Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Gilbert Scott, London, Review - Guest post by GourmetGilly

On Sunday I met up with the family in London at the wedding of a close family friend. Unfortunately I had to drive back to Cardiff whilst the party was still in full swing, missing out on dancing to a nifty soul band and also on the large quantity of free booze which was being served. In addition to this catalogue of woes, I also had to forego a family meal at Marcus Wareing's new restaurant The Gilbert Scott which was booked in for Monday evening. Thankfully, my brother gourmetgilly offered to step into the breach and write a review of his experience. His words are written below....

It’s over two years since I wrote my last guest blogs (having never had the courage to pen my own) and the experience was enjoyable and surprisingly addictive. So when I told my younger brother that I would be visiting the recently opened Gilbert Scott restaurant in London with the rest of the family, it was suggested that I should once again turn my hand to the fine art of blogging and review the meal.

The Gilbert Scott opened for business in May this year. It is the flagship restaurant of the recently refurbished Renaissance Hotel at St Pancras station. For those interested in a bit of history the restaurant is located in what was originally the Midland Grand Hotel, originally designed by a certain Sir George Gilbert Scott.

This was a belated birthday celebration for our uncle Richard - who had taken advantage of my parents’ generous offer to buy him dinner and cleverly booked in to somewhere on the upper end of the price scale (approx £50 per head) - on the premise that it was in a convenient location from his apartment. Our main concern was whether the family’s taste buds would be as discerning as our junior member – certainly there were no fears that our appetites would match those of Cardiff’s most gluttonous food critic.

Due to a two hour dining slot (and a slightly late arrival), we had to skip drinks in what appeared to be a very pleasant bar adjoining the restaurant. We were escorted through in to the main dining area which was light and airy, with a beautiful high ceiling and not overly formal atmosphere. The restaurant staff were friendly enough, although it still seemed as if they were getting the hang of things with their relatively recent opening. Our waiter changed four or five times over the course of the evening – a little strange, although towards the end of the meal it meant we were happy to grab the attention of whichever unfortunate soul was walking past our table.

The menu choice was wide enough to be interesting, but not too extensive to befuddle. Following on from some heavy eating in the preceding twenty four hours, it was agreed that two starters between four would be plenty. I opted for the bacon olives, uncle Richard the baked onions, and mum and dad were happy to agree.

Whilst we waited for our starters we were presented with a generous pair of bread baskets. This was one of the most lauded parts of the meal – we enjoyed a light and fluffy rye, with fresh caraway seeds, and a well flavoured wholemeal with just the right amount of crumble.

Bacon Olives
Starter – Bacon olives, pork and herbs, endive and shallot starters

Definitely the pick of the two starters the five bacon olives were swiftly divided between the four diners (I’m not sure who got the fifth but it wasn’t me). A nice meaty flavour but not too overpowering and a good crunch to the salad – I’d have this one again.

Baked Onions
Starter – Baked onions, nutmeg, thyme and almond stuffing

This turned out to be a baked onion and not baked onions and so required some careful dividing skills from uncle Richard. The onion tasted like onion with little additional flavour – however the stuffing was a crunchy pleasure and was appreciated by myself and the onion cutter. 

Cornish seabass
Main – Cornish seabass, Cullenskink pan fried with smoked haddock and potato sauce

My main course was very enjoyable indeed. The sea bass was fried just to the right degree and I was pleased to get two whole pieces. The fish itself was good but the highlight of this dish was the Cullenskink – a rich and creamy affair with a perfect smoky balance from the haddock. It complemented our shared sides of colcannon, spinach and chips very well and really brought the plate to life.

Pigeon in a pot
Main – Kentish pigeon in a pot:  pigeon, mushrooms, thyme, prunes

Uncle Richard had opted for the pigeon and seemed happy with his pick when the lid was lifted from the pot. He still seemed happy once the pot had been cleaned. The two pigeon breasts were succulent and he described the texture as ‘similar to kidney’. After my taster portion I’m not sure I agreed - but an interesting texture nevertheless. Another good dish.

Soles in coffins
Main – Soles in coffins: lemon sole, vermouth cream, Morecambe Bay shrimps, mace, potato

Certainly the best presented of the main courses, my father was predictably disappointed with the portion size (which would be fine for the non-glutton). I only tried the sauce for this one – and it tasted fantastic. I was assured the rest of the dish was fairly average – I’m sure if it had been double the size it would have been better!!

Tweed Kettle
Main  – Tweed Kettle: seatrout with a herb, lemon and nutmeg crust

Probably the least appetising looking main, some choice comments were made before my mum returned from the rest room to start eating. On looking at the photo, a fish spotted dick with custard springs to mind. I’m not sure what the sauce was – mum said it was fine – and the fish was rated below the one at the previous day’s wedding reception.

Following mains we decided we would crack on with dessert as well. Uncle Richard opted out so it was three between four this time. Another mathematical conundrum appeared to have been easily solved when Richard ordered an empty plate and a spoon.

On our arrival at the restaurant, we had spotted Masterchef’s own Gregg Wallace. Unrecognised by my father and uncle, my mother and I assumed (incorrectly) that he was the chef of the restaurant and were very excited to see him in the flesh. It was only on waiting for our desserts that we realised he was there to eat and not to cook.  A mistimed paparazzi effort from my mum meant that we didn’t have a picture for the blog – a new plan was required.

Lord Mayor's trifle
Dessert – Lord Mayor’s trifle, pineapple, coconut and rum

My father’s pick and again he was disappointed (less so with the portion size this time). After a small taste I agreed that this was fairly mediocre – even a triple sized portion would probably have only elevated this dish to average.

Apple Amber

Dessert – Apple Amber - baked Bramley apple, meringue, clotted cream

My mother’s choice this time and it fared only a little better than my father’s. We liked the presentation of the meringues on the tart but sadly this was the dish’s only ‘crowning’ moment.

Jaffa Cake
Dessert – Orange marmalade jaffa cake, Earl Grey tea ice cream

Unanimously voted as the pick of the desserts, I was once again pleased with my selection. This dish caught my eye on the menu mostly for the Earl Grey tea ice cream – I have tasted some wonderful green tea ice cream in my time and hoped this would provide a similar delight. On tasting though, the Earl Grey flavour wasn’t really there. However, it was the jaffa cake that was the real highlight of the plate. The sponge was light and moist, the chocolate under the base was rich, and the orange topping was fresh and zesty. Excellent.

So back to Gregg – how could we get some souvenir of his presence to liven up the blog? Hats off to mum for this one. On our way out she confidently strode up to his table, with her dessert menu and luminous green biro in hand, and asked for his autograph. A quick smile and a flourish of the pen from Gregg and we were in business. All we lacked was a cheeky soundbite for the review – can’t have it all I guess...

After dinner we headed back to Uncle Richard’s conveniently located apartment for coffee. Before heading inside he suggested we pop up to the roof for to admire the views – we weren’t disappointed. This was one of the nicest London evenings that I can recall.

As we watched the sun set, we decided how we would rate our meal for the review. Good, but not great, was the overall verdict. ‘And the portions were definitely too small’ my father added.......

The details: The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR. Website: http://www.thegilbertscott.co.uk Telephone: +44 207 278 3888

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