To mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day this weekend, MICHELLE TOMPKINS checks out a special wartime menu

MY late nan used to tell me tales of culinary hardship during WWII — cakes made without eggs, meat the size of a matchbox to feed the whole family, and (most unimaginable of all) sweets rationed to only once a month.

But after a visit to the Cold Harbour to sample its Kitchen Front menu — devised to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VJ Day this weekend — I suspect my sweet little nan might have been telling me fibs.

Because there’s nothing remotely lacking in this pub’s imaginative and mouthwatering line-up, and I certainly didn’t leave feeling hungry or deprived in any way.

If this is wartime eating, I can see why we scored victory in Japan in the first place.

Of course, the menu isn’t strictly what our grandparents were eating during the war years, rather a commemorative range of dishes to mark an important milestone.

Chef and Brewer, which owns the Cold Harbour, doesn’t claim authenticity, merely that the month-long menu is there to ‘celebrate the culinary delights of the 1940s with a thoroughly modern twist’.

For starters, there’s a choice of duck egg and asparagus soldiers (£5.29), or Tommy’s pea, mint and bacon soup (£3.69), and I went for the latter.

The vivid green soup was a vision to look at and even better to taste, with the salty bacon cutting perfectly through the delicate pea flavour. It was steaming hot too, just how I like it — hot enough to blister the roof of my mouth as I slurped it down greedily.

There are six main courses to choose from, from Dame Vera Dover sole (£15.99) to Cannon of Beef and Lord Woolton Pie (£16.99), cooked in a generous splosh of Spitfire Ale, but my eye was caught by a childhood favourite, Keep Calm and Corned Beef (£9.99), a dish which my old nan passed down from her own wartime years.

A posh version of corned beef hash, the meat was combined with pickled cabbage and cheese and shaped into croquettes to be fried. They were sat on a bed of roasted new potatoes, mixed beans and barbecued pulled pork, which might sound odd but actually gave a wonderfully tangy blend of flavours and textures. A poached egg sat on top of the lot, which would have added a sauce of sorts, had it not been over-poached and a little hard.

One big plateful of carbs and protein, it was probably lacking in some greenery on the side, but was incredibly filling and I struggled to finish it off. Cue a ticking off from granny.

Cinder toffee cheesecake (£4.99) and treacle tart (£4.79) are the choices for dessert, but my stomach was too full to contemplate either.

Neither could I manage to sample the Marston’s Help for Heroes Blonde Ale or the Hooper’s Dandelion and Burdock, which are recommended for washing the themed menu down with. But I did sip at a delicious glass of cabernet shiraz (£5.29) — my own modern twist on the 70-year-old menu.

My partner opted for a strictly 21st century meal by ordering from the pub’s regular selection.

Spiced breaded chicken (£4.49), not dissimilar to that mass produced by a certain Colonel, was his starter, which came with a garlic and rosemary mayonnaise, followed by the Chicken Makhani Tiffin box (£11.99), a stack of metal boxes offering a chicken tikka curry, black lentil dhal and yellow rice, served with garlic and coriander naan, a poppadum and dips. The dhal was singled out for special praise, but it all disappeared at great speed and was described as “the perfect pub choice”.

It was a Thursday night when we visited and the place was reassuringly busy — booking is probably best if you want to guarantee a seat.

I suggest you pop in this weekend and raise a glass to all those grannies and grandads, mums and dads, aunts and uncles who sacrificed so much during the war years. And thank them for being so jolly well ingenious with what little food they had.