed cottages that share the street – the Pilot proudly displays a plaque bearing the date 1801.
A short stroll from Greenwich North tube station or, if you have a head for heights, the Emirates Air Line, the recently renovated Pilot presents a well-kept exterior. The inside – seemingly cavernous, with a number of levels flowing into outside spaces – is just as neat. Exposed brickwork and the occasional nautical knickknack provide historical context, while the tables, chairs and other fittings are all reproductions – comfortable, fitting and effective, if becoming a little predictable of late.
Even on a Tuesday evening, The Pilot attracts enough of a crowd in the bar and dining areas to create a buzz. Given its proximity to the O2, demand can vary a good deal with events, but expect a blend of ages and sexes whatever the day. There is plenty of seating throughout, but you’ll find a quieter, more formal setting in the rear dining area. There is also the option of hiring a function room with its own terrace.
Proud of its compact seasonal menu, you can expect The Pilot’s dishes to change frequently. For a light start, try the New Forest venison carpaccio, served with a light salad and hazelnuts (£8.50). The delicately flavoured, incredibly fine slices of meat melt in the mouth, while parsnip crisps add tasty, contrasting texture. Alternatively, the beautifully arranged Gressingham duck breast salad with clementines (£8.50) offers robust, complementary flavours.
For mains, the 12-hour-braised Romsey pork belly (£17.50) is a rich, generous serving of succulent meat adorned with a beautifully crafted swirl of crackling and, more oddly, two tiger prawns; though perfectly cooked, these latter additions don’t quite stand up to the hearty flavours of the dish. The fish crumble offers well seasoned, expertly cooked fish with a nicely contrasting crunchy topping, although the poached egg that sits on top would add more if it was soft enough to run into the dish.
Just 13 miles from Fullers’ Chiswick Brewery, the bar is understandably well stocked with a good variety of well-kept beers, ranging from £3.75-£4.70. Keeping with the nautical theme, try a Bengal Lancer – a decent, full-flavoured interpretation of India Pale Ale. The wine list is also lengthy, with prices ranging from £4.25 a glass and £16.50 for a bottle.
The Last Word
The Pilot pleasingly contrasts with the bland, modern landscape in which it sits. Though a Fuller’s pub, it maintains an authenticity that the chain outlets of the nearby O2 sorely lack. A must if you find yourself at that venue, The Pilot is also worth going out of you way for just to enjoy its quality beer and food.