GILBERT SCOTT: BY GEORGE?
Much as I’d like to believe that the slew of restaurant openings in London will raise the bar by providing more competition à la New York I fear it has instead diluted a dining scene that is, despite what excitable pundits may tell you, not as wonderful as it likes to think it is. The result has been that sorting the wheat from the chaff has become increasingly difficult and very dispiriting, especially when one's own ackers are involved.
We’ve done a couple of posts in the past about St Pancras and its other restaurant and I assume this is the final piece in the refurb jigsaw: the opening of the hotel, the Renaissance run by Marriott and the Gilbert Scott restaurant run by Marcus Warering.
Dos Hermanos have a bit of a soft spot for St Pancras – it has played a recurring role in our lives, so we’re always interested in anything associated with what is undoubtedly one of the most interesting buildings in London.
First impressions were promising. Despite some uncertain service in the bar I managed to get a Dry Martini that wasn't a complete disaster although when it comes to stemware I'm so over the funny glasses shtick - give me the classic Martini glass every time and historical precedent be damned.
Eventually the smiley servers managed to locate us and guide us to our table. The room has a nice wow factor to it despite being yet another space by David Collins – surely the Paul Ross of restaurant design - maybe because it appeared more tasteful than the usual luxury hotel norm which always brings to mind Miles Kington’s phrase “The best taste that money can buy”. They've jammed in 120 covers though so expect a bit of buffeting if you have a table in the centre.
So great room and good service, both of which are the result of no little effort I assume. Shame then, that things went downhill when it came to the food.
The dishes have a nod towards their origin in their name but it’s all a bit forced and comes over as Heston-lite although mercifully there wasn’t all the tedious historical footnotes that you get with Mr B.
My Asparagus with poached egg, almonds and tarragon was a good idea in search of more accurate cooking. The asparagus tasted fine but were mockingly floppy (oh how they mocked) and the whole was rather greasy. A sprinkling of some sea salt might have perked things up as well. The egg was properly cooked though.
Soles in coffins was aptly named – dismal, if not funereal. Whether it was the freshness or this preparation of a delicate fish that was to blame the result was flesh that was too soft and broke up too easily. The vermouth sauce was gloopy; the taste of the shrimp and mace didn’t come through. Chips were fat and could have done with some colour but at least they were cooked through.
I did note there were a lot of choices on the menu so I just wonder whether those dishes that require better timing may suffer compared to those which are mostly about the pre-prep.
Of the puddings the best was a slightly chewy but tasty Eccles Cake with Ice Cream. Not up to St John standards but still pretty good. Mrs Beeton’s Snow eggs with Everton toffee, peanuts, burnt honey custard sounded more interesting than it tasted, which wasn’t of anything much really.
A Bakewell tart was declared "Exceedingly Good" but I think that was in an deeply ironic sense. Then again it's a dish from Derbyshire so what would someone from the wrong side of the Pennines know about it anyway. Bloody Lancastrians.
Now it could be I was just unlucky with my choices. Certainly, my dining companions (Fish Cake/ Jugged Steak, Mulligatawny/Pigeon in a Pot) seemed happy enough with their dishes. But as I get disappointed on a regular basis I do wonder if there are enough good chefs to go around especially as for a lot of them the slightest whiff of greasepaint and they're off before you can say "Red Tomatoes, Green Peppers". That’s fair enough - people have bills to pay - but what does that leave for Joe Diner?