Fine-dining and hearty, home-cooked food sit perfectly together at this Mayfair restaurant, says Katie Pathiaki.
GBR resides in Dukes hotel in Mayfair in what was formerly a fine-dining eatery called the Thirty Six, which executive chef Nigel Mendham opened six years ago. However, he's not forgotten his roots when making the switch, combining fine-dining dishes with hearty, home-cooked-style meals.
"We decided to make the change from fine dining as it seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit in London," says Mendham. "People now want a light bite, a quick meal or even just a standard three courses. Unless it's a special occasion, you don't want to be sat at a clothed table with formal, stiff service."
His main aim when opening GBR was to keep the atmosphere casual and relaxed. He wanted to continue using high-quality ingredients, but with less intricacy on the plate. Mendham says 99% of produce is sourced from the UK, giving examples of a butcher called Althams in Lancashire and Flying Fish seafoods based in Cornwall - two companies he's used for years.
The 58-seat restaurant is open every day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. On an average day, they serve at least 60 for breakfast, 30 for lunch and 40 for dinner, giving a weekly turnaround of about 900 customers.
Since making the change to more casual dining, Mendham has felt that he's been given more room to experiment with dishes.
"There are a few home dishes on the menu, such as sausage rolls, steak and kidney pie, potted shrimp, and fish and chips," he says. "But then we have more intricate dishes, such as the Cumbrian lamb cutlet with braised shoulder shepherd's pie, which has more elements to it and more ingredients on the plate."
dham's favourite dishes include a courgette soup made by cooking courgettes in vegetable stock and brown butter, which is blended and chilled. It's garnished with courgette spaghetti that is dressed with olive oil, brown crab and white crab meat, and finished with sour cream and basil. "I like it not only because it's fresh, but because it has more interaction between the diner and the staff when the soup is poured at the table," he says.
His second is a beetroot dish - he's "always had a soft spot for beetroot" - that consists of three textures of beetroot: yellow is salt-baked, baby red beet is cooked sous vide, and candy is pickled in gastric (equal amounts of Chardonnay white wine vinegar and sugar). The beetroot is dressed in hazelnut oil and crushed hazelnuts, and finished with goats' curd.
The British classic of potted shrimp is made the usual way with mace, nutmeg, lemon zest and warm butter, but Mendham has elevated it from a classic to a refined restaurant dish by serving it with crisp rye bread and pickled cucumber. And he doesn't serve it in the pot. "It looked a bit tacky, so we now tip it out onto a bed of cucumber, and instead of plain slices of bread, we do thin slices of rye bread that are dried out to give it a crunch," he explains.
e menu changes seasonally and Mendham gets his inspiration from his previous positions in various established country hotels and restaurants across the UK, including the Randolph hotel in Oxford, Stapleford Park country house hotel in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, South Lodge hotel, near Horsham, West Sussex, and the Samling hotel in the Lake District.
As a previous Michelin-star holder, is Mendham looking for the same at GBR? "When I was at the Samling, I lost the star and it took me three years before I got it back," he says. "In that period of not having it, it put me in the mindset of 'what comes, comes'. Accolades are nice, but it's not the be all and end all. It's more important to have people coming in the restaurant, eating the food and having repeat business. We want to keep improving."
From the menu
- H Formans smoked salmon with curried potatoes and horseradish cream £16.50
- Chestnut squash roll with sage, spinach and spiced lentils £9
- Exmouth mussels with Blaengawney Farm cider and seasoned fries £9
- Braised ox cheek with roasted chicory and carrots cooked in beef dripping £21
- Fish and chips with minted peas and tartare sauce £16
- GBR burger with pickled cabbage and oak-smoked Cheddar £19
- Chocolate bread and butter pudding £8
- Bramley apple crumble tart £8.50
- Lemon meringue pie £7.50
35 St James's Place, London SW1A 1NY
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