The Savoy Grill room has been attractively refurbished in art deco style, with lacquered wood panelling and mirrors on the walls. The (brown) carpet means that noise levels are manageable in this large room, though the lighting is a little murky, lacking directed spot lights on to the large tables. The kitchen is overseen by Stuart Gillies, long-time associate of Gordon Ramsay and previously head chef of the Boxwood Cafe, but these days he has multiple projects on the go, and the head chef here is the appropriately named Andy Cook.
The menu was very appealing, with a long list of British dishes, and at lunch a bonus of daily dishes such as beef Wellington served on a trolley. Starters were mostly £6.50 to £13.50, main courses £18 to £38, with additional vegetables at £3.50 to £4.50, with desserts at £8 to £9. The wine list was printed on the back of the menu, and had mark-ups that, while hardly generous, were less aggressive than one might expect at a luxury hotel. Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc was listed at £36 for a wine that costs around £9 in the shops, Mount Jefferson Pinot Noir 2006 was £65 compared to a retail price of £20, the unusual Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 2000 was listed at £185 for a wine that will set you back about £66, while at the high end Penfold Grange Hermitage 1999 was £450 compared to a price of about £135 in the shops. We drank the excellent Trimbach Cuvee Frederich Emile 2004, which was priced at £87 for a wine that costs around £30 in the shops. Bread is bought in from Pauls bakery, and was a choice of country brown bread, olive rolls and onion rolls. The slices had just a hint of staleness, though the rolls, in particular the onion one, were decent enough (13/20). With a kitchen the size of the Savoy it baffles me as to why no attempt to make bread is made, though this is consistent with other Gordon Ramsay restaurants.
A crab salad was served with a few thin slices of apple as well as wild celery leaves, and a crab mayonnaise on the side. The crab was pleasant enough, though the overall effect was a little bland, helped by the punchy mayonnaise (13/20). I much preferred a smoked mackerel paté served with toast and a salad of horseradish potato and bitter cress leaves. Though a simple dish this was extremely well made, the mackerel flavour strong, the seasoning excellent, the texture smooth (15/20).
A main course of braised halibut with curly kale, anchovies and charlotte potatoes suffered from having a distinctly overcooked main element, the halibut dried out around the edges, and overcooked inside. The anchovies and beurre blanc sauce and potatoes were pleasant enough, but although still edible the fish was definitely not optimally cooked (12/20). Better was braised venison (in place of the menu’s hare), slow cooked and served in a hot pot. The meat had good flavour, though butter spaetzle on the side was lukewarm (14/20 given the good meat). On the side, winter greens were pleasant enough, served with unannounced mushrooms, though double-cooked hand cut chips were insufficiently crisp (so - triple cook them).
Cheese is supplied by Neals Yard (and also La Fromagerie) and was in decent condition, served with chutney. At this point I was thinking perhaps 13/20 overall, but the level of the meal now lifted a gear. So often pastry in a British kitchen is left to a junior and tastes like it, but here the Italian pastry chef produced two very good dishes. Lemon tart had good pastry and well balanced filling (15/20) but even better was passion fruit soufflé with bitter chocolate sorbet. It is not easy to produce a really good soufflé, but this had plenty of passion fruit flavour and lovely light texture (17/20). Coffee was fine but the limited petit fours were nothing special, a little surprising given the standard of the desserts. Overall there was a lot to like about the Savoy grill. The room is attractive, the menu very appealing, the cooking generally good and with some high quality desserts. Yet at £124 each, admittedly with a nice bottle of wine, this is an awful lot of money for cooking at this level.