The revolving door to the Gilbert Scott cocktail bar leads the way into a world of old school glamour, glitz and mouth-watering cocktails. It’s the perfect start to an evening at the Renaissance Hotel, one of the new jewels within the absolutely huge renovation of St.Pancras. It’s a shame that I only found this sneaky bar at the end of my visit.
On arrival I naturally strolled in via the bigger main entrance to the hotel, and was ushered straight into the main dining room which is visually stunning, with a huge high ceiling and a dramatic sweeping curve following the outside of the building. The vast windows and imposing paintings coupled with the hushed chatter did give the impression of a stuffy art gallery rather than an upmarket restaurant and it was missing the stylish formal simplicity that we experienced earlier this year at Dinner. Luckily the friendly and welcoming staff were trying their best to fill the void in the atmosphere with impeccably polished and personable performances all round, and we soon settled down in a comfy booth by the window.
The menu was absolutely lovely and had a great mix of meat, fish and vege dishes with a healthy recognition of locally sourced products. It took us a long time to decide what to have, during which the staff were happy to bring us delightful cocktails and let us indulge on the freshly baked fennel bread and salty butter. Mike didn’t believe they could make a Manhattan with Tequila (and he was right) but the Gringo’s Manhattan (£12.95, pictured on the left) was an amazing drink with the same strong sharp bite as the traditional cocktail, plus a hint of orange and a lovely smooth Tequila hit to it. As soon as we ordered food, time seemed to pick up and within minutes, the staff were changing our cutlery and the sommelier was over with a wine to compliment what we had ordered.
To start, I went for the Duke of Berkshire Pork Belly w/yorkshire rhubarb (£8.50). Trying to find this in my photographs? It’s definitely not easy to recognise and I couldn’t help but show my disappointment when not presented with a hunk of crispy crackly pork belly. The meat was cured and sliced, a unique and innovative way to serve it. The flavour remained intense, the meat melt in the mouth and the rhubarb puree tart and punchy but it was a shame that the croutons were the same fennel bread that we’d been munching on already and I did struggle with the fact that the plate was about 70% fat, 30% meat. On a traditional cut of pork belly the crispiness of the crackling usually dispels the guilt of eating a dish predominately constituted by animal fat, but here every last slither was there to be savoured.
If Mike had known his quail “Mulligatawny” (£9) was going to essentially be a dhaal he might have ordered differently, but the promise of succulent quail meat, onion rings and curry spices was too tempting. The dish turned up in a cute little bowl, filled with lumps of meat and covered in crispy onion rings, but the rings had already started to turn into soggy lumps as they sat in the tasty curry, and the quail was still on the bone. As a result he ate soggy onion rings with a spoon and was forced to gracelessly shift the lumps of quail out of his bowl in order to pull the meat off and make the dish edible. He wasn’t impressed.
Thankfully his main was a great improvement, the lamb neck (£22) with broad beans and asparagus was a large tasty cut of tender meat smothered in rich deep sauce served with some decent veg with a nice bite. The Cornish Seabass, mussels, leeks and grain mustard (£19) that I ordered was presented beautifully. The fish was delicate with a crunchy skin and I adorded the creamy mustard sauce that came with it. The mussels however were completely lost and overpowered by salty leeks and I don’t think the combination added anything to the dish. It is also worth noting that my dish came with no greens/carbs so I ordered Summer greens for an additional £3.75 and me and Mike shared mash for another £3.75. They were very tasty but it pushed my main course from under £20 to over.
Onto pudding and I was very excited to try Mrs Beeton’s snow egg (similar to an Ile Flottant – £7.00) and it didn’t disappoint. The meringue was light and fluffy like marshmallow and had a delicate toffee sauce hidden inside. It was finished with crunchy peanuts and sat on top of a beautiful honeyed custurd. It went down beautifully with a glass of dessert wine, a light yet sweet end to the meal. On the recommendation of the extremely helpful waitress Mike went for the Eccles Cake with Cheddar Cheese Ice-cream. The cake itself was beautiful, crisp layers of sweet pastry stuffed with traditional and deliciously boozy mincemeat, but the ice cream didn’t have the novelty of any serious cheesiness, and apart from the strong wafer of the stuff that sat atop the dessert you wouldn’t have known that it was anything but a really decent vanilla ice-cream.
Since visiting the Gilbert Scott, I’ve found myself really really recommending cocktails and puddings but umm-ing and ahh-ing when pushing the full meal. For the price (over £40 a head for food, plus over £30 a head for wine and a cocktail), it had just too many ups and downs. It might be better value to go for the Express menu (Mon-Fri, 12-1pm, 5.30-6.30pm and 10-11pm) where 2 courses are £19 and 3 courses are £23. It really was ‘an experience’ to dine in the fabulous setting, and the staff made a real effort to get us on board with what the regeneration had done to the structure of the building and the business. I’ll definitely be back to have a celebratory cocktail in the bar one day and to get stuck into those Snow eggs again but not for the full three courses.
Crumpeats was a guest of the Gilbert Scott.