You are here: Southwark \ A BIT CHEESY BUT WELL WORTH THE VISIT
25 July 2012
aka Mug House
1-3 Tooley Street
Those who shock easily should look away now, I have some startling news: André the Giant did not die in Paris nine years ago, he is alive and well.
At least, the 7’4” man-mountain seemed to be OK on Monday when I saw him last.
Fans of the old wrestler and star of The Princess Bride should head directly to the ancient little corner of Southwark next to London Bridge, by the Cathedral, to judge for themselves.
But it seemed almost normal to see him there, old André, because the Swiss – who should have a few giants among them (living as they do, in the mountains, where giants come from) – have moved in and taken over the square that looks over the river, next to Glaziers Hall.
André was there – at least I think it was him – a full head and shoulders taller than everyone else, enjoying what looked to be a relatively small pint of lager. It may be that the cunning Swiss had brought him out of hiding to compete in their Olympic team, which they’ve based on the South Bank for the duration – he’d certainly be a shoe in for the Greco-Roman wrestling team.
We followed him to the pub under the arch, the Mug House, which the Swiss have also taken over and transformed it into a mountain chalet. No joke, the staff are all Swiss (or at least they pretend very well) and they’re all dressed up in their national garb - the full flowery dirndl type dresses and milk-maid gear.
André – who had been accosted by some well-meaning Bermondsey fellow telling him about Shakespeare – was sat outside, but there were no free tables to gawp at him from so we were forced inside.
As you walk in the old bar, temporarily known as the Bernese Chalet, it gives you a punch on the nose with a thick smell of molten cheese. And for a hungry man, as I was, there are few better smells. On the menu is a selection of very traditional Swiss and Alpine type dishes cooked up by Swiss restaurateur Anton Mosimann.
Anyone who’s ever been skiing or just visited the area will recognise some of them, such as raclette and fondue. I also recognised the kirsch (pokey cherry brandy – not at all sweet).
Scenes of Swiss countryside have been mounted on the walls and backlit to give them the feel of sunny vistas onto rolling green hills. If you can ignore the very stationary cows with their fixed stares you might be magically transported to the Alps in no time or, at the most, in two kirsches.
I ordered the raclette, of course. It was either that or go outside to their street stall and have one of the massive bratwursts and another pint watching André. Meanwhile, my date for the evening was Buttercup, who had the Bernese style chicken and chips in a basket – didn’t seem massively Swiss, but I certainly enjoyed watching her chase the basket around the polished table as she tried to get at it all evening.
My raclette was on the other hand, was classic and great. The potatoes arrived in a folky little red draw string cloth bag and the cheese came, not as a whole piece of raclette complete with your own burner, but already molten on the plate. Initially I was a bit disappointed, part of the fun is hacking away at the slab of it on the table, but it didn’t stop me tucking in.
The waitress came over and ground some pepper on it, there were little pickles to eat with it, and some paprika, and to top it all, she even brought me seconds. No one apart from my nan has been that enthusiastic about me having seconds!
So after a bag of spuds and two plates of cheese, I’m sorry to say that there was little room for dessert. I did squeeze in a lemon sorbet though, which was nice and as thick as ice cream but refreshing, followed by a lovely little kirsch.
On the whole I really enjoyed the Swiss chalet on the banks of the Thames. It wasn’t the ideal place to be on a hot summer’s evening, but the food was good and filling, the service was extremely friendly, novel, not hugely expensive, and I can still smell the cheese on my shirt.
So go and give it a try, it’s only there two weeks - and there might even be a giant.
and fries £14.00
Lemon sorbet £2.00
*I’d love to tell you how much the drinks were, but I lost the receipt
on the way home. Sorry!
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