Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Your Major Beef Will Be the Meat

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Your Major Beef Will Be the Meat

Article excerpt

Byline: Fay Maschler

GILLRAY'S STEAKHOUSE & BAR London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 (020 7928 5200). Open daily 6.30am-10.30pm (7am Sat & Sun). A meal for two with wine, about [pounds sterling]150 including 12.5 per cent service.

ASEAT in Gillray's Bar would be just the ticket on the afternoon of Sunday June 3 when Her Majesty the Queen, travelling in the royal barge, heads the flotilla of boats taking part in the Diamond Jubilee pageant. But on any night the view of the Thames, the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben is a tourist board wet dream. And isn't that Ken Livingstone downing a Great Chamber cocktail based on Bramley and Gage sloe gin over in the corner? No, that's a topical jape based on the fact that this space was once part of the GLC when Ken was its leader in the Eighties.

The curvaceous wood-panelled, presumably listed, restaurant interior brings to life the phrase "corridors of power" but provides an awkwardly narrow layout, with windows onto the London Eye but only a glimpse of the river. It occurs to me and my guests -- two generous chaps in the design business who bid to eat out with me in an auction in aid of Unicef -- that the bar and restaurant should swap places. But this is a hotel and maybe not enough covers for breakfast (being busily laid up towards the end of our dinner) could be supplied in the bar area.

Being a hotel also means the restaurant has a theme and a mission statement. The first is the 18th-century social and political caricaturist James Gillray. Reproductions of his characters appear on decorative panels and the titles of some of his classic images are used as names for cocktails -- The Morning After Marriage, and Fashionable Contrasts. A notable omission is Monstrous Craws at a New Coalition Feast. Some of these "experiential" drinks using "the latest mixology trends" have as a starting point the 39 English gins available, a munificence that makes Hogarth seem the appropriate chap for a theme.

The mission, apparently, is to create "London's best steakhouse" using meat from cattle reared on the Duke of Devonshire's Bolton Abbey Estate. Hawksmoor, Goodman, Cut, Mark Hix Oyster & Chop House, Guinea Grill, Maze Grill, Smith's Top Floor -- you can all relax. A themed hotel restaurant is foolish to engage in such a competition even with the somewhat grotesque offer of "Bull's head", a kilo of steak for [pounds sterling]48. One of those and you could for a recreation of Gillray's A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion or the Gout.

A surprising, but arguably patriotic, start to the meal was Yorkshire puddings and horseradish sauce served in place of bread. The explosions of batter were vaguely cheesy, quite agreeable but an odd prelude to anything other than roast beef.

We started with prawn cocktail at a hefty [pounds sterling]12, warm chicken liver parfait that would have been better colder and firmer, corned beef and bacon hash with fried quail's egg and Surrey duck egg salad. …

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