The Guinea Grill is something of a London institution, serving steaks and pies since 1952. It is in Bruton Place, with the front of the premises just a regular pub bar, the dining room a separate area behind the main bar. As I walked in I passed a display of meat and a chef at work at a grill. The main dining has wood panelling, is carpeted and has very small, tightly packed tables. Starters were priced at £7.10 to £14.85, and a 12oz (336g) sirloin steak cost £31. There are a few fish dishes too, but the meat of the menu is, well, the meat. The wine list has choices such as Terra Mater Paso Sol Sauvignon Blanc 2011 at £21 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £6, Lucien Boillot Volnay Cote De Beaune 2008 at £72 for a wine that retails at £29, up to grander wines such as Gruaud Larose St Julien 1988 at £285 for a wine that will set you back £88 in a shop.
Bread was supplied from the restaurant’s sister establishment, The Windmill in Mill Street, and had good texture (4/10). Asparagus (£12.80) was served with a poached egg and reasonable Hollandaise, but the asparagus itself, though cooked properly, was just not that interesting. Perhaps I was spoilt by the asparagus I ate on my recent Japan trip, but such a simple dish needs top ingredients to shine, and this merely glimmered (2/10). I quite enjoyed my crayfish crab cocktail (£11.75), served with a little salad and toast, though again this was pleasant rather than anything more (2/10).
The best dish was the steak. The Scottish beef is supplied by a butcher called Godfreys in Finsbury Park, which is a member of the Q Guild, one of just six such in London. The fillet steak (£33.70) was aged for 14 days, but some other cuts of meat are aged from 28 days or more. The cooking of the meat was skilful, a pleasing hint of the charcoal from the grill being imparted, without being too dominant. This was a very good, carefully cooked steak (comfortably 5/10). On the side chips (£4) were reasonably crisp (3/10) though mushrooms were over-salted (1/10).
This restaurant has a reputation for its pies, but I confess to being rather disappointed by the steak and mushroom pie here (£14.85). Its advantage was that it had good quality steak, so this was clearly a cut above the usual pub fare. But the suet crust was heavy and stodgy, and the seasoning of the contents was very strong, particularly heavy on the pepper. Personally I prefer pastry to a suet crust on a pie anyway, but I just found the pie rather ordinary; I have eaten much better pies than this (such as at The Royal Oak). Perhaps I should have gone for the steak and kidney pie instead (2/10).
The summer pudding was pleasant enough but had way too much bread relative to the fruit, so it ended up being rather stodgy and lacking enough acidity (1/10). Raspberry sorbet was reasonable though a little dense in texture (2/10). Double espresso was a steep £4.05. Service was friendly throughout, though the waiters seemed incapable of remembering who had ordered which dish. The bill came to £65 a head for three courses, but this was with mineral water only; the extras add up quickly e.g. if you want peppercorn sauce with your steak that is a further £3.50, and water was £3.70 a bottle. Perhaps the best strategy here would be to simply order the steak and stop there, as that was far and away the best thing that I tried at this lunch. This is clearly a popular place, packed out on a weekday lunch, but it seemed to me expensive for what was delivered.