I’ve been wining and dining and even spa-ing in the County Hall Marriott Hotel for more years than I would like to mention so I was really looking forward to a return visit, especially as I was here to try out the new menu at Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar! County Hall has a prime site next to the London Eye and across from the Houses of Parliament and fascinating history as the former home of the Greater London Council and its leader Ken Livingstone before it was abolished in 1983. 17 years later he became the first Mayor of London but a new City Hall was built by Tower Bridge so this magnificent building could be taken on by the Marriott group who luckily kept many of the original features such as the wood panelled corridors and bar.
However, I was here for food and cocktails and so skipped up the less well know sneaky riverfront entrance and was soon above the madding crowds on this busy stretch of the Thames You feel miles away from the noise and the bustle below you as you enter the glamorous bar.
The restaurant and its bar are named after the famous 18th-century caricaturist James Gillray who was the master of the political cartoon, acknowledging the building’s political history. You can enjoy his prints along the walls as well as more contemporary cartoons from the era of Margaret Thatcher in the restrooms – well they are in the Ladies, I cannot speak for the gents!.
We started our visit with a refreshing cocktail from the excellent list. They use home infused gin to create unique drinks and Gillray’s are proud to part of the current gin revival, stocking a wide range of familiar and new gins, Sam Mitchell, the Head Bartender chose a strongly Gillray referenced cocktail for us called Drawing Out A Batch of New Kings after his famous cartoon. Our cocktail, however, was rum based, a fresh and easy to quaff mix of homemade Bacardi Carta Blanca spiced rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, passion fruit and mint leaves.
Moving through to the wonderfully open, light restaurant with more great views we settled down to test out their good looking menu. As there was a group of us, we were able to try out a range of starters from juicy scallops to the hearty terrine and the healthy deep green pea soup. My favourite was the watermelon with goat cheese and pistachio for its fresh, clean taste of the melon against the tart goat cheese.
Given a choice of main courses, it had to be rump steak and triple cooked chips and a wonderfully soft and generous sized steak appeared with Bearnaise sauce and portobello mushroom with heritage tomatoes. No one stepped up to the 1 kilo Bull’s Head steak as it seemed a challenge too far! I asked for the cooking to be medium rare and it turned up just a fraction too rare for me so I asked if they could cook it just a little more and without any fuss, they whisked it away and returned very shortly with a new mushroom and the steak ‘s cooking perfectly adjusted. Excellent service.
Was there some space for dessert? Of course, there was! Luckily as we were a small group, we could, again, taste a range of options and here they are. My favourite by far was their unique take on a sherry trifle. The multilayered trifle arrives in a jar with an accompanying glass of sherry. Using the long spoon you make a space down the side of the jar and ‘just add sherry’. It was very creamy and luxurious and got top marks for taste and presentation.
Although I was sorely tempted I could not return to the bar after lunch to taste more of their inventive cocktails and anyway, I was rather full by then so I waddled off home!
If you want to read more about James Gillray here’s a link.
Full disclosure: As is usual for these events, my food and beverages were paid for by Gillray’s, however, the views expressed are all my own.