The Green Pea is a small, unassuming restaurant in an old student bar in Greenwich and it serves some of the best food in London. Which is obviously some of the best food in the world. You can find them at 92 Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9UW.
I first met Tom six years ago, almost exactly. It was a cold afternoon in early February and my husband, Mark, and I had only arrived in London to live a few days earlier. We were trying to find a flat and particularly liked the idea of living in Greenwich, so a real estate agent had been showing us around property in the area. We were feeling chipper as we’d put an offer in on a flat and were 80% sure the stress of the search was over. As we headed back to the train station we decided to grab some lunch.
Cheap pub food was our staple for eating out in those days, while we were still living on Kiwi dollars and looking for permanent employment. As we passed by Hardy’s Freehouse on Trafalgar Road we noticed a little restaurant named The Green Pea operating on the right hand side of the premises. This would do. As you can probably guess, we weren’t expecting much. Maybe just some fish’n’chips to be gobbled quickly and never thought of again.
Instead, we got a mad Irishman and one of the best feeds London could have offered. Once we’d moved into our new home we frequented The Green Pea most Sundays for Tom’s beautiful food, cheerfully hilarious company and his stack of classic novels that he’d kindly let me borrow to read on the train ride to work.
I must admit, our visits became less frequent over the last couple of years, as my schedule became more hectic, my husband began working on the weekend and I got into the habit of not wearing trousers on Sundays (which of course meant I didn’t leave the house on Sundays. I’m not Lady Gaga, you know).
Ergo, when friends decided to visit us Greenwich and the date that worked best for everyone also happened to be my birthday, I was allowed to choose the restaurant we would feast in and a trip to The Green Pea was nothing short of the obvious choice. It was the right choice; it remains as perfect, unorthodox and as delicious as ever.
It’s a small restaurant with a small team. Tom does the cooking. He has a couple of people helping him out with serving and waiting and what not, but Tom is the star of the show. There are no menus. Tom just stands with you, pokes fun at your men folk and rattles off a list of what he’s been cooking today. I’m sure if you asked he’d tell you the prices, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all absolutely affordable. He doesn’t leave you to ponder your choice, you have to tell him what you want right way. In truth this isn’t a big deal because there’s no wrong answer. Everything is delicious. You just need to know if you want chicken, lamb, beef, vegetarian or pork. Answer quickly. Answer confidently. Don’t ask for Tom to constantly repeat the menus over and over again, or else you’ll get a bollocking. Frankly, you deserve it and it’ll be most entertaining for everyone else (just quietly, I may know people who come here especially for the bollocking).
The Green Pea is a place where time is fluid. You might have a booking for 8.00pm, but you might not be seated until 8.15pm. The team is small and they want to make sure everyone is happy and they night goes at a pace they can handle. As it’s always full of people this can mean some maneuvering. It’s not like one of those restaurants in central London where they want to get you in and get you out like clockwork. It’s more like visiting friends, so, you might have to spend half an hour with a bottle of wine on their couch before getting to your table. It’s a casual, laid back vibe. It’s also BYO, though you can get drinks from the pub next door and bring them in.
The star of this foodie show is the pie. Now, let me explain something to you: I’m not really a pie lover. When someone asks the question “who ate all the pies?” the answer is very rarely “Frankie”. They’re usually stodgy, greasy and made with leftover bits and pieces that wouldn’t be acceptable in any other dish. Not at The Green Pea. Tom’s pies are a feat of culinary genius and I have no frigging idea how he does it. They are unlike any other pie I’ve ever eaten, but they’re not renegade, newfangled hipster pies. They’re traditional pies. But they’re good pies.
Really good pies. Pies you’d dream about for days, crawl over a field of broken glass and lego and then them swim through a lagoon of alligators to get to. Pies that make you lose all sense of moral decency. Seriously, if Tom’s steak and Guinness pie came to life, sat down with me and had a tearful heart to heart, begging me not to eat him, I’d go full dragon on that punk pie and gobble him down like hunger was the new black. That’s right. I’d give up the opportunity to rake in the fame and fortune that would clearly come from ownership of the world’s only talking pie in order to enjoy ten minutes of delicious, meaty heaven. I’m not messing around here.
One of my table companions even declared, “I’m in food heaven.” Apparently, if you have an Irish grandmother, the memories will come flooding back once the food arrives. The pies come with potatoes, and big dishes of broccoli, carrots and cabbage are placed on the table among multiple gravy boats. There is no chance of you running out of food. The folks who didn’t want pies ordered lamb shanks, and an order of ham an eggs. The ham was some of the best ham my husband has ever tasted, and he’s still going on about the eggs. He can’t figure out how Tom managed to cook them to absolute perfection like that.
It might not be the artiest of presentation, but it’s the best tasting food you’ll eat all weekend (and you might not want to eat much else, it’s very filling).
Once you’ve eaten as much as you can, they’ll give you sweets to help you decide if dessert is in your future. If you can do it, definitely go for dessert. He makes all kinds of delicious cakes and sweets in that kitchen, from chocolate fudge, to apple pie and Bakewell Tart. If Tom’s running out of something he’ll even make you up a special ‘smorgasbord’ dessert comprised of the bits and pieces of everything else. I’m struggling to find new ways to portray how good it all is. The chocolate fudge is the kind of delicious that witches build huts out of. Seriously. It’s like the chocolate you remember from your childhood. That good.
Of course, I had the obligatory “Happy Birthday” sing along when my chocolate fudge arrived. The rest of the restaurant joined in, people arrived from other tables to kiss me and wish me many happy returns. I even got invited to Ireland. That’s pretty typical of the jovial atmosphere in The Green Pea. It really is like one big, family dining room.
I can’t actually gush about this much more, it’s making me hungry. Just go to The Green Pea. I recommend calling them to book your table, because they’re busy people. But go on a night where you have plenty of time to enjoy the whole experience and you won’t be disappointed. Best. Food. In. London. Price wise, you’re looking at around £20 a head. We were happy to round up to £20 a head due to the collective foodgasm we’d just experienced.
I went to the Green Pea of my own volition and we paid for our meals out of our own money. Tom did shout me a dessert because it was my birthday, but only because he’s a nice guy. He didn’t know I was going to write about it and these are obviously all my own opinions. If you don’t believe that by now then I’m really at a loss as to why you’re still reading this blog 😉