Review: The Gilbert Scott, King’s Cross (plus cocktails at Plum and Split Milk)

Funky wall stickers

King’s Cross. No longer just a destination for lonely gentlemen seeking late night company or youths seeking transcendent narcotics , you can now find a decent coffee, meal and cocktails to go with them. Before the main event we sauntered over to nearby Plum and Split Milk for a quick pre-meal cocktail. P&SM is situated in the recently refurbished Great Northern Hotel originally opened in 1854 by the same company who built King’s Cross, and now brought back to its grand origins as a boutique hotel.

The innovative cocktail menu

An excellent aperitif

We chose the quieter upstairs bar which has a timeless, grand feel to it along with a more contemporary mix of furnishings and artwork. Certainly a distinctive room, I settled in immediately and felt very comfortable. The name Plum and Spilt Milk comes from the old British Rail livery colours which is a nice touch, and the vintage rail theme extends to the cocktail list. I went for the 1854, a whiskey and vermouth concoction with smoked pineapple syrup and cardamon. The pineapple syrup was an excellent twist with the whiskey, adding sweet smokey notes. I didn’t detect the cardamon and an over zealous shaking left it slightly over-diluted, but for pre-dinner it worked very well.

Onwards to the Glibert Scott, a 5 minute stroll over to St Pancras and into the vast high ceilings of the main dining room. It is a spectacular room, marble and soft furnishing abound on a truly grand scale, which all adds to the atmosphere. It was buzzing and busy on a Tuesday night with a mix of smart clientele so it’s obviously a popular choice. The staff were well turned out with a mix of friendliness and professionalism, and we immediately ordered a bottle of Nyetimber, an English sparkling wine from West Sussex (thanks to Rob, our dining guest, who had a free bottle voucher).

Quail with snails and onion

The menu feels quite brasserie but with English twists and a few more unusual options. I opted for quail to start, with snails and onion. The quail itself was a decent portion, very succulent although also disturbingly pink in the middle. The snails were excellent, cut into small pieces with a big garlic hit. The onions were more like a strange bhajee, deep fried in a batter with seeds, I found them bland and soggy and didn’t understand the combination. But the meat, sauce and snails were a good starter. My two companions opted for a smoked duck dish and the crab salad. The smoked duck was tender and bright red, it came very thinly sliced with some earthy heritage beetroot. The crab salad was generous and well presented with a good amount of white meat.

Smoked duck Crab salad

For our main course I opted for Cornish plaice (only served on the bone) with mussels and tomatoes. It had a good size piece of plaice but unfortunately was overcooked and ended up mushy, not quite enough to send back though. The tomatoes and mussels helped save it, a rich sauce and juicy mussels. A side of brown butter mash was rich and decadent, but over-mashed so it had a bit too much stickiness. Peas with bacon and buttered greens were both cooked well, and had enough greenery to compensate for the doubtless copious butter in each.

Overcooked plaice made up for with a rich sauce Brown butter mash and greens

 

The other two mains at the table were the large rabbit, prawn and mushroom pie plus Cornish seabass with almonds. The pie looked good with a golden-hued crust and chunky succulent filling. The seabass was nicely cooked with an interesting accompaniment of crunchy blanched almonds and capers, texture wise it was odd having whole almonds though. Sliced would have worked better.

Rabbit and prawn (!) pie Seabass and almondsI was feeling fairly full by now with the large portions and sides, but we still opted to share a cheese platter between the 3 of us. The very nice waitress / sommelier took me round the selection, which unusually was only 3 cheeses. They were grandly kept in individual domes at the front of the restaurant, comprising a Cashel Blue, a Clonmore goat’s cheese and a washed-rind Irish Ardrahan. A plate arrived with 3 meagre slices for the price (north of £10, maybe £12? I recall), however they did each come with their own type of chutney and bread / cracker variety so that made the price slightly easier to swallow. Still, more cheese was needed.

Cheese-a-trois

The Cashel Blue came with a malt loaf (it could have been Soreen’s as my dining parter Rob said) but it cut through the rich blue well. The Clonmore was a mild hard goat’s cheese which was fine if a little dull, and went nicely with the fruit bread crisps / apple chutney. But the star was the Ardrahan, a pungent Irish washed rind which was combined with London honey / oat biscuits and worked brilliantly.

A trifle prettyChoc ice anyone?

Green chartreuse, the ultimate digestif after a heavy mealHaving indulged in the cheese I skipped dessert (well, sampled the others) and went straight to a delicious green Chartreuse served in this very pretty cut glass. The others went for a Lord Mayor’s trifle and kendal mint cake / peanut butter choc-ice. Yes, you did just read that right. I imagined a cloying sticky ugly lump on a plate but what actually came was light with the intriguing combination of mint, peanut butter and chocolate. Clever stuff. Similarly the Lord Mayor’s trifle was in fact cherries and a coconut sponge, another combination I wouldn’t have thought of and that was very well balanced.

Overall, it was an enjoyable night and the combination of great staff, a spectacular dining room and some interesting dishes (particularly the desserts) went down well. Still, my savoury choices in particular had some faults which given the price (this was close to £100 a head with 1 bottle of sparkling, 1 bottle of white and a glass of red between 3) shouldn’t really have happened. Still, the food was a mix of reasonable and interesting and I can recommend it for a special night out if you like the grand style dining room, but watch your savoury dish choices and the bill!

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