The Grill at The Montcalm – intense meat pleasure

Hotel restaurants have a bit of a bad reputation in England. Food at The Grill in London’s Montcalm Hotel is so totally brilliant it not only shows they can be great for guests but also deeply desirable destinations for native noshers. Editor Daniel and I ate an outstanding meal at the restaurant and you should be going there for many as you can.

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As the name suggests, The Grill is a meat-themed establishment. Readers will know I take meat action extremely seriously and am a regular at Hawksmoor’s great restaurants. Obviously it is difficult to compare one meal with about thirty, but as our meal progressed I found myself thinking more and more that the ingredients and culinary cunning, combined with distinctly more modest prices, would be a powerful draw away from my old favourite haunt. That was one hell of a surprise.

There was one thing that didn’t appeal to me at The Grill, which were the high tables with stools. I know restaurant designers like these to encourage faster meals and a feeling of increased separation between tables, but as one who enthusiastically throws myself into dining experiences (particularly those as good as this) I was glad not to be sitting so high. You wonder why? Well, as I entered the restaurant I walked into a pillar…

The menu is quite delightful. There is enough information about the excellent provenance of the ingredients which feature in a broad range of enticing dishes. There is something for everyone, but a large amount if you like dining on bits of flavoursome, well-treated animal. Don’t we all? The beef in particular is really worth considering. Our first courses showed everything is worth considering, but I’ll get to them momentarily.

I enjoyed reading the wine list, which is focused with food-friendly wines at keen prices. There were some flash things, but it was mainly themed on enjoyable bottles that will enhance your meal and not melt your credit card. We drank a rather spiffy Valpolicella Ripasso and it totally satisfied us.

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Soon after ordering some complimentary amuse bouche were served and it is no exaggeration to say they were the best we had tasted since our last visit to the French three-star L’Arnsbourg. OK, there were not twenty of them, but the rillettes of powerfully flavoured chicken infused with richly fatty ham and serious mushrooms made these little constructions totally winning. They came with a lovely pea salad and square of pea jelly which is as funny but far tastier than it sounds.

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Given my utter hatred of soup I’m not sure how we came to order one as a starter, albeit named a ‘spiced pumpkin velouté’. The word ‘pumpkin’ also had me fretting about delusional thinking as I usually find the stuff repugnant. Much to my surprise it turned out I was being frighteningly sane and correct as the soup… velouté was impossibly yummy; clearly infused with loads of serious stock, a good dollop of cream and perfectly judged spices. There was more. In the middle of the bowl was a rice-flour dumpling, a gyoza, filled with some of the best chicken I’ve ever eaten with together with skillfully-cooked leek. I wasn’t mad to order this, it was cracking.

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Our other starter was some pork rillettes with cider mustard and pickles. Quite how a rillette could be both so meaty and so joyously fatty leaves me confused, but we ate it up with lubricious enthusiasm. I’ve sat here thinking about this for the last five minutes and I cannot think of a single rillette experience that has been as good as this.

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We shared an 800g rib-eye steak for our main course which was grass-fed Church View Angus beef from the South-West of England that had been given a decent length of dry aging. Just what I love! The steak had been impeccably grilled then sliced off the bone and served (with the bone) on rosemary and potato bread with slow-cooked plum tomatoes. The steak was delicious, particularly the fattier slices which we ate with uninhibited pleasure and many groans of pleasure. Serving it on a lump of characterful bread was a good idea and the tomatoes were just corking. This was abso-tmesis-lutely meat-tacular and Hawksmoor should worry.

This stunning bit of flesh was served with triple-cooked chips. I told our waitress I’d have to make up new, disgustingly filthy rude words to describe their coruscating brilliance, so here goes: the chips were snickflangingly good and made me feel like I’d just had a good throckmorking over with a really gratifying snifulard. But they were better than that. Editor Daniel cooks extraordinarily good triple-cooked chips but these were so much better I am incredibly nervous about when it is time for him to read this article. What’ll he do to me now I’ve said that?

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Then came the single greatest piece of comfort food the world has ever known as one of our desserts: rice pudding crème brulée. If those words don’t immediately slather your face with drool, especially when I’ve said it was a brilliantly rich, sweet creation of limitlessly lovely flavour, you are just too pretentious for this website. This came with a Armagnac and prune compote and some Armagnac ice cream and, whilst I know dessert chefs like to be experimental and feel they’ve created a masterpiece on each plate, they were not really needed as the rice pudding crème brulée was so stonkingly good. There should have been more of it. I wanted more of it. Much more of it. Our other dessert was a good sticky toffee pudding that was just fine, but as we were melting into pools of ecstasy over the other dessert maybe we did not pay this enough attention.

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The Montcalm is a lovely hotel and worth visiting on its own merits, but having The Grill as its house restaurant means once you’ve arrived in the hotel there is little reason to head out from it into the melee of London to find your larks. Certainly anyone within range of London should be seriously considering this as a restaurant to visit even if you don’t want need a bed within metres on which to expire with extreme gratification once you’ve finished dining. We could hardly express our pleasure at the end of the meal, you won’t be able to either.

Contact details:
The Grill at the Montcalm
, 34-40 Great Cumberland Place, London W1H 7TW
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7958 3216