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I’m not sure it I’ve mentioned it (hohoho) but I’m a pretty big fan of eating food. Drinking nice wine, too, or in fact any activity that involves me putting calorie-laden matter into my mouth and ingesting it.
There’s pretty much nothing I like more when it comes to eating than an impromptu food and wine-fest. As the saying goes, no good story started with a salad, which is how I found myself sitting on a beautiful table opposite my friend Neva (also a lunch-slash-booze fan) at Gillray’s Steakhouse on the South Bank one blustery lunchtime.
I reckon restaurants inside hotels often get a bad rep. Tarred with the brush of awful room service – rubbery club sandwich, anyone? – and Holiday Inn bar-issue pizzas they sometimes get forgotten. But I’ve had some truly wonderful meals inside the bowels of a hotel and I think there’s something truly decadent about being able to retreat to a lounge or comfortable bar with a coffee post-dessert, something you often can’t do in a city centre restaurant that’s slightly more limited in terms of square footage.
Gillray’s is one such establishment, tucked inside the slightly hidden Marriott County Hall. It’s a grand affair at first appearance, all chandeliers, high ceilings, deep wood and velvet sofas, and I like this very much. It’s circular bar has 360 river views but as I show up starving and slightly damp from the rain (standard) we are ushered straight through to our Thames-view table.
Our server for the afternoon- a wonderfully friendly yet not intrusive American lady – points us in her biased direction of a red Californian Zinfandel (via a high tech iPad wine list) that was so unexpectedly good I’ve been trying to track it down ever since. Her cheery disposition was crucial to the brilliant time we had that afternoon, so important when you’re spending your time off in a restaurant.
We ordered, steaks all round obviously (make mine a rib eye every time), and were swiftly presented with our pre-starter, which was so magnificent that it inspired a recipe of my very own. It was the most voluminous Yorkshire Pudding stuffed with cheese and served with Horseradish cream. SO very good I could have eaten ten of them. Yum.
My starter, Crispy BBQ Old Spot Pigs Cheeks, really hit the spot with its pickled veg and homemade ketchup. My companion’s crabcakes were generously sized and totally delicious. It was a good start.
On to the main event… the steak!
The thing I like about ribeye is that it’s so flavoursome. The cut has more fat marbling its way through the meat than more classic cuts like sirloin or fillet and therefore it’s better to have it cooked a little longer (I like mine medium but my fillet I have rare) to allow the fat to render throughout the meat. As a result it generates a total steak-party in your mouth – trust me – and this particular ribeye at Gillray’s Steakhouse was no disappointment. I ate every last mouthful.
And those chips you can see up there aren’t any old chips, they’re triple cooked chips flavoured with parmesan and truffle. Enough said.
Pudding was quite literally epic: circles of tender apple battered, deep-fried, dusted with cinnamon and served with salted caramel ice cream. Just divine.
I sometimes think that Steak restaurants have it tough in London. You’ve got your Hawksmoor, your Gaucho, your Flat Iron. You can only make steak so good before it starts becoming incomparable – great steak is great steak is great steak – so when it comes to steak restaurants I think it’s the ambiance and extras that make all the difference. And Gillray’s is absolutely just as good as my old favourite, the classic Hawksmoor.
What did it for me? The amazing waiting staff, the Yorkshire pudding, the beautiful riverside setting and the dessert.
I’ll definitely be back and this time with the children – I snuck a look at their kid’s menu and it’s definitely head and shoulders above the usual children’s fare. Finally, a restaurant that appreciates that children aren’t all into sausages. Thank-you, Gillray’s Steakhouse!
Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar, London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Book online, call 020 7902 8000, or email email@example.com. Neva and I were guests of Gillray’s – we do love our steak.