One really nice thing to have visitors from abroad is that I can have a perfect excuse to eat out and try out new restaurants. So when my godparents from Melbourne informed that they would want to meet up for lunch on Sunday during the bank holiday weekend in May, I was trying to think of a place that would not only just serve good food, but somewhere with a bit of character. With the Gilbert Scott and the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel just opened not long ago, I decided that it could be an interesting place to go.
I used to go to St Pancras station a lot when I was travelling between London and Nottingham back in the early 1990s, and I always wondered why there was such a magnificent building that was left empty and derelict. So I was sufficiently excited when I learnt about the major renovation and the re-birth of the hotel next to the station. Somehow I did not pay much attention on what was on offer in terms of food there until pretty recently, when I learnt that Marcus Wareing was branching out and opened the Gilbert Scott in this magnificent building.
Before going to the restaurant, I warned my godparents that I couldn’t guarantee the standard of this restaurant: (1) it’s only opened a few weeks ago and like most restaurants, I’d expect a list of teething problems; (2) I have not been until this point, and so have no idea what it would be like and (3) I was not that impressed with Marcus Wareing’s restaurant at the Berkeley and I feared that this place could be just another one of those London hypes.
We were the first to arrive at the restaurant at lunchtime. The high ceiling and the decor of the dining room certainly seemed to have transported us back to the grand old days of railway travels – it was a very classic design that reminded me of some of the classic restaurants on continental Europe. The classic theme carried over to the menu, with many of the classic British dishes but with an updated twist featured on there.
Titus chose Cornish lobster salad, with baby gem, Marie Rose sauce, fennel and lobster oil – he’s a big fan of lobster and there’s no shortage of the fresh crustaceans down under. However, he thoroughly enjoyed this fresh salad.
Flora and I both opted for the Dorset crab (brown and white crab) with pear and hazelnuts. The dish was delicious to look at, and there was a generous serving of the crabmeat underneath the tower of salad leaves. It’s a light and refreshing starter.
For main courses, Titus, after overcoming the superstition of the word associated with deaths and funerals, chose soles in coffins (lemon sole) with vermouth cream, Morecambe bay shrimps, mace and crispy potato. None of us knew what “soles in coffins” was, so we enquired. It was a play on the words “souls” with “soles”. But rather than the classic way of the fish being placed inside a scopped out potato, in this dish the fish was rolled up and placed on a bed of potatoes here. It looked elegant and Titus was glad to have made the choice and forgotten his earlier hesitation on the dish just because of the name!
Flora had Scottish halibut poached in Camel Valley brut with mussels. I told her that I learnt about Camel Valley vineyard in Cornwall when I was dining at Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in March, and that I fell in love with the sparkling wine. With her small appetite, Flora gave me quite a sizeable chunk of fish and mussels to try out – the fish was fresh and cooked to perfect timing.
For me, my main course was pan-fried Cornish seabass, Cullenskink (smoked haddock) and potato sauce. It was rich in flavour but without overpowering the flavour and texture of the seabass.
After the main course, we had the difficult task of choosing the desserts. There were so many classic British desserts that I could have gone for (Bakewell tart, apple amber pudding, trifle etc). But in the end I opted for the orange marmalade jaffa cake with Earl Grey tea ice cream – the jaffa cake was moist and sticky, while the ice-cream actually neutralised some of the ultra-sweetness of the cake. I could have easily have eaten another one.
Flora was already so full that I suggested that she should try Mrs Beeton’s Snow eggs with Everton toffee, peanuts and burnt honey custard. I managed to try a mouthful of this and it was a mixture of sweetness and saltiness, and softness and crunchiness.
Titus went for the Lord Mayor’s trifle (pineapple, coconut, rum) which would be my other choice of dessert. It was full of pineapple but he said that there was a lack of coconut and rum flavour. Ah well, maybe next visit I’ll have this and see for myself.
There have been a few restaurants that opened in London in the first few months of 2011 that have attracted a lot of attention: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Pollen Street Social by Jason Atherton, and The Gilbert Scott by Marcus Wareing. I must say that out of these three, this was the most enjoyable, and one that’s definitely worth going back.
Address: St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7278 3888
Opening Hours: Lunch: Daily 12:00-15:00 ; Dinner: Daily 17:30-23:00
Total: 16/20 [Based on visit in May 2011]