For our Saturday night dinner in London, we booked a table at the Savoy Grill, one of Gordon Ramsay’s venues in the capital. We’d booked late – 10 p.m. – but hoped to have a cocktail or two in the world famous American Bar beforehand. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t realise we also should have booked a place in the bar, and when we arrived there was a bit of a wait, so instead, we had drinks in the Beaufort Bar, which also required booking, but happily had a table available – still very nice, and with some live entertainment from a singing and piano-playing couple, who were only ever so slightly cheesy!
We were really pleased with our table in the restaurant. Most of the tables for two were ‘booth’ style, but in a corner setting, so diners sat adjacent to each other, both sharing the same view out into the restaurant, which is great if, like us, you enjoy people watching whilst you’re dining, but all too often find that one half of the couple misses out and is constantly having to endure those ‘don’t look now, but…’ moments! The room is opulently furnished, and quite dark, but with a definite buzz and an exclusive feel. Diners ranged from couples, like us, up to quite large groups, probably out celebrating a special occasion.
It was my first time at the Savoy, but Mr W had dined at the Grill on numerous occasions before – although not for a couple of years, and not since the Savoy’s much-publicised refurbishment. He remarked that the menu had changed a lot since his previous visits: previously it had had a fine dining feel, but is now more of a brasserie style menu, with a generous selection of fish and shellfish, grills, steaks, pies and the like on the menu, plus a daily special ‘from the trolley’ and a much more classic, hearty feel to the food. A few dishes had sold out, but the menu is extensive enough that this really didn’t matter. Interestingly, the Gordon Ramsay name doesn’t feature at all on the menu, and despite featuring heavily on the restaurant’s website, much is also made of the menu being developed by Stuart Gillies and head chef Andy Cook. With this in mind, it’s a surprise that such an iconic venue needs the backing of a ‘celebrity chef’ – but that’s marketing for you (which happens to be my day job, so I can’t complain – unless it’s done badly of course!)
To start, I chose a Shellfish Bisque, served with king crab and rouille. The king crab and rouille were in the bowl already, and our waitress poured over the bisque from a copper pan (sadly before I could photograph the crab!) She did this rather unceremoniously, so instead of it landing around the crab and rouille, it rather submerged it. This didn’t matter at all in terms of taste, but it was a bit of a shame in terms of presentation – but it all goes down the same way, as they say! And go down it did, supremely well in fact. This was without question one of the most delicious starters I have ever had. It was sublimely good – a smooth texture, full of rich seafood flavour which somehow managed not to overpower the delicate crab, which gave some texture to a few mouthfuls of the meal. I didn’t want it to end!
Mr W opted for grilled kippers – these were served with lemon and parsley butter. He enjoyed his starter too, and the kippers were beautifully cooked, with the delicately flavoured butter allowing the flavour of the fish to speak for itself, but we both agreed that mine was the star so far.
For my main course, I chose a steamed steak and ale pudding with onion sauce – not something I’d usually go for as it could be hideous if done badly, but I had high hopes. There was an option to have it served with an oyster on top (oysters being one of the grill’s specialities) but I’m not a massive fan of oysters, especially not with hot food, so I declined this option, and instead chose some side dishes, which we shared, of creamy mashed potato and cauliflower cheese.
Like my starter, the pudding was absolutely excellent: almost crispy on the outside, but rich and moist inside. There was nothing soggy about the crust, and the filling was thick with juicy chunks of tender, tasty steak in a rich sauce. Absolutely excellent. The side dishes were similarly good, especially the cauliflower cheese, which combined al dente cauliflower with just the right amount of sharp, cheddary sauce.
Mr W’s choice was a Balmoral Estate venison pie with juniper berry, which came served with braised red cabbage. The pie too was incredibly good – tasty chunks of venison with a crisp pastry top. The red cabbage was particularly delicious, and was more than enough for one person, so I shared some of this and we mixed and matched our side dishes.
Sadly, after two wonderful courses, we had absolutely no room left for pudding, so didn’t get to try any of the options I’d been eyeing up beforehand – the apple tarte tatin for two, the rhubarb and custard tart, or the old faithful sticky toffee pudding. My main even defeated me, which is practically unheard of (especially when it’s something so delicious). Instead, we had a coffee and petits fours (rich chocolates and madeleines), which I just about managed to cram in!
The service couldn’t be faulted – it was attentive without being pushy or intrusive, and everything was dealt with as and when it should have been. The prices – for such a well known venue in London – were not as extortionate as I thought they might have been, with the average starter around £9 and the average main around £20. There were some obvious exceptions – for example a caviar starter and the lobster thermidor or chateaubriand main, which were coming in a lot more expensive, but still no more so than other comparable venues. It’s good to see that they’re not over-inflating their prices just because of the name (either the Savoy or Gordon Ramsay).
I’d definitely return to the Savoy Grill – not only is it an experience in itself to visit such a famous venue, but the food is also outstanding, and it is by no means a case of style over substance, with some excellent takes on classic dishes.
Food: ***** Service: **** Atmosphere: *****
The Savoy Grill, Strand, London WC2R 0EU