Gillray's Proves A Leopard Can Change Its Spots

Gillray's Steakhouse and Bar, South Bank ★★★★★

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Gillray's Proves A Leopard Can Change Its Spots Gillray's Steakhouse and Bar, South Bank 5
What we weren't eating this evening.

When a restaurant claiming to “serve the best Aberdeen Angus steak” invites you to sample their new vegan menu, a pinch of cynicism is to be expected. After all, Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar is just that: a steakhouse and bar. What’s more, with seemingly every eatery in London pushing a new #veganuary menu, the novelty of a three course vegan menu had worn out by the 2 January - hamuary 2019 anyone? But never one to judge a menu by its cover, we embrace it with an open mind.

The vegan menu has a choice of two dishes per course. For starters, we try the butternut squash and chilli salad.

The dish is a vibrant palette of colours and shapes. The butternut squash and chilli salad is almost too pretty to eat: carefully executed strokes of butternut squash purée are juxtaposed with irregular chunks of squash and pumpkin seed praline. The sprouting greenery is a dainty touch.

To accompany our starters, we try the restaurant’s signature vegan cocktails. The zesty and thirst-quenching beverages are very easy to drink, almost too easy for an alcohol-laden cocktail. And that’s because there is no alcohol, our waiter later informs us. Couldn’t you tell us that beforehand? Perhaps, the restaurant hasn’t heard of vegan-friendly liqueurs, or perhaps it’s assuming vegans are too health-conscious to drink. But we don’t complain because we actually rather like the drinks. And we figure you must be on to a winner if you’re eating out and sticking to #dryjanuary and #veganuary; we might have lost two kilos just writing that.

For our main course, we order the baked red onions. Much like the starter, the baked onions are small and pretty, like two tiny purple pumpkins. Stuffed with pearl barley and vegetable stew, the onions are sapid and wholesome. The only drawback is the very thing that makes them so endearing: their size. Vegan shouldn't be a byword for small appetite.

For dessert, we take a non-vegan detour. We order the lemon and meringue pie.

Standing tall, encased by a wall of shortcrust pastry with a dome of fire-torched meringue, the lemon meringue pie is the undisputed star of the night. It seems almost unlawful to break through the pastry wall, emphasis on almost. As the wall collapses under the frenzied jabs of our spoon and fork, a sea of thick lemon curd oozes onto our plate. We shovel generous mounds of meringue, pastry and curd onto our humble dessert spoons and sigh in muted ecstasy (conscious of our fellow diners) as the pudding washes over our excited taste buds.

Even if we couldn't stick to our Veganuary through the course of this dinner, Gillray's Steakhouse proves that a leopard can change its spots.

Gillray's Steakhouse and Bar, London County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB

Last Updated 16 January 2018