I’ve worked in a number of boutique and chain hotels over the years and I’ve stayed in both types on my travels, and what I’ve found with chain properties is that they’re the same the world over. A Marriott in Ireland is the same as a Marriott in Kuala Lumpur in terms of the standards, set up and Marriott Spirit to Serve Basics, which is great as you always know what you’re getting but not so great creativity wise. Then I discovered London Marriott Hotel County Hall in Westminster which is Marriott through and through except for the restaurant – Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar.
Located on the ground floor of the 200 room hotel Gillray’s has 70 different types of gin and really fantastic, original cocktails. The restaurant and bar has a separate entrance from the South Bank highlighting it as a destination in itself rather than just a part of a hotel.
The location epitomises London with views of the London Eye and Big Ben right outside its windows, and as the sun starts to set Gillray’s is the perfect place to settle in with a drink and watch the day come to an end.
Laura and I started with cocktails we chose off an iPad that staff use as a drinks menu which I LOVE. I’m a big technology fan and love when hotels incorporate it into daily life for both staff and guests (read my article here) so it was a fantastic surprise when the waitress arrived over to the table iPad in hand.
Gillray’s has both an à la carte and seasonal menu on offer daily and on our visit it was the late summer market menu we ate from. I had braised beef cheek to start, followed by slow cooked duck leg, and roasted peaches, almond crumb and spiced caramel shortbread for dessert. But before all that I was introduced to something that turned my world upside down – a warm cheesy Yorkshire pudding offered in place of traditional bread rolls.
The beef cheek was melt in your mouth good and just fell away from itself when cut into. It was presented beautifully and the crispy onions gave the dish texture and a new flavour. The cherries with the duck were a really great and novel addition to my main course and the cabbage and bacon brought a comfort element to quite a rich tasting meat.
Food just tastes better when presented creatively and when I ordered the roasted peaches I wasn’t expecting what arrived at the table. The whole dessert with numerous elements came in a glass with the crumbly and moreish shortbread perched on top. It was so much more interesting than a slice of peach crumble plonked on a place and served with cream.
The staff were super friendly and during our time there we got a visit from the head bartender, restaurant manager and a chef who all welcomed us and spoke about their area of expertise – the cocktails, the restaurant and the food. When you see the people who turn the cogs and talk passionately about what they do it makes a restaurant a lot more human and not just a business.
If all the seasonal menus are as well thought out and perfectly suited to the time of the year as the late summer one I’ll be back hotfoot every few months to sample the seasonal goods. I’m excited to see what the autumn menu brings and come winter I can picture myself wrapped up snugly with cocktail in hand being consoled by the warm flavours and perfectly produced comfort food they’ll no doubt be serving in Gillray’s.
(I was a guest of Gillray’s and London Marriott Hotel County Hall)