Say Hello to the Best of British
Often overshadowed by Alessandro’s marvelous martinis upstairs, the recently renovated GBR Restaurant at Duke’s Hotel is a small and elegant St James’s gem
Review and Photography by Andy Barnham
Anyone who likes a martini or two (no more, mind, as house rules dictate you may only be served a maximum of two) will know of Alessandro Palazzo and his native turf of the bar at the Duke’s Hotel in Mayfair. Many have enjoyed the delights of the martini trolley and the viscous concoctions that are served from it however, to my chagrin, the idea of a restaurant at Duke’s has always been a non-starter to me. Why would you want food after a martini when more cocktails seem to be the natural order of things? Well of course there is a restaurant at Duke’s and the reason you may have missed it in the past could be due to the fact that as Duke’s is situated on the slope of a hill with the hotel’s main entrance on St James’ Place, the restaurant is downstairs and under the bar, even though GBR’s front door drops you on Little St James’ Street.
Recently renovated from No36, the restaurant has been relaunched and renamed GBR (Great British Restaurant with a sister establishment in Dubai). Aimed primarily at hotel guests, the old No36 was a fine dining restaurant open for the main meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner. In its place, GBR is now looking to be more accessible and open all day from 7am with last food orders at 10.30pm. Gone are the small, tasting menu sized portions; say hello to something more substantial. Created by executive head chef Nigel Mendham, the food aims to be a best of British featuring new takes on old classics; how about Lamb Broth with Pearl Barley, Root Vegetables and Haggis on toast for example or how about Pressed English Rabbit Leg with a sweetcorn scone accompanied by Dublin Bay prawns? In addition to the à la carte, GBR also offers a two and three course all day set menu for £19 and £25 respectively, with items chosen from the larger à la carte. Yes, that’s right, it’s an all-day set menu, available right up until the kitchen closes and not just a lunch time special offer.
So what do you get? When you first walk in, past the black and white artwork photography, GBR feels light and spacey due to the myriad of antique mirrors. There’s the seven seat bar with polished black granite top for those who can’t find a seat during rush hour upstairs. And, once seated at one of the granite topped tables (there are no white table cloths in sight at GBR), should broth and rabbit leg not be quite your preference, how about Cumbrian Lamb Cutlets with Braised Shoulder Shepherd’s Pie and Savoy cabbage followed by Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding with Orange Marmalade for dessert? For those opting for three courses at lunch, be prepared to be rolled out of the restaurant. For brunch lovers, this is available on weekends for £24.50 per person with a bottomless option of two hours free flowing bubbles for an additional £15 per person. And if I still don’t have your attention, GBR also serves Afternoon Tea including finger sandwiches, scones, sweet treats and tray bakes.
For anyone who thinks St James’s equates to pound sterling and lots of it, you’re 99 per cent correct. There are pricey options around most corners however, as GBR proves, there are other alternatives available that still produce quality without breaking the bank. It is a veritable little oasis of calm and as is definitely going to the top of my list of somewhere to meet for a bite or a coffee in the middle of St James’s. And should you find yourself in central London over the coming months for a spot of shopping, consider GBR as a perfect spot to recharge the batteries.