Yorkshire pudding for starters? Well that took me by surprise. We were at Gillrays’ – the highly-esteemed steak restaurant on the banks of the River Thames. The waiter had placed the giant cakes of batter before us with a pot of horseradish on the side and I was a bit baffled. As a Yorkshire gal, I like hot steamy gravy with my Yorkies but hey, you can’t beat this for the novelty factor.
I’d been marvelling at Gillray’s for some time before I finally got round to visiting. The fabulous setting in the former County Hall on the bank of the Thames is of course, one of its biggest draws. Once inside, an incredible vista is presented: you have the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in one direction and the brightly coloured lights of the London Eye and the stretch of the Thames in the other.
We entered the building through the grand arches off Westminster Bridge Road which take you through the grand lobby of the Marriott Hotel. A long corridor then takes you through to the restaurant at the front.
I’ve been in this building once before for a Ladies in Blogging event with my friend Jen who runs the blog She Gets Around) so the vibrant flower arrangements had stayed in my head (and in my instagram). But there was no eating involved – so to fully experience Gillrays’ dining experience this time around was a must.
It was a Thursday night and we arrived to an incredible upbeat atmosphere: people were sipping cocktails around the bar, a singer was performing and London Fashion Week was nigh. Apart from the rain and arriving feeling a little bedraggled, life was good.
We were seated at the back wall which didn’t feel quite as special as being immediately next to those views. But on the plus side, it meant that we could sit on one side of the table and peer around at the view, while doing plenty of people watching and admiring the beautiful curvature of this stunning dining room.
Gillrays’ gets its name from James Gillray, the famous Century caricaturist and printmaker who drew political and social satires during the late 18th and early 19th Century. While I’m uncertain whether his work is still on display (it has been in the Tate in the past), this was a reminder that hey, London (and Britain) has an impressive amount of history that we may take for granted. So alongside great views and political history, this venue also celebrates British art, gin and of course great steak.
While we betrayed our Britishness on the beverage front (by swapping the gin for a glass of Prosecco, sorry) I followed those unusual Yorkie appetisers with an impressive tray of Cornish Oysters.
Served with a champagne and shallot vinaigrette and topped with samphire, it was the most delicious and refreshing way to start the meal.
The pan fried scallops were equally tasty (although I liked them more than she did – she felt they were a bit too ‘fishy’). But the presentation was fresh, simple and you really can’t beat the flavour combination of scallops and crisp prosciutto.
Choosing the steak was quite a challenge. It’s all Aberdeen Angus beef from Yorkshire, a breed that are very carefully selected by highly acclaimed chef Gareth Bowen on a set of strict criteria. They’re reared on grass with a final two months of barley and the menu at Gillray’s offers 11 different cuts: on the bone, off the bone, sirloin, bull’s head… I could go on. Wow, what a choice.
After much deliberation, we chose the Ribeye and the Ladies’ Fillet. Both arrived as they should – naked, on a white plate with the juices oozing out of them, as they should when cooked medium rare. A vine of chargrilled tomatoes and a mushroom were placed on the side. And we had the pleasure of trying four different sauces: red wine and marrow, peppercorn, tarragon butter and stilton.
Wow, oh wow. This was heaven on earth.
When I thought the flavours couldn’t get any better, we had three sides to delve into (you need to order these and they cost extra): creamed spinach, purple sprouting broccoli topped with hazelnuts (divine) and a potato dish (of which the fancy name escapes me) which was an amazing dauphinoise-style layering of sliced pots, ham and plenty of cheese.
The last time I remember having creamed spinach and a steak as good as this one was around 10 years ago in a proper American steak house in San Francisco. Ok I may have had a steak as good as this one. But I certainly haven’t had a whole steak meal as memorable or as full of flavour as this. We were two very happy ladies.
Intent on making our culinary indulgence last as long as possible we chattered and chomped for a good hour or two in between sips of a lush Argentinan Malbec.
I tried (and failed) to fit in dessert. Mum ordered a lovely selection of ice cream which included the salted caramel – heaven) and I ordered this caramel mousse which came with Yorkshire forced rhubarb on the side.
In all honesty, this dessert wasn’t for me. The caramel managed to be so rich yet so lacking in the sweet kick you yearn for from a dessert. But the cracked pepper on the rhubarb which hit the back of my mouth ended it for me. It just wasn’t to my sweet-toothed taste and was perhaps a little too much to handle after the previous delicious courses.
That said, the presentation was beautiful and it didn’t dampen what was a fantastic meal.
We made our way out of the restaurant – this time out of the front door – to marvel at the fantastic lights that illuminate the building. And after a lovely final chat with one of the restaurant staff, we then braced the rain.
Gillrays’ is what I’d describe as one of London’s most special venues. It can be a rather expensive night out if you want to experience the whole shebang. But this is a classy establishment that’s seeped in history and a guaranteed night of top notch flavours. I hope it stays here for a very long time. But please, add some gravy to the Yorkshires!
Until next time x
Oh So London was a guest of Gillrays’ and visited on a complimentary basis. If you have been to this restaurant and would like to share your thoughts, please leave a comment below.
London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London
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