Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Gilbert Scott: A thoroughly British affair

Evangelists occupy the Gilbert Scott restaurant. This is no place for indifference. The security guard chats for twenty minutes about the wrought iron from Coventry with Olympic fervour next to the now-famous staircase in the Spice Girls’ Wannabe video. The front of house enthuses about Marcus Wareing who pops in at least once or twice a week to run the team here with head chef Oliver Wilson. A grail for history-lovers, artists, models and academics who take refuge from the British Library, the newly refurbished St Pancras renaissance hotel (which houses the restaurant) is an ode to the skill and splendour of British architecture and industry. 
So prescient is the personality of the St Pancras Renaissance that you almost feel short-changed by the simplicity of the bar and dining room. Unfairly so, as the ceiling is cathedral-high, the marble twinkles and is splendidly grand and altogether impressive. It’s shiny and polished and, quite frankly, splendid. 
It’s such an exhibition of the best of home manufacturing and design that one can only wonder about the food. 
It would follow that Marcus Wareing seems a good fit, after all, he is a Lancashire craftsman who evolves already staunchly British dishes to become iconically British. This is the Wareing whose care has won Michelin stars for the likes of Petrus and brought Prue, Oliver and Matthew to their knees with the wibble of his custard tart in the first ever Great British Menu.

And so a charming evangelist at front of house takes us to the bar, where the evangelist barman serves us up a spiced virgin mary (for my pregnant friend Claire who’s saving her drinks for the main)...

...and an a-pear-itif cocktail (Pear Grey Goose, Sipsmith gin, cucumber, elderflower), fresh with that taste of English gardens. A most elegant drink with the cool of the cucumber wrapped round an ice cube in a coupe glass.

We’re taken through to the impeccably elegant dining room, and dinner begins. Claire’s Portwood Farm asparagus are fat and sweet, accompanied by a burnt butter hollandaise. They are unspectacular but wholly delicious. 

My bone marrow with snails is a quite perfect dish. Juicy snails, deeply dark in taste and look, sit affably on the jelly of the marrow. Spooned onto toast soaked through with garlic butter, it’s almost creamy in its richness and overall, exquisite in conception.

We take a quick break to sneak down to the kitchen table, a front-row view (for up to ten people) of the cool mechanics of the steam-lined kitchen. The curious can also peer at the wines kept behind the table. 

Back up to our table, our mains are ready to serve. My rump of veal is a solid symphony of flavours - wild garlic and sage accompany the pink, surprisingly meaty and juicy veal, lifted by the sweet of plump roasted onions. 

Claire’s coral-pink scottish sea trout is a succulent and slim fillet under a blanket of crisp skin. It’s a well-executed dish. We expect something cold and salady from our side order of peas, lettuce and lovage but with the latter wilted and thickened with a touch of cream to mellow its pungency, it is a welcome surprise. 

For pudding we have Mrs Beeton’s snow egg, a variation of the French dessert ile flottante - poached meringue atop a light and cold custard or creme anglaise. It is slightly ‘ile’ heavy (I'd love more custard), but cleverly lined with marmalade in the middle and the smooth almost foam-like richness is cut through with the crunch of caramelised almonds. 

Claire’s warm chocolate cornflakes makes up for all those times you were deprived pudding as a child; the dessert is almost unforgivably rich and a nod to the glory of the chocolate crispy cake. 
There is a sort of humour and pride that laces the Gilbert Scott menu; where else outside of Cumbria will Kendal mint cake be an ingredient? I would certainly love to pop in for a peanut butter ice. Either way, I do believe for those who arrive in straight from the Eurostar, the Gilbert Scott should be the first stop for a happy and glorious view of London town. By the end of the meal we are satiate, evangelistic, and terribly proud that the British are such devilishly good cooks. 

The Gilbert Scott
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Euston Road
020 7278 3888

Helena and Claire were guests of The Gilbert Scott.
The Gilbert Scott on Urbanspoon