Gillray’s Steak House -
Having just returned from two weeks in Florida I needed a good cocktail and some English fare to see the new year in – Gillray’s delivered perfect food and drinks, and the staff yet again gave us the warmest of welcomes.
Gillray’s is the perfect haven to relax after the wonderful walk that takes you along the river at South Bank. This steak focused restaurant is situated in the Marriot Hotel County Hall, at the south foot of Westminster bridge.
It is the most significant restaurant to grace the area since the Oxo Tower was renovated over a decade ago.
The cocktail menu has a mix of signatures and some twisted classics, which are executed with thought and flair, using high quality spirits. They also have an impressive collection of over 40 different English gins and the sure-footed staff provide expert knowledge to guide you through.
We didn’t try the bar snacks but there is small but perfectly formed menu studded with traditonal English classics such as ‘South Coast Cod & Chips’ , ‘Cumberland Pigs in Blankets’ and ‘Roast Sirloin of Bolton Abbey Beef’. You can wash this down with any of the very fine beers from the (Greenwich-based) Meantime brewery or perhaps Innis & Gunn – the classy whiskey-finished brew is a personal favourite.
Gillray’s cocktail menu is set out in a timeline – a cocktail chronology spanning four centuries, from the Georgian era to the present day. There is also a selection of drinks named after Gillray’s caricatures; try the ‘First Kiss (1803)’ – Hendricks gin with peppermint, lemongrass tea, lime juice and pineapple – served long.
Gillray’s First Kiss (1803) King George and Napoleon
The bar staff and restaurant staff are some of the friendliest and most enthusiastic I have encountered. It would be nice to see the bartenders that came up with some of the drinks credited, after all, they are modern day artists themselves (although granted, many are not yet dead). The only other grumble would be some of the prices, at £15 some drinks are a little steep, while many are around £10, which seems reasonable considering the location and surrounding grandeur.
While we were there, I tried a ‘Manhattan’ it was good, the ‘Old Fashioned’ was also well executed. The ‘Gillray’s Pina Colada’ on our last visit was great, pineapple muddled then flambéed with overproof rum shaken then served straight up with a coconut foam which has been improved since our last visit and is now made on site. The other drinks we tried were all above the average standard of a five star London hotel’s standards
It’s a very comprehensive list and has been meticulously put together utilising some modern techniques and tools. If the drinks programme keeps this sort of focus, then Gillray’s could go on to be a great cocktail destination.
Moving on to the food, where I had to pause for some time as the ‘Bulls Head ‘ (pictured below) weighing in at 1KG, stared back at me in defiance. Steak features prominently on the menu and this particular cut sat proudly at the top enticing all gung-ho cowboys with an appetite. I took the plunge and went for it with the intention of involving friends kept quietly under my stetson. The beef is sourced from Hereford on the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate; the flavour was rich and deep, and the meat was juicy, tender and I guess cooked pretty close to the specified 53 degrees (yes they have a cooking temp guide – most helpful!). I order the accompanying ’Red Wine & Bone Marrow’ sauce which was stunning and I admit that four weeks of holidays have got in the way of this article, but I still salivate at the thought of it.
The menu is presented in a tabulated format which is very logical and lends itself greatly to you getting in real trouble and wanting to order all manner of dressings and side orders. There is a vast array of steaks and highly tempting additions such as ‘Carpetbag Oysters’ oysters buried in your steak and cooked, ‘Bury Black Pudding’, ‘Crab Oscar’ etc (Do let me know what that one is please!). This menu certainly beats Hawkesmore on their first outing, if not possibly even their meticulously evolved menu as it stands now. It is truly outstanding in it’s sheer depth covering steak and anything that you could possibly think might compliment it, and includes plenty that you just wouldn’t have thought of.
The dessert I opted for was ‘Lemon Meringue’, it was the best I’d had in years and was a substantial size. Of course I had it with custard and some of the rhubarb ice cream, just because I could. I skipped with joy at the end of the meal, skipping the cheese, and unable to skip home I jumped into a cab where the espresso fumes just about kept me awake till i got home. It had been a tremendous evening.
Gillray’s and all who sail in her – I mean him, thank you!
Gillray’s Gout - The ‘disease of kings’ one illustration I didn’t ponder over on the night!