This favourite of royalty has kept faith with its traditions, but delivers them with a lighter touch, as Janet Harmer discovers
Shay Cooper describes his role as executive chef of London's five-red-AA-star Goring hotel as "a proper grown-up job".
Since taking over the reins of the kitchen from former incumbent Derek Quelch almost 12 months ago, Cooper, who moved from the Bingham in Richmond, has been only too aware how the hotel is a brand that supersedes his own as a chef.
The 104-year history of the family-owned five-star property, a favourite with royalty, is one that he fully respects. So while he may be eager to make more sweeping changes to the British-focused menu, he has acted with restraint. After all, with a perennially busy restaurant serving 65-70 and 55-60 covers at lunch and dinner respectively, it would be foolhardy to alienate anyone by failing to acknowledge the culinary traditions of the Goring.
Created by designer David Linley, the Goring's dining room today is a light and airy version of the Edwardian original. The double-aspect windows flood the room with light, while the well-spaced tables provide a real sense of luxury.
It is in this environment that Cooper has put his mark on the Á la carte menu, which offers a choice of seven starters, eight main courses and seven desserts or cheese, costing £42.50 at lunch and £52.50 at dinner.
Eggs Drumkilbo is a starter that has been on the menu since the 1960s, when it became a firm favourite of the Queen Mother. Essentially a seafood cocktail, the original comprised lobster, crayfish and egg topped with a chicken aspic jelly. Cooper's version is lighter and features lobster, fresh crab, king prawns and chopped egg white, all combined with crème fraÁ®che and soft herbs (sorrel, dill, chervil and basil), and a jelly made from tomato water.
Another old favourite is the lobster omelette, once a starter, but now elevated to the main courses. The glazed omelette is served with duck-fat chips and a Caesar salad with chunks of lobster.
New starter dishes include a chilled English pea and mint soup, made with a vegetable stock, which is poured into a bowl containing white and brown crab meat for enrichment. Brown toast topped with crab mousse and crab claw meat adds crunch.
There is also a starter of cured bream, marinated in salt, sugar and lime zest and served with pickled fennel and a lemon purée made from lemon skins, Muscat vinegar, honey, olive oil, crème fraÁ®che and sorrel.
Onto main courses, and Cooper has created a modern version of an old favourite, braised oxtail. The meat - braised in red wine, a mirepoix of vegetables and herbs - is combined with sautéed shallots glazed with a Madeira reduction and shredded watercress before being formed into a ball, wrapped in crépinette and covered in puff pastry. Once baked, the oxtail 'bun' is served alongside grilled beef fillet, parsnip purée flavoured with malt
extract and an ale gravy.
The most popular main course is one which highlights why the Goring likes to continue with tradition: fillet of beef Wellington with a red wine sauce, served from the trolley. "There is a great charm and value about the dish," explains Cooper. "We get through around six fillets a night and serve four portions from each fillet." The Aberdeen Angus beef, like the rest of the Goring's meat, is provided by Macken Brothers butchers in Chiswick.
There is a choice of 16 British cheeses, including four Cheddars, and the desserts are also domestic in focus. "British puddings have a very strong identity, which the pastry chef Xavier Torne has reinterpreted," says Cooper.
For instance, a baked Alaska uses the very British berry sea buckthorn to create a sorbet and purée, topped with meringue. And his version of Eton mess features a crème fraÁ®che mousse, lime meringue and strawberry sorbet. The lemon surprise has all the elegance and flavours one would expect from the Goring.
The lemon-shaped shell of milk chocolate disguised with yellow food colouring is filled with a honey jelly and a lemon sorbet sprinkled with shortbread crumbs.
As well as the busy dining room, Cooper and his brigade of 30 chefs cater for the bar, which serves around 100 covers a day from the brasserie-style menu. They also look after 60 afternoon teas, three private dining rooms and room service to the hotel's 69 bedrooms.
From the menu
Day boat plaice fillet, cucumber, dill, potted shrimp butter
Dressed heritage tomatoes, smoked eel mousse, summer squash, tomato vinaigrette
Corned beef, beef tartare, caper berries, mustard vinaigrette
Smoked garlic risotto, Scottish girolles, cobnuts, black garlic dressing
Brill fillet, crushed potatoes, rose shrimps, charred cucumber, dry sherry
Romney Marsh lamb, roast cauliflower, lamb faggot, curry spices
Black cherry parfait, meringue, sesame tuile, griottine and brownie
Caramelised white chocolate mousse, hazelnut, fresh raspberries
Bitter chocolate ganache with popcorn ice-cream and barley malt caramel
Beeston Place, London SW1W 0JW
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