The Gilbert Scott opened in May 2011, the final piece in the regeneration of St Pancras Station. The restaurant (aptly named after the Architect who designed the original Midland Grand Hotel) is part of a Neo-Gothic masterpiece that is neighbour to London’s only Eurostar terminal. Now fast-forward two years and the question is; has the Gilbert Scott been successful in establishing itself as a destination in its own right?
This British brasserie (of sorts) is situated in the original 'Coffee Room' at the heart of this iconic building. Accessed via the bar of the newly named Renaissance Hotel, the hustle and bustle of Euston Road is a distant memory. An arc-shaped dining room with impressively high ceilings, it has been carefully restored to its former glory by the David Collins Studio. With an extensive portfolio for work on high-end restaurants and luxury hotels it comes as no surprise that the design carefully considers the heritage of the site; the furniture and lighting hark back to the grand era of the railway station, whilst everything from the gilded distressed mirrors to carefully restored limestone pillars scream of extravagance.
Celebrated English chef Marcus Wareing oversees the running of the restaurant, and so the dining room moves like a very well oiled locomotive. With two Michelin stars to his name at the Berkeley Hotel, Wareing has obviously passed on a full wealth of expertise to the Head Chef and Restaurant team. Every table is filled over the course of an evening, yet staff are still extremely attentive and knowledgeable. However, even with such friendly service and a full dining room, some may say that the imposing ceiling heights give the impression of a vast echoing church rather than a charming brasserie.
Wareing believes in promoting seasonal British ingredients and this is evident throughout the extensive menu; most dishes also have a quirky hint of nostalgia without being a slave to tradition.
Starters in most instances are light, often hero-ing a single ingredient. The Dorset crab (£10.50) is delightful; a combination of white and brown meat and a light mayonnaise, it is served alongside thin curls of refreshing pickled cucumber, shavings of radish and a hint of lime. Topped with a sprinkling of edible pansies in a vibrant violet and buttercup yellow, the plate really is a masterpiece. The same could be said of the smoked duck (£9). Delicate, wafer thin slices are married with a celeriac remoulade, a scattering of walnuts and mustard frills. The only disappointment being the too-hot mustard in the remoulade that slightly overpowers the subtlety of the duck itself.
Whereas starters are all about finesse, main courses are somewhat more comforting. The Lake District sirloin (£34) is a hearty wedge of meat, served with a decadent mushroom and brandy sauce. It's perfectly cooked, but then it should be at that price point. The 'soles in coffins', ordered by many purely due to its intriguing name, turns out to be from a traditional recipe that featured the flat fish fillet rolled and presented in a jacket potato skin. The recipe here has been refined, the fish still rolled but served alongside jacket potato mash with a creamy vermouth sauce, shrimps and nutmeg. Curls of crispy potato skins are an imaginative final addition, triggering memories of a Sunday roast's potato skins stuck to the pan...
If that isn’t enough nostalgia for you, there is a heap's worth in the dessert menu. As well as classics including bread and butter pudding (with the addition of banana) and a Lord Mayor's trifle, the sticky toffee pudding to share proves another popular choice. A generous slab of sponge is topped with a rich and sticky toffee sauce. It is absolutely delicious, but in a perfect world it would be oozing with, rather than just topped with, toffee sauce. Also worth a mention is the magnificent praline tart. A new addition to the menu, the combination of praline topping and smooth salted caramel filling is divine, and the crème fraîche a refreshing partner.
The wine list is extensive, featuring grapes from both the old and the new world. There is also a great selection of English wines, including those with bubbles. Drinks can be paired to courses, and some are surprisingly affordable (£4.50 up to £16 a glass). An artisan wine by Pheasant Tears Winery in Georgia is a highlight; paired with the smoked duck, the wine is fermented in a clay vessel and buried in the earth for a minimum of three weeks. It offers a golden amber colour in the glass and a nose of honey, yet it is unexpectedly dry - and absolutely delicious.
The Final Word
Despite the odd early wobble when it opened, this restaurant now seems to be thriving; perhaps it is more about the journey than the destination after all.