The Gilbert Scott restaurant is named after the Victorian architect of the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras, just one of the many buildings he designed in a long career (The Albert Memorial is another well-known example of his work). The Gilbert Scott is the second restaurant of Marcus Wareing, situated in what is now the Renaissance Hotel in the attractively restored St Pancras, actually opening in May 2011. It is a seven day a week brasserie operation rather than a fine dining restaurant, emphasising modern interpretations of classic British dishes (with nods to Mrs Beeton amongst others) in a large space that can seat 115 diners. Owen Wilson is the head chef; he worked previously at J. Sheekey and at Scotts. The large dining room wraps itself around the contours of the hotel in an unusual curved shape, and has a high ceiling with plenty of natural light. There was a wooden floor so noise levels were quite high, and the table we had was very small indeed, barely able to accommodate the main courses. Still, this is a striking space.
The three page wine list featured some very capable growers, starting at £35 but with plenty of choice under £60. Example wines included Franz Haas Pinot Grigio 2010 at £40 for a wine you can pick up in the shops for £11, Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2008 priced at £65 for a wine that retails at £16, and Aldo Conterno Barolo 2005 at £125 for a wine that will set you back £49 to buy. We drank the lovely Alion 2006 at £105 compared to a retail price supposedly of £39, but you may now find it costlier than this to buy in reality, as it has recently increased in price. Bread was a choice of slice of brown or white with fennel seeds, and was bought in from the Flour Station, a competent bakery.
A starter of “potted shrimp” (£9.50) was really a prawn cocktail, brown shrimps on top of a slightly spicy mayonnaise flavoured with mace, with diced cucumber, pickled onion and a little gooseberry. This was acceptable but hardly dazzling (12/20, pushing 13/20). I quite enjoyed my slice of pork pie (£8) and piccalilli with radishes, the pork filling having good flavour, the pastry and jelly well made; this was nothing remarkable in the way that, say, the Scotch egg at The Hardwood Arms is, but it was very enjoyable (13/20).
Wild salmon (towards the end of the season now, at £22.50) was cured with beetroot and served with both yellow and regular beetroot, along with samphire and fennel. The salmon had good taste though beetroot is quite a strong flavour to be pairing with it; however the salmon flavour still came through fairly well (13/20). I also liked a simple piece of plaice cooked on the bone; the tranche of plaice came from a very large fish and was carefully cooked, served with crab butter. The latter was quite rich, and perhaps an acidic element to the dish would have been useful (still 14/20 for the good fish). Vegetables on the side (£3.50 to £4) were a mixed affair. Courgettes, which are easy to overcook, were very good indeed (15/20), as were some blanched chips (14/20), but carrots were seriously overcooked (10/20).
For dessert, a simple Eton mess had good raspberries and pleasant meringue (13/20). Lemon cream ice (£7) with salted caramel popcorn and lemon caramel was attractively presented, had pleasant texture and was nicely balanced, the lemon coming through well and balanced by the salted popcorn (comfortably 14/20). I preferred this to a decent enough dish called “Mrs Beeton snow eggs”, essentially a take on on ile flottante (a dish also known as eggs in snow or oeufs a la neige), with meringue floating on burnt honey custard, with peanuts and Everton toffee, which felt rather unbalanced since the peanut taste dominated (12/20). Espresso coffee afterwards had a burnt note.
Service was very good indeed, especially given how busy the restaurant was: they reckon to do around 100 covers at a typical lunch, and at least 180 in the evening. The bill came to £115 a head but this was with one of the better wines. Somewhere around £85 a head would be more likely with a more modest wine. The bill was really the main issue here, since at this price level you can find better food in London, but The Gilbert Scott has a lot going for it: an attractive room, an appealing menu, competent food and good service.