At last! It’s in vogue to be British! Hoorah (in the non marine sense) to all Henries, let’s all dress head-to-toe in Harris Tweed and celebrate massively, in an incredibly understated miniature fashion, don our best stiff upper lips and swap all Chihuahuas for sizeable hounds immediately. I was reluctantly persuaded to leave the pipe at home and do my very best to behave tonight. Alright, perhaps I’m a little over excited – but I’m off to The Goring.
We arrive, as if by time machine, not hackney cab, in the entrance hall, and are promptly greeted. I am a little taken aback as I recite our reservation. Why am I speaking like the Dowager Countess of Grantham all of a sudden? Is it the effect of the polished black and white tiles and smell of beeswax on the wooden panelling? I am instantly charmed by this grand house, which I am quite sure has stood perfectly poised and politely still in time. We pass through to the dining room. Behold, this is a preened, polished and plumped up pussycat of a restaurant, as are the elite array of international waiting staff.
The menu is simple but well-tailored, like a No.1 Savile Row suit. Dinner is a decision between a handful of mains, starters and so forth; a pleasant break from the mental arithmetic of many a menu. Sipping champagne, naturally, we choose our courses. We then opt to give ourselves and our palates wholeheartedly to the assumed expertise of the sommelier, who consents to create wine and food partnerships for our enjoyment. Bloody good decision. How lovely to be looked after and, oh boy, do they get it right. The service is sterling; we are rather tickled by the elegant ladies and gents in their livery, who pull out chairs and top-up our water with impeccable precision, at times verging on hysterical and perhaps a little evasive. It soon becomes apparent that perfection is the only option for the service, which is platinum, not silver. Traditional elegance here is enhanced by alarming efficiency.
And so it begins: to start, I have glazed Scottish lobster omelette, accompanied by Falanghina Beneventano Terre di Vulcano, Bisceglia, Italy 2011: a little over easy on the lobster for this seafood enthusiast, but perfectly done and cleverly complemented by the wine. Across the table, my date is demonstrating real enthusiasm for the salad of poached pear in red wine with watercress and blue cheese dressing, which upon closer inspection, I discover to be a real delight of flavours, all accented by the Sancerre Les Cailottes, Pascal Jolivet, France, 2010. The real success of this course is the combinations of wine, expertly chosen to marry the cuisine. Nail on the head. Naturally, pairing each course with wine might be considered by some a rather boozy affair, but my date’s already a bit wonky on the champagne and I occasionally drink sometimes a lot – so we shall persevere.
The main affair arrives: roast fillet of sea bass with spinach, artichokes, potatoes and stonecrop for me, and jugged hare for my beau, who is positively beaming at what looks to me like brown mush. But this game is glorious, apparently, and as the first mouthful is dispatched, the expectation is excelled upon and heartedly washed down with Alamos Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2011. It’s all mind-blowing I’m told. The sea bass is good, and I’m coaxed into a state of purring by the sommelier, who has paired it with Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand. Of course, he is now truly wining us and dining us.
Like stuffed pheasants, we are now completely immobile, but it’s only polite to have dessert, and what we really fancy is some good old fashioned British cheese. And if it’s cheese you’re after, they have cheese to please. We select a variety of cheeses with the help of the delightful cheese-man and finish it (and ourselves) off with Tawny Port Taylor’s 20 Year Old and Jurancon Uroulat, Charles Hours, France, 2010. It’s no wonder the old city chaps got so portly off entertaining back in the good old days if they were this well looked after. We’re well and truly sated and slightly sozzled as we straighten up with espressos before heading out into the night.
The Goring is a service spectacular, angled toward the more mature, refined chap and chapess. The experience of eating here is as if one has stepped back in time. This is the perfect place for simple, elegant, rich traditional British cuisine, tucked away in a warm welcoming environment that is perfectly suitable for resting limbs and regaining strength in peace and tranquillity after the bustle and relentlessness of the city. This is a place to stop, slow down and let time stand still and relax in the knowledge that you’ll be expertly looked after.Blackbook: Phone: 020 7396 9000 Web: thegoring.com Belgravia, SW1