Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Guinea Grill - London

The Guinea is a smallish Pub with a dining room attached at Bruton Place in the heart of Mayfair London. Bruton Street would be more familiar to Indians; it is where Hakkasan, the beloved of Indians is located. Bruton Place is a little lane off Berkley Square, now home to many `superrich’ Indians who have set up offices in the UK. Records show that a pub existed on this site sometime from the year 1423. The present pub started in 1675. In 1952 the Guinea added a grill room from where they served Scottish beef to the hundreds of Americans who were in London following the end of the Second World War. From that start some 60 years ago they have achieved a formidable reputation.

Reservations were made from Mumbai some 2 months ago and we were looking forward to some serious steaks. They serve only dry aged Scottish beef. No corn fed American beef, no beer fed and massaged Wagyu from Australia, nothing. Just grass fed dry aged Scottish beef in 5 basic cuts – Sirloin, Ribs on the bone, Rump, Fillet and T-Bone. All of them are simply grilled and served with a sauce on the side.

We decided to go to the pub and have a drink before heading to the grill room for dinner. The pub was old, clean, and relatively more expensive than others. By relatively more expensive I mean probably about a pound more for 2 drinks. A Cider for HRH the Queen of Kutch and a Guinness for me. Delicious and cold. We got a small table and drank in happy convivial surroundings. It soon became 7.30 so we walked out of one entrance and into the other which was the Grill Room, handed in our coats and entered.

As you enter, the Restaurant manager comes up and asks if this is your first time. Then he takes you to a small refrigerated display counter, much like you see at an ice cream parlour and explains each meat on offer. You could have the four steaks I wrote about, the Sirloin, Ribs on the bone, Rump, Fillet and T-Bone, or you could have a bit of Lamb if you likes. Also on offer were oysters, prawns and a mix grill with Bacon, Lamb Chop, Kidney and Sausage. Then you went to your table.

2 menus, one food one wine. HRH the Queen of Kutch chose a bone in Rib Eye, medium rare, with a Béarnaise Sauce, while I got myself a Sirloin, medium, with a Brandy Peppercorn Sauce. To accompany this we got an order of Dauphinoise Potato and Cabbage with Bacon. To wash all this down a bottle of Crozes Hermitage is what I chose. A most charming Barman cum Sommelier brought us the bottle, poured in a bit and with extra flourish swirled it. Very good, I said, and it was.

For starters HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered the Carrot and Ginger Soup. Nothing fancy, just decent soup. A little coarse for my liking, it should have been blended a bit more and strained. I ordered a Smoked Mackrel Fishcake. Fair amount of fish inside it, not just filler. Came out very hot so must have been fried on order. Nice.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Smoked Mackerel Fishcake
Soon the food arrived. Large steaks. The side orders of Dauphinoise Potato and Cabbage with Bacon followed almost instantly with a third waiter getting us English, French and Wholegrain Mustards. Excellent. Really good steaks. The Rib Eye was extremely good. My Sirloin, because of the cut, was more chewy, but top class. Both steaks cooked with care and precision, beautifully rested and very tasty.

The accompaniments of Dauphinouse Potato and Cabbage with Bacon were good too. Some care had gone into making them.

The Sirloin

Bone in Rib Eye

One of the other specialities of the Guinea is their Pies. Steak and Kidney, and, Steak and Mushroom for those who do not like kidney. 

We went back to the Guinea Grill a few days later and ordered just that. A Steak and Kidney Pie, and, a Steak and Mushroom Pie. HRH the Queen of Kutch also ordered a Bloody Mary, which, the menu says is a specialty of the place. My God, it was quite simply the best Bloody Mary we have ever had, absolutely no doubt on that. It was alcoholic, it was thick and it was very tasty. You must order one when you visit the Guinea Grill.

The Pies turned up. The Steak and Kidney Pie came in a Oval dish, and the Steak and Mushroom Pie came in a round dish. Simple way of distinguising between the two. The Pie crust seemed like it was standard Pie Pastry, made with Flour and Water. I had expected the pastry to be Puff Pastry but it was not. The pastry was good. The Pies were exceptional. Steaming hot and very flavourful. Simply flavoured, just the usual brown sauce and lashings of pepper with soft pieces of braising meat. Comfort food. The Pies are good. You do not get Pies of this quality everywhere. Pubs often serve pies but they are vastly inferior to these. If you ask me honestly, I would say ditch the Steaks, have the pies here. Steaks you can get anywhere, Pies are more rare.

Steak and Kidney Pie [Oval dish]

Steak & Mushroom Pie


We were full, but there was no way I was not going to have dessert. Sticky Toffee pudding with Clotted Cream. Sweet, light, caramelly are the words I can use to describe this. The unsweetened Clotted Cream balanced the sweetness of the pudding. A great end to a very nice meal.

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Clotted Cream

I must say I do like restaurants whose staff are older, fatter and more mature. They have seen everything; they know what to do and do not waste time being obsequies. They have had on job training for years and that really shows. If you ask a question about the food you get an answer.

We fully recommend the Guinea for the next time you are in London. Do not waste your time and money at Hakkasan. Come here for a real meal with real food and real people. 


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