"Very satisfying food, but high prices"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
Much before the Aquarium and the Zen China Restaurant took up residence, County Hall was the home of the Greater London Council (and the London County Council before that). From 1981-86 Ken Livingstone was its leader, as well as a constant pain in the backside for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Eventually, tired of Red Ken’s power and lefty policies, Thatcher decided to get rid, and after abolishing the GLC, County Hall was sold to a Japanese media company.
A swish, five star Marriott Hotel is in the building now, and Gillray’s is its new restaurant. Named after caricaturist James Gillray, who loved poking fun at politicians, monarchs and the elite, Gillray’s presents itself as a British take on the American steakhouse.
Despite the location and large windows there is a slim view of the river, and the dining room has a whiff of conference hall about it, with high ceilings, sensible wood panelling and leather banquettes.
The cocktail list, complete with illustrations by Gillray, harks back to other eras, with a bias towards gin. Though very curious about the GLC, which is spiced up with ginger to represent the battles between Livingstone and la Thatcher, I choose the Voluptuary Collins, a refreshing, Victorian concoction of lemon juice, soda water, jasmine cordial and Tanqueray Rangpur, the brand’s new lime-flavoured product.
The menu is split into steaks and “the others”, which include lamb rump, veal cutlet and lemon sole. Steaks are available on or off the bone, from the behemothic Bull’s Head - that’s 1 kg of meat - to the fillet; there is a “ladies cut” fillet too, which is a slim-line 150g. Beef comes from grass-fed cattle reared on a regal-sounding estate in Hereford (the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate in fact. I read it on the menu).
In place of bread we are brought two very crisp Yorkshire puddings stuffed with melted Montgomery Cheddar, with horseradish on the side. We like very much.
King scallops with bacon crisps are good, with a mild pea puree and watercress leaves adding earthy dashes. The chicken liver parfait is a bit too runny for the crisp-like sourdough toast but has a good, strong flavour.
The fillet (the regular 200g naturally, 50g less is hardly going to turn us into Giselle) is a velvety hunk of beef that’s a pleasure to sink teeth into, as is the prime rib on the bone with carpetbag oysters, with juicy marbled meat stuffed with the large fleshy molluscs.
Chips fried in truffle oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan and black pepper are delicious, but even better is the Witchill and Apple Wood Bake, with layers of sliced potato smothered in hot smoky cheese.
Desserts are very British; there’s sticky toffee pudding and apple crumble, but we try the sherry trifle, which comes in a jar with a screw-on lid and with a separate glass of sherry, ready to be poured. Layered sponge and cubes of jelly enveloped in custard and cream, soaked in warm booze is a rather indulgent choice after chomping on steak, and for £9.50 it’s a good job it’s served in such a way you can take the leftovers home.
The food is well executed and gratifying, but there is a downside - Gillray’s is expensive. Starters cost around a tenner and sides are extra; factor in the price of a steak, which averages around £30 plus wines starting from £28 and you can imagine this being a meal certain MPs wouldn’t have hesitated to add to their expense claims.
Leila reviewed Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar on Mon 28 May 2012