I think of St. James’s as one London’s best kept secrets. The elegant neighbourhood nestled between The Mall, Green Park and Piccadilly Circus provides an oasis of calm compared to nearby Mayfair, Soho and the West End. Yes there is a lot to do in St. James’s. Mondomulia’s contributor Adrienne visited Dukes London Hotel a few weeks ago to dine at its restaurant GBR. Read on for the full review.
Words and Photos by Adrienne Fung
Last weekend, I visited GBR restaurant inside the iconic Dukes Hotel in the heart of St. James’s for a leisurely Saturday lunch. GBR opened last year and offers all-day dining, serving modern British fare.
The dining room is as elegant as you would expect: marble table tops, suede couches, monogrammed linen napkins, and a lavish bar in the centre that offers counter seating. Despite the restaurant being on the bottom floor, the space gets plenty of natural sunlight, ideal for an unusually sunny afternoon in London. Both the menu and restaurant space are a far cry from your typical hotel restaurant but I suppose Dukes is no ordinary hotel after all. The majority of patrons appeared to be hotel guests; the establishment perhaps undiscovered yet but resident Londoners.
Most locals probably know Dukes best for Dukes Bar, the famous cocktail bar where Sir Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, spent much time and rumoured to have coined the phrase “shaken, not stirred” here. The good news: GBR has an extensive cocktail and wine list so the next time you can’t get a seat at Dukes Bar, there’s now a 2nd bar in the restaurant downstairs where you can order a signature cocktail along with a bite to eat.
When we visited for lunch Saturday, GBR was serving their a la carte menu which offers a variety of dishes that can be ordered in 2 different sizes: a smaller or larger portion. My friend and I opted to go for the smaller share plates which allowed us to try more dishes accompanied by a few glasses of bubbly and wine paired with our meal.
We started out with scallops served with broccoli, roasted almond milk and shaved almonds. The scallops were well seasoned and cooked properly though I wouldn’t have minded a crustier sear. The shaved almonds added a nice bit of texture to the dish which ended up being our favourite of the day.
We then had the grilled asparagus served with fresh peas, cured egg yok, and burnt onion mayonnaise. This was a lovely, light dish for summer and the combination of each element on the plate made a dish that seemed simple into one that felt a bit more sophisticated.
Next we finished off the savoury part of our meal with the Charlestown mussels cooked in Halets Cider served with a side of fries and Barbary duck served with turnips, puffed spelt, and braised shallots.
The mussels tasted fresh and the broth was flavourful without being overly salty. The fries, unfortunately, weren’t very hot or crispy. There’s something satisfying about tender mussels paired with crunchy fries that makes moules frites such a comforting dish.
The duck was lovely with the skin properly seared though I wouldn’t have minded it being slightly less cooked. The sauce made of duck drippings was full of complexity and one of the most delicious things we tasted all day. The braised shallots added a welcomed sweet note to the dish. The portion was also quite generous at only £8 for the small plate.
We finished off the meal with the pineapple upside down cake served with roasted pineapple and clotted cream ice cream as well as the Yorkshire rhubarb pudding served with buttermilk, rhubarb sorbet and shortbread.
Both were excellent though if I had to choose, I’d order the rhubarb pudding again and again.
I was pleasantly surprised by the meal we had at GBR. The dishes were far more sophisticated than what you’d expect from an all-day dining hotel restaurant catering to mostly tourists. Though the restaurant wasn’t very busy, food service was quite slow so perhaps not the best place to go for a quick lunch. But if you have some time, pop into GBR for a nice meal and cap it off with one of Dukes’ signature martinis.
Disclaimer: Adrienne was a guest of the restaurant. All opinions are her own.