Wednesday 23 January 2013

The Gilbert Scott, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, NW1

The old 1868 Midland Hotel outside of St. Pancras station is my favourite building in London and for most of my life it was deserted. It was almost knocked down in the 1960s, but was saved by a campaign that was led by John Betjeman. It has been refurbished at great expense is now the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, voted the best hotel in the UK by The Sunday Times in 2011! Having seen the prices prices for a night’s stay I can believe it. The hotel is amazing inside; I’ve been here for drinks a few times and had a couple of meetings in the lobby cafĂ© area, it’s a treat just to sit there. The bar is called ‘The Booking Office’ and is (you guessed it) the old station booking office. It is super-cool, and serves some equally super-cool cocktails. There is an outside area where you can sit and watch the trains which (if you are a geek like me) is lovely, just below the massive ‘The Meeting Place’ sculpture by Paul Day.

The restaurant in the hotel is The Gilbert Scott, and is the brainchild of Marcus Wareing. As well as being a TV regular, Marcus Wareing is Chef Patron at The Berkeley (Harden’s best restaurant for 2008 and 2009, with 2 Michelin stars). I would describe the food at The Gilbert Scott as brasserie-style and modern-British, with some great twists on British classics. The menu is ever-changing and has an emphasis on seasonal food and small suppliers. On my first visit I was very impressed indeed. So how did it do last night?

Let’s go through each course one by one; apologies for the quality of the photography, the lighting is very soft!

To start I had the crispy pigs head (£8.50). This was served as little cubes that were covered in breadcrumbs with laverbread mayonnaise and cockles. I couldn’t have been happier with this choice, it was genuinely lovely. If I invented a starter full of the things I like to eat, it probably wouldn’t have been much different from this dish! Very deserving of a SUPER-DISH.

Main course was pigeon in a pudding (£19.00). The plate arrived with just a large Yorkshire pudding on it and then the waiter used a small saucepan to add the pigeon and vegetables (essentially a thick stew) to the middle of the pudding. A nice bit of theatre. Pigeon can be very tough and this was well cooked but not brilliantly cooked, but the flavour of the stew and texture of the vegetables more than compensated. Accompaniments were all nice, especially the onion rings and genuinely excellent parsnips. If you are reading this as someone who shared this meal with me and are wondering why you never tried a parsnip, it’s because they were so good I hid them behind my wine glass so that I could have them to myself. Sorry!

I chose cheese for dessert, which was the only choice I was a little disappointed with. The cheese platter for two people (£12.00) included Colston Bassett Stilton (with malt loaf and pickled pear), Clonmore goats' cheese (with walnut crisps and pickle) and Hampshire Tunworth (with oat biscuits and  port jelly). The cheese was excellent but the portion size, even for a high-end restaurant, was far too small and left me wanting more.

All in all, another great meal at The Gilbert Scott with only the portion size of the cheese to complain about.  We really have John Betjeman to thank for ensuring that this hotel was saved from the demolition ball and allowed to become something very special: a great hotel, a cool bar and a delicious restaurant. We thought we should thank him!

Go to The Gilbert Scott, go now, right now. It is hard to book a table at peak times but mid-week and Sunday night not a problem now that it has been open for a year.

The Gilbert Scott, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR