Fancy a Wikipedia history lesson? Well, in 1865 the Midland Railway Company held a competition to design a 150-bed hotel to be constructed next to its railway station, St Pancras. Eleven designs were submitted, including one by George Gilbert Scott, which at 300 rooms was much bigger and costlier than the original specifications. The hotel was upscale and expensive with costly fixtures including a grand staircase and rooms with fireplaces and gold leaf walls. The hotel closed in 1935, by which time its utilities were outdated and too costly to maintain.
The building was then used as offices and referred to as the St Pancras Chambers until 2004 when planning permission was granted to turn it into a new Marriott hotel.
So in homage to the architect, Marcus Wareing (of two Michelin starred Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley) has opened The Gilbert Scott inside this magnificent building. Lesson over.
We decided to dine here before a trip to the theatre (even though King’s Cross is nowhere near theatre land) as the restaurant is very accommodating of time requirements. I suppose they have to be being placed next to one of London’s busiest railway stations.
We arrived at 5:30 (when they open) and it was dead, which was to be expected – who eats dinner at 5:30? The restaurant was a large, grand and beautiful space. White table cloths covered each table and the waiters were smartly dressed. A pianist played elegantly in the background giving a vast but empty restaurant a pleasant atmosphere.
We ordered from the weekend roast menu which was £27 for three courses with just two choices per course.
Some white and brown bread with salted butter was a pleasant beginning to our meal. The white bread contained cardamom which was a welcome twist on plain white bread.
My gentleman companion started with English pea soup and Welsh rarebit (posh for cheese on toast) which was spot on. The waiter decanted the soup from a copper dish into a bowl filled with fresh peas. The soup was like molten lava – the steam bellowed from his bowl like he was in a sauna but once it cooled down he devoured the lot. The vibrant sweet and creamy soup had bags of flavour.
I ordered the Huntsham Farm pork terrine with pickle and toast served on a wooden board. The terrine, served just above room temperature, was expertly made and delicious. Hazelnuts gave it texture and the pickle (piccalilli to be precise) was the perfect and much needed contrast to the rich meat. We felt the portion sizes for both starters were generous.
My gentleman companion ordered the fish pie for main which featured prawns, salmon, smoked haddock and pollock. It was huge and with large pieces of each fish inside, they certainly weren’t scrimping on ingredients – and the quality of those ingredients was superb. The mashed potato topping was a little over baked but with such a flavoursome sauce underneath it didn’t matter.
I ordered the Great Garnetts Farm pork belly with apple and crackling. The quality of the pork was sublime with the perfect ratio of fat to meat. The crackling was served off the pork and was crunchy and salty with an apple puree which was sweet and smooth.
The potatoes were possibly the crunchiest I have ever been served in a restaurant. Full of rich meaty flavour, they lacked seasoning, but after a sprinkle of salt they tasted great.
A small bowl of buttery mangetout brought a touch of colour and healthiness to an otherwise rich and heavy dinner.
An extra jug of mustardy dark meaty gravy meant my meal was never dry. What I hate about roast dinners in restaurants is you never get enough potatoes or gravy – but not here. I even left a roastie because I was too full!
We also ordered a side of cauliflower cheese (£4) which was completely unnecessary and greedy as we couldn’t finish it although it did taste wonderful.
By this point we were both stuffed but valiantly ordered puddings, aren’t we brave!
My gentleman companion’s rice pudding with greengage and gingerbread was a little disappointing. The rice pudding, steeped with vanilla tasted pleasant but didn’t look hugely appetising. Greengage (which we’d never heard of before) is a small, green plum-like fruit which was served warm. The gingerbread didn’t really have a place in this dessert – the sweet sponge became sickly.
My treacle tart sundae was far too rich and sickly. I sadly only managed to finish a quarter of it. The ice cream tasted of treacle tart which was very clever and it was thick and gooey, but alongside thick cream and a sweet yet bitter marmalade syrup it was just too much.
Our waiter, who was incredibly charming and knowledgeable offered to show us the kitchen and chef’s table which was a kind gesture and lovely end to our meal. The kitchen was huge with possibly the nicest chef’s table we’ve ever seen.
As we rushed off to the theatre, only slightly behind schedule, we decided that we loved The Gilbert Scott. Desserts aside, the food was delicious and hearty yet elegantly served. The room was grand yet not stuffy and the staff were incredibly friendly. I imagine when it’s busy you’d feel a little crammed in as the tables are close together – but that shouldn’t put you off – it’s a lovely place.