I’ve previously reviewed the Gilbert Scott cookbook, in which I pointed out how much of a serious chef Marcus Wareing is. 2 Michelin stars and a being a former Ramsey and Roux protege is a remarkable pedigree.
So, I was very excited to have a table at his new venture, The Gilbert Scott in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London recently.
The decor is epic; exactly as you can imagine it would’ve been when it first opened in the 1870s. High, gilded ceilings, ornate decorations, including a chandelier made from bells. Yes bells.
The cocktails to start are all masterfully engineered, the one I had was an award winning gin affair called a “meadow sweet”, and would be worth visiting just for drinks. But that’s an aside, the food is the star here.
The dining room itself is clean, crisp and well ordered; this is slightly at odds with the more informal brasserie style menu though. When not too busy, the cavernous restaurant can seem a little intimidating – especially as the windows are huge and so it is well lit. I am sure when it is busier in the evenings, it is a different story though.
And now a rant. Gilbert Scott has a two pound cover charge. This irritates me as much as paying to enter a nightclub – a tax on your patronage; it’s an “overhead” that should otherwise be absorbed elsewhere, unless you expect a bunch of students to turn up and just drink tap water whilst nursing a side of fries for 2 hours. I’d much rather be charged for something so I get a perception of value; only have bottled water for example, or charge for the basket of bread. However, a quick mental calculation suggests that the obviously homemade (and delicious) bread which was offered in biblical feeding of the 5,000 quantities and the iced (and I even think filtered) tap water would’ve set us back more than £4.00 in my way of doing things, so in fact the cover charge is very good value for money; this resulting paradox of demonstrable fact versus my principles/ideology just makes me even more irritated!
Moving on, the there’s a filtered down wine list (a more extensive one is available) which has a well chosen range across grapes and countries, but also showcases English wine. We had a delicious red from West Sussex (specifically the 2010 Lychgate Red from the Bolney Estate) which is reminiscent of my favourite Loire Valley Pinot noir – a compliment indeed!
Starter for me was homemade falafel with tzatsiki ; the chef showing off their quenelle skills by cooking them in that shape not a ball. The falafel itself lacked sesame seeds which were to be found in amongst the garnish which was a good touch; and the falafel itself was crisp outside and succulent in the middle, still retaining a good chickpea flavour through the delicate spicing. Personally, I would’ve preferred a little more of a kick, but that’s personal preference really as opposed to a criticism.
My friend had roast quail with Dorset snails; the quail had been deboned for serving which is a plus and was perfectly cooked; I barely got a look in so am going to have to take their word for it.
On to the mains; my friend had a rabbit, mushroom and prawn pie. What arrived was a dish of densely packed rabbit and prawn stew (in a wonderfully herby mushroom sauce) with a thin layer of light and buttery pastry on top. To say that this was a generous portion of rabbit would be an understatement; it’s the sort is seriously hearty pie only grandma used to make.
I’d previously seen them tweeting pictures of making burgers, and had almost made my choice before I arrived as a result. It’s a double decker, the base being homemade traditional burger made with prime cuts and cooked to perfection; nicely crisp outside, pink and succulent middle – minimal juices running off, which means it had been properly rested. Then a layer of beef tomato (which had been prewarmed, something regular readers will know I look for) over some cheese, then a huge dollop of perfectly braised oxtail bound in a wonderfully fragrant barbecue sauce, in a toasted bun that was ever so slightly smaller than the burger – it’s almost as if they read my previous blog in advance!. Homemade coleslaw which was dense with vegetables and light on homemade mayonnaise and well cooked fries were the sides; with extra homemade mayonnaise for dipping.
The portions are huge; this is not for the faint hearted or those on diets ; we shared a pudding, a Kendal mint cake choc ice, which is what it says, but with clearly homemade ice cream with oodles of fragrant fresh mint, which made it lighter than you’d think!
But the best surprise is when you get the bill; whilst the restaurant is “only” a Marcus Wareing venture, his input is clear to see – you’re getting something that is the brainchild of a two Michelin starred chef and the sort of team that he would recruit, for prices that are not far off Gastropubs – which makes this one of the best value destinations around; or at least until they get their first (it’s somewhat inevitable) Michelin star – so go quick!
I was also lucky enough to see the kitchen afterwards and the kitchen table; something I would dearly like to dine at sometime. I just hope that the same staff are present again, because they are all amazing!