Earlier this year my brother-in-law had plans to run The Virgin Money London Marathon, so myself and Nicola booked up a city break so that we could cheer Phil on as he joined the other runners in taking on the gruelling streets of the capital. Unfortunately, less than a week before the race, a distraught Phil had to pull out of the race due to injury.
Whilst this was disappointing for Phil and family, it didn't stop them or ourselves making the trip to London as originally planned and although feeling a little sorry for himself, he still managed to meet up with us at Canada Water (renamed Buxton Water for the day) to cheer on the runners as they passed the nine mile marker.
London probably has more restaurant in a condensed area than anywhere else in the world so in the interests of being prepared before we made the journey south, I had taken a little time to research places that we might like to visit as well as booking a few tables for lunch and dinner over our trip to London.
Keen to match quality dining with great value, I booked dinner at The Gilbert Scott for the Sunday evening. Their Weekend Roast deal at a competitively priced £30 for three courses had caught my eye and as the restaurant is part of the Marcus Wareing group, I was confident that quality and value would be delivered in spades.
The restaurant is housed within the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel (which occupies most of the old Midland Grand Hotel) and is named after the architect who designed the original building, Sir George Gilbert Scott. We had previously enjoyed cocktails in the restaurant bar but never eaten there so we were both looking forward to our first visit to the grand restaurant.
We made our way to the restaurant and after walking through the main entrance of St. Pancras International train station and past the huge bronze 'Meeting Place' statue by Paul Day, we worked out that we had half an hour to spare before dinner giving us time to grab a pre-dinner drink at Searcys Champagne Bar.
St. Pancras International is a magnificent building with a fascinating history and as we sat sipping our champagne under Barlow's Train Shed we both agreed that the restoration work that had been carried out prior to the train station taking on the role of London's Eurostar terminal, was nothing short of breathtaking!
The minutes ticked by slowly, giving us time to feel a little jealous of the passengers who were boarding the Eurostar train that sat on the platform next to us but soon it was time for dinner and we made our way to the grand dining room of The Gilbert Scott.
We were warmly welcomed and shown to our table before being presented with a complimentary house cocktail, the 1873 (named after the year that The Midland Grand Hotel opened). The 1873 is a subtle mix of Bombay Sapphire gin, apple & rhubarb, cranberry juice and fizz - and definitely the best way to start off our dining experience. I would like to think that we had received this little extra because the word was out that 'Gerry's Kitchen' was in Old London Town, however it's more likely to do with the fact that Marcus Wareing has previously taken time to answer his own 5 questions plus I had been in communication with the restaurant prior to our arrival. Regardless, we were immediately made to feel very important and were even more excited about what dinner may hold.
As with most fine dining restaurants, the Gilbert Scott wine list is like Encyclopædia Britannica with literally hundreds of wines to choose from. Our original choice of wine was a French Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley but it was sold out so the maitre de kindly recommended a wonderful Chardonnay from Brazil. Yes, that's right - I said Brazil! I didn't know that they made wine there either but after tasting the crisp Casa Valduga Chardonnay, I will be looking out for Brazilian wines in future.
The Weekend Roast menu has a choice of three starters, mains, and desserts at a competitively priced £30 per head. To start, I ordered the Crispy Pigs Head with Coppa ham, gribiche and endive. I was slightly concerned that I might receive a bowlful of pigs ears but the dish actually comprised of two deep fried croquettes of pork made from the slow cooked meat from the pigs head. The contrast in texture and flavours was amazing. The textures of the crispy coating, tender slow cooked pork and crisp endive leaves were great together while the saltiness of the Coppa ham, the bitterness of the endive and sweetness of the pork were a partnership that I could eat all night. It has to be said that the gribiche was the start of the show - gribiche is a mayonnaise made from hard boiled egg (not raw) and flavoured with chervil, capers and gherkins - a perfect foil for the other flavours on the dish.
Nicola chose the home smoked trout, radish slaw, rye & horseradish. I have 'borrowed' the image from the Twitter feed of The Gilbert Scott as my own photo was very badly lit. Visually, the dish looked clean and fresh with two fillets of trout resting on a bed of crunchy radish slaw and dressed with a glossy drizzle of horseradish dressing. The fish had a very subtle smokiness which was balanced by the fiery horseradish and the earthiness from the rye bread, and once again the differing textures on the plate made sure that everything balanced well.
After a short break, it was time for the main event - The Weekend Roast. We could chose from Roast Beef, Roast Chicken or Pan-fried Sea Bass, all of which would be accompanied by crispy roast potatoes and roasted carrots.
