Restaurant review: GBR, London

BACKGROUND

In May, Dukes London hotel relaunched its restaurant as an all-day British venue, GBR. Previously the fine-dining restaurant Thirty Six, it remains under the leadership of Norfolk-born executive head chef Nigel Mendham, who held a Michelin star at the Samling hotel in the Lake District.

WHERE IS IT?

On the lower-ground floor of the luxury property, on St James’s Place, off St James’s Street. The restaurant has its own entrance on Little St James’s Street; otherwise you can access it from the main hotel entrance – walk left past reception and head downstairs to find it.

THE VENUE

The 58-seat space has been completely revamped from its previous incarnation. Gone are the heavy white tablecloths and orange, gold and black colour scheme, in their place a more relaxed look: parquet flooring, distressed mirror wall and ceiling panelling, pale grey velvet banquettes and glamorous vintage black-and-white shots of London scenes and famous faces. One, a photo of Bond-era Roger Moore, is a nod to the history of Dukes bar upstairs, a favourite haunt of Ian Fleming.

Black marble tables are topped with mini flower arrangements and glossy metallic tealight holders. A granite-topped bar now runs alongside one side, lined with blue leather stools, while part of the venue can be sectioned off to provide private dining for 12 guests.

It’s a warm, inviting space, aided by glowing lighting and a soft soul soundtrack. It was very quiet on the Friday night I visited, though, with only a handful of tables – the tucked-away location means it may struggle to pick up passing trade.

THE FOOD

GBR stands for Great British Restaurant, so, as you would expect, the menu includes plenty of traditional dishes – Scotch egg, shepherd’s pie, steak and kidney pie, rice pudding – albeit with an elevated twist.

I started with the heritage beetroot with sheep’s curd, hazelnut and chard (£7.50), which was very enjoyable, the sweet, earthy chunks of beet finely balanced by the creamy nuggets of cheese and crumbled nuts.

Heritage beetroot, GBR restaurant at Dukes London hotel

My companion had the potted shrimps (£11.50) with rye bread and pickled cucumber. The bread was more a delicate crisp, while the sharpness of the cucumber cut nicely through the buttery prawns. We also tried the signature lamb merguez sausage roll (£6), which was beautifully spiced and came with a cooling tzatziki dip.

For mains, I opted for pork rib eye (£18), which was prettily presented with dainty, tangy cylinders of Bramley apple, an apple purée, mini onions and a sage crumb. The meat was flavoursome and succulent, if not the heartiest of portions. A side of broccoli with pancetta and almond (£4.50) went down well.

The beer-battered fish and chips (£16) was well executed, accompanied by perfectly crisp sweet potato fries, spot-on tartare sauce and a mushy-pea croquette.

For dessert, we polished off a light and lovely lemon curd parfait with lime leaf cream and crispy meringue (£7), and a delightfully retro, not-too-sweet raspberry trifle layered with jelly, pistachio cake and vanilla custard, and topped with a scoop of raspberry sorbet (£8).

Lemon curb, GBR restaurant at Dukes hotel

THE DRINK

A selection of signature cocktails, British craft beers and a largely European list of wines are on offer. My companion declared his St James Manhattan (Antica Formula, rye whiskey, orange curaçao; £12) the match of any cocktail he’s had in Dukes bar, including its legendary, mind-blowing martinis.

THE SERVICE

Friendly, helpful and attentive throughout.

VERDICT

Like many London hotel restaurants in recent years, Dukes has gone for a more relaxed approach with GBR, while retaining the refined approach to food Mendham is known for. Every dish we tried was very good, and the place looks great; all it needs now is a bit more of a buzz.

OPENING HOURS

Open daily for breakfast 7am-11am; brunch/lunch 11am-6pm; afternoon tea 1pm-6pm; dinner 6pm-10.30pm.

PRICE

Starters £6-£11.50; mains £14-£22; desserts £7.50-£8.50. All-day set menu: two courses for £19, three courses for £25. Wine from £8 by the glass; from £28 by the bottle.

CONTACT

Dukes hotel, 35 St James’s Place (restaurant entrance at 36 Little St James’s Street); tel +44 (0)20 7491 4840; gbrrestaurantslondon.com


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