Just days before the British wet dream that was the Jubilee flotilla pageant, I found myself at London’s newest steak restaurant on the Southbank. In a year so patriotic that you’d be forgiven for thinking UKIP was in power, newest steakhouse in town Gillray’s has captured our zeitgeisty love for everything British.
Named after famous caricaturist James Gillray (his pieces hang around the expansive, wood-panelled room that the steak restaurant is set in), Gillray’s is housed in the County Hall Marriott Hotel. Five stars go to its location: it allows a sweeping vista over Victoria Embankment and Westminster, and will tug at the royal heartstrings of even the staunchest republican.
And before you dismiss it as a bland hotel restaurant, not every visitor was swaddled in an expensive suit or a loud American family. Tables are large pine circles, set far enough apart from your dinner neighbours, and the rest of the décor follows this slightly heavy lead. It’s meat gone old-school, and Gillray’s is determined to establish itself as a typical English steakhouse.
Down to the steak. Thick slabs of beef – frankly unmanageable at times – make up the limited menu. Go for the 1 kilogram ‘Bull’s Head’ steak if you fancy having a coronary at the table, but be warned, Gillray’s is hidden so deep within the hotel you’d be dead before the emergency services found you.
Instead, IT guy chose the medium rare bone-in fillet steak. My aptly-named ladies steak was a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ type choice, a thin slither of meat, but accompanied by warm cheese-stuffed Yorkshire puddings – the house specialty – will ensure you won’t go hungry. Gillray’s is determined to put itself on the map as a bastion of Englishness, and frequent references to the provenance of the steak (the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate, no less) dot the menu. Hawksmoor can relax easy in their beds – the steak isn’t the best I’ve had in the City, but we’ll put that down to teething problems. Desserts are no less British: a cheese board full of English choices, and a signature sherry trifle.
The heritage drinks really are worth hanging around for. There’s a cocktail list named after Gillray’s caricatures – try the ‘Wife & No Wife’ as well as around 30 gins. The wine, which thankfully doesn’t echo the same Englishness that thrums obviously throughout the place, is a decent selection, and we paired our steaks with a bottle of £35 Argentinean Malbec.
Conclusion: one for the patriots, rather than the hardcore steak fans.
Gillrays’ Steakhouse & Bar
London Marriott Hotel County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road