I had eaten a fairly substantial lunch earlier in the day at Camden Market so opted for the sea bass thinking that it would be a lighter option. How wrong was I? One of the largest sea bass fillets that I have ever seen arrived, layered across creamed leeks and buttered greens and the other accompanying vegetables. The sea bass was cooked wonderfully and seasoned well, as was everything else on the plate. You couldn't accuse The Gilbert Scott of scrimping on portion size and after s valiant attempt at clearing the plate, I had to admit defeat in the hope that I could leave room for pudding.
Nicola loves a Sunday Roast so she was in her element, in fact she even made sure that we were married on a Sunday so that the Wedding Breakfast was Roast Chicken! She decided to go for the Goosenargh chicken for her main and couldn't believe her eyes when her plate arrived with a chicken breast, leg and wing stacked on top of the vegetables. The roast chicken was deliciously moist, helped by the rich chicken gravy that was seasoned perfectly, and the delicious bread sauce that was served on the side. Neither of us are usually big fans of bread sauce but when it's done properly, it can be a wonderful thing. This portion size was definitely too much for Nicola so I helped a little, even if just to help free up some working space on her plate.
We didn't order any sides as we figured that the roast dinner would be plenty, but the restaurant manager kindly brought us a side of tenderstem broccoli with walnuts and a side of more buttered greens, which were compliments of the chef. I know that they were covered in butter but I'm decided to count them as two of our five-a-day and we happily worked our way through the tasty side dishes.
As we were coming to the end of our wine, the restaurant manager presented us with a little pre-dessert appetiser in the form of miniature version of one of the puddings from the a la carte menu. The pineapple, coconut, guava and lemongrass had caught my eye earlier so I was delighted to have the chance to taste it. I'm glad that I did it acted as a very good palette cleanser, the sharpness of the lemongrass and guava helping to freshen up our mouths before our desserts were served.
By this time we had already had our money worth but things just got better as our desserts arrived. The restaurant manager informed us that as our wine glasses were empty, it would be a crime to have desserts without something to accompany them. At this point, the sommieler poured us each a glass of dessert wine that had been matched to our choice of pudding.
My own dessert was poached rhubarb with blood orange sorbet, ginger crumb and vanilla ice cream. This adult version of rhubarb crumble was delicious was delicious and worked well with the 2005 Castenau Sauternes that had been poured for me. The wine was very rich with sweet apricot notes and a hint of oak which cut through the sharp flavours of the rhubarb and blood orange sorbet easily.
Nicola's dessert was the pudding equivalent of a gin and bitter lemon which featured a jelly of gin, lemon and thyme scattered with crumbed shortbread and lemon parfait. The jelly was super sharp with zingy lemon but the subtle notes of thyme were definitely noticeable, whilst the lemon parfait had a sweeter finish that helped round off the pudding.
The accompanying dessert wine was a 2013 Seifried Nelson 'Sweet Agnes' Riesling from New Zealand. The wine had the intense flavours of lime and a passion fruit that worked in harmony with the tartness of Nicola's pudding but also had a rich sweet honey finish that brought the perfect end to her meal.
With dinner finished, we both agreed that the Weekend Roast at The Gilbert Scott was a great way to spend a Sunday evening and as we savoured our after dinner coffee, we got ready to settle the bill. However, before we could pay for our evenings enjoyment, we were invited downstairs to see the kitchen.
We've been lucky enough to been shown around a number of kitchen but we couldn't get over the size of the the industrial kitchen of The Gilbert Scott. In fact, the stainless steel work stations seemed to run for miles under the grand hotel The chefs and kitchen porters were busy cleaning up after the dinner service but we managed to interrupt them briefly to thank them for looking after us across the evening before we made our way back upstairs and into the London night.
We wouldn't hesitate in recommending visiting The Gilbert Scott as somewhere to enjoy a great meal if you do find yourself in London. Our dining experience was fantastic and certainly made all the better for the little touches that the restaurant manager put our way but even if we hadn't had those little extras, we would still have had a fantastic meal at an affordable price. So don't be put off by the fact that The Gilbert Scott is part of Michelin starred chef Marcus Wareing stable of restaurants, you could go to any number of the big chain restaurants in London to order three courses from their a la carte menu and end up spending a similar amount to what we spent that night. So why not spend the same money and enjoy a bit of class and style?
Once again I would like to thank the staff and management of The Gilbert Scott for their hospitality on the night and we look forward to returning for dinner or cocktails the next time that we are in the capital.