In one of the most tourist-laden parts of the city, within London’s County Hall now owned by Marriott hotels and directly opposite Big Ben and the houses of Parliament, sits Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar.
Considering the area, the fact it’s, in essence, a hotel restaurant and the fact the Gillray’s is located directly above London Aquarium, we didn’t have massively high hopes when we made the trek from East to West.
After battling crowds on a Saturday, made even more difficult thanks to the London Eye’s ever-increasing popularity, we stumbled up the few stone stairs into the tranquillity of the County Hall.
Pushing open the glass doors, we were impressed. Vastly high ceilings and an impressive gin collection were enough to help us feel settled, as were the Chesterfield sofas and crystal chandeliers.
We waited to be seated (the check in for the restaurant isn’t in the main lobby, so we stood around like lemons for about five minutes before being greeted) and after having our layers hung up, were shown to a marble table opposite a huge window. Our waiter handed us the menus and suggested a few starters, but we were captivated by the view!
Being elevated off the Thames Path, Gillray’s gets all the positives of being sat right on the riverbank without gawping tourists peering in through the windows, or children climbing the ornate steps. In fact, were it not for the London Eye slowly circling throughout the meal, you’d be hard pressed to remember where in London you were.
As far as ambiance, the place was spot on. The music selection was odd, with the Zutons followed by pop tracks, but with a handful of tables occupied and the bar half full of patrons sampling the gins on offer, we felt comfortable to have a lazy meal and a chat.
After the view had been fully saturated, Gabor, our waiter, helped us through the menu. A handy cooking guide was included, however we wanted something more than the fillet and sirloin that’s usually available. With ladies’ cuts and skirts on offer, he helpfully asked how we liked our steak cooked, rather than which part of the cow we wanted.
A fan of rare meat, I opted for the skirt – a cut I’ve never even heard of – and David went for a medium prime rib at 400g. Gabor suggested we order a few sides each and with a potato dish, creamed spinach, Brussels sprouts and bacon as well as sautéed mushrooms.
Starters of crab cakes and scallops were also on the menu, so we opted to give them a try. While we waited, Gabor brought over their speciality Yorkshire Pudding with mustard mayonnaise and suggested we try a cocktail. Again, going by flavour rather than name, he produced a pomegranate, gin and prosecco combination which was absolutely divine.
We weren’t waiting for food too long before it arrived. Although the presentation was a bit off, making the portion sizes look much smaller than they were, the starters were delicious. The crab cakes were served with a mustard sauce, and the scallops were perfectly cooked. By the time we’d finished, we were well on the way to being full.
Next up was the steak. As soon as mine arrived I knew there was no way I’d be able to finish the meat and the sides. David loved his prime rib, cooked exactly as ordered, and my steak was juicy as it was rare. The creamy spinach was the winner out of all the sides, followed by the bone marrow – a first for me.
After mains, I was far too full for dessert. The portion sizes were more than generous, and when we go back we’ll only be ordering two sides to share.
David spied an English Sherry Trifle and felt it rude not to give it a go, while I sipped on a Starbucks espresso. The trifle arrived in a mason jar, with the waitress pouring a dram of sherry into the jar leaving David to decide how much he wanted to sip on.
All in all, we had a great meal. Gillray’s couldn’t be further from the image of a typical steakhouse and even less than that of a hotel restaurant. The restaurant is more for those who want a good quality drink, with some good quality beef, all housed within a central, popular location.
Great for tourists, even better for us when we’re on our London jaunts