Gillray’s is a steak house based in the old County Hall building on the South Bank (now a Marriott hotel), opening in March 2012. Its head chef is Gareth Bowen, who worked most recently as executive head chef at The Marriott Grosvenor Square, but in the past worked at restaurants such as Mirabelle. The restaurant is named after the 19th Century English political caricaturist James Gillray, noted for his satires on the great and good of his day. Presumably the theme was chosen due to the political history of County Hall, home of the Greater London Council until 1986. Some pieces of Gillray’s work hanging in the dining room.
The large dining room can seat up to 110 guests, and looks out directly over the river with a view of Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. Aberdeen Angus steak is sourced from O’Shea butchers in London and typically aged for 35 days. Starters were £7 to £16. A T bone steak weighing 660g was priced at £42. Dover sole was a relative bargain at £25 for a fish that is usually pricier than this on London menus. Side dishes were extra, at around a fiver apiece, desserts £6 - £8.
The wine list was offered on a tablet. All very modern, but I find it more awkward to scroll through than an old fashioned printed list. You can sort the list by style or bottle size, but not by price, which would seem an obvious thing that customers may want to do. The list starts at £29 and has choices such as Castell De Raimat Tempranillo Costers del Segre 2008 at £30 for a wine that you can find in the high street for about £9, JJ Hahn Reginald Shiraz 2009 at £49 for a wine that retauils at £15, and Chateau Musar 2008 at £89 for a wine that retails at about £23, so this is not a place to indulge your wine fantasies. Chateau Brane-Cantenac 2005 was £235 for a wine that will set you back £76, so the mark-ups are no kinder at the high end of the list.
Instead of bread there was Yorkshire pudding with a cheese filling and horseradish cream. This was an unusual idea, the only problem being that the Yorkshire pudding was distinctly on the dry side (12/20). Crab cakes were rather disappointing; they at least had plenty of crab, but the coating was quite soggy (11/20). Better was a simple salad of chicory, blue cheese, walnuts and pear. This is hardly a complex dish, but the chicory was of good quality and the balance right (13/20).
Dover sole was nicely cooked, the quality of the fish reasonable (13/20). T-bone steak was cooked as ordered and served with a choice of sauces and mustard. The steak itself had good texture (14/20). Triple cooked chips were well-made, though could have been a little crisper on the outside (14/20).
Desserts were very good. Meringue of mango and raspberries had ripe fruit, the meringue texture a little soggier than ideal (13/20). Sherry trifle was excellent, served with a glass of sherry on the side, the sponge having good texture and the fruit ripe and in balance (14/20). Coffee was fine.
Staff were friendly and helpful. The bill, with a bottle of Chateau Musar between two and mineral water, came to a hefty £125 a head. If you chose a more modest wine then your bill would be less, but even so a three course meal with coffee is going to set you back around £90 a head. This is a lot of money for the level of cooking, though at least there is the river view.