Our friends Ange and Shaun, who are from Australia but are currently living in the tropical paradise of the Solomon Islands, informed us a couple of months ago that they were going to spend a few days in London while on holiday in Europe. Gladly planning to meet them for dinner, they told us they would love to try one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants.
Dinner with friends
When I heard this, I felt in a bit of a dilemma. I have enjoyed Claridge’s in the past but recent reviews have been quite negative. I would love to try Royal Hospital Road but it’s a little too expensive for a night out. His gastropubs, however good, are a little too laid back for a dinner with visiting friends. So where to go? Maze has lost its appeal; Boxwood Cafe’ has closed down.
The Savoy Grill felt like the best choice: the venue is spectacular and it would be good to see it after the few years’ of refurb. However the lack of ‘buzz’ about the restaurant on the blog and twitter arena made me apprehensive about the quality of the food. Nevermind, it was easy to book a table via TopTable (no multiple calling, no lack of availability).
We thus made our way across the bridge on a sunny and windy May evening.
We met our friends and we were escorted to our table. A good table, as we had full view to the dining room. It’s very dimly lit (verging on too dark) and grand looking. Big chandeliers, dark red mahogany wood walls, carpet, furry seats.
The dining area was packed but despite the number of people it was not over loud. The service is professional and swift. If the wine list is not too extensive, the menu is. Plenty of very interesting choices, and the theme is British inside out. Loads of classics such as Lancashire Hot Pot and a great selection of fish and meat. Possibly a little less variety on the vegetarian side but I do not particularly mind, of course.
It was quite challenging to choose as I wish i could have tried loads of things. Rob and I settled for a Smoked Mackerel Pate, while Ange had a gorgeous looking Lobster Bisque and Shaun an interesting version of Cider and Onion soup, a lot thicker than the french version but well flavoured with the addition of cheddar. Rob and I loved the pate and the portion size too – filling!
It took a little bit for the mains to arrive but they were worth the wait. Shaun thought his Poached Salted Ox Cheek was great, tender and well seasoned, while Ange enjoyed her Beef Shoulder but found the flavours too blended in after a while. Rob’s Steamed Onion and Beef pie was very good, and although he found the onions slightly too caramelised he did enjoy the dish, which was like everything else, pretty big.
|Chocolate & Passion fruit souffle|
I fell in love with my Veal Paillard. Good to see veal on the menu, which doesn’t happen often enough in the UK. My grandma used to cook me and my sister paillard so I had to have it – and I loved every single bite I took. Peppery, salty but super tender, with the Pepper sauce a nice touch. If out of every meal I enjoy I take away one particular flavour, this has to be the one for the Savoy Grill.
I was quite full but in honour of our visitors I ordered a Lemon Tarte with Creme Fraiche ice cream which was perfectly enjoyable but fairly average. Shaun had to go for a Rice pudding with rhubarb, having tried the rice pudding with lime sorbet the previous night at Pollen Street (and thought they were pretty similar in texture and the rhubarb and lime both added tartness). Ange has an amazing looking Passion fruit souffle. It was beautiful, subtly perfumed and lightly textured.
We left the Savoy Grill very happy. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal. Regardless of Mr Ramsay’s involvement, it’s a great place for an elegant, classic night out in a historic London landmark.
On our way out, we went to look at the American Bar. I asked of Peter Dorelli, the head barman I met many years ago, when I sneaked in for a drink. I then took a peek at the River Terrace where years ago I enjoyed a couple of cheeky breakfasts.
The foyer, where I took my parents for an afternoon tea, is still opulently beautiful. I hold these memories dear in my heart. In fact, these belong to the first couple of years of my London life, when I used to be a cappuccino girl across the road in Maiden Lane and when most of my Italian customers were in fact, Savoy staff.
They invited us girls to experience the luxury of the Savoy when we could never have afforded it. It was great, it was fun, and it is to them that I dedicate this blog post, wherever they might be now.