Here’s the great thing about restaurants with rooms; once you’ve navigated through the food and wine you’re simply a staircase away from a bed. And in Gilbey’s case, the bed in question is a very welcome Extra King with deep filled mattress.
Having said that, the room is not just the supporting act to the bed, it really is a very good co-star in its own right. Part of a trio of rooms in the new Gilbey’s Townhouse extension, it comes with flat-screen HDTV and Netflix, a hairdryer and safe, waffle-weave robes, a Roberts radio, Nespresso coffee machine, cafetiere and kettle, free wifi and en-suite bathroom with fluffy towels, rainforest shower and liberal White Company Nuit toiletries.
Whilst it may not appeal to any of the royals living in the big house just over the bridge, it more than deserves credit for a guestroom that would not be out of place in a fancy London boutique hotel.
Forget London though, this is Eton High Street and so close to Windsor Bridge I can almost touch it. A five-minute walk to Eton School, two minutes to Windsor’s riverfront and ten minutes up to the castle, Gilbey’s is in prime position for anyone looking for a bolt-hole to explore this famous Royal landmark or even perhaps taking advantage of an overnight stopover from nearby London Heathrow. Far nicer than a soulless airport hotel in my opinion.
Back downstairs for dinner and the restaurant is deceptively large. A couple of snug window tables at the front are the advance party to a set of rooms that seem to stretch back forever. There’s even a romantic garden to uncover when you do finally reach the finish line. It’s a stark contrast in size to Gilbey’s much smaller restaurant in Amersham.
There’s no getting away from it, Gilbey’s still has a touch of the old Etonian about it with its wicker chairs, tiled floor, posh wooden tables and starched napkins, but it’s shared with a contemporary feel too courtesy of co-owner Lin Gilbey; a bright yellow interior, cool lighting and original modern art, painted by family members, adorning the walls.
There’s nothing formal and fancy about the service either; the unfussy menus and warm welcoming table service just lets the food speak for itself which I suppose is how it should be.
We kick off with a couple of winning starters; a very well-received roasted cauliflower & old Winchester cheese panna cotta with toasted almonds and pickled purple collie for her (£10.95) and glazed ham hock terrine with a port and orange sauce, beetroot crème fraîche and a rosemary & shallot compote for me (£10.95). French head chef Amaury de Oliveira clearly knows a thing or two about sauce combinations and how to combine a British menu with a Gallic twist.
There were a couple of other notable dishes we might have been tempted with instead; a Seville marmalade gin & juniper-cured Loch Duart salmon with Devon crab & dill mayo (£11.95) or delicious-sounding chorizo & Manchego risotto croqueta with marinated mackerel fillet and baby squid (£10.95).
Of course, a couple of glasses of Gamay De Touraine, a very memorable Loire red, help proceedings along very nicely.
We’re momentarily distracted by a large party of 25 arriving and sequestering The Gallery private dining room, but even with this diversion, our mains arrive with a triumphant flourish. An absolutely huge bowl of Italian mussels steamed in a cider and leek broth with smoked bacon crumbs for Mrs M accompanied by a chunk of crusty sourdough and vase of crispy fries (£14.50). Her audible gasp is loud enough for all chatting to cease for a few seconds.
My dish although somewhat more diminished than hers is nevertheless equally gratefully received once I taste it. To just call it a crispy filo roll would be an injustice. It is a large pancake roll filled with delicious ricotta cheese and spring onion topped with charred lettuce oven-dried tomatoes and asparagus and rounded off with melted Beauvale Blue cheese (£17.95). A complete triumph.
A couple more glasses of the Gamay later and we are contemplating dessert.
Gilbey’s lemon tart (£7.95) doesn’t go unnoticed, nor does the mascarpone and vanilla crème brûlée (£8.50) but we decide to share an indulgent sticky toffee & date pudding with butterscotch sauce and Cornish clotted cream (£7.95) and some British artisan cheeses (3 pieces £12).
Needless to say, we aren’t disappointed.
We spend a restful night up upstairs in our cosy bolt hole save for one unfortunate lady weeping by the bridge at 3 am for her lost love; our fault really for leaving the window open.
Still full from dinner, we’re grateful the included breakfast is continental. Having said that, continental is not minimal, just no hot food. It is generous homemade granola, fresh berries, sourdough toast, preserves and plenty of coffee. More than enough to kick start the day.
As I come down the stairs to leave, I hand the room key to General Manager Emma who is quick to sympathise with me over the mussels. “Yes they are pretty spectacular, but big is good don’t you think?”
No argument from me on that one.
Food images (c) Andy Mossack.
Tell me more about Gilbey’s Restaurant & Townhouse.
Gilbey’s Restaurant & Townhouse, 81-83 High Street, Eton, Windsor Berkshire SL4 6
T: 01753 854921 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rates are £180 per night for the Townhouse rooms and £230 per night for the Studio apartment. All include breakfast.
Gilbey’s also offers a Dinner set menu between 6 pm and 6.45pm Monday to Sunday 2 courses £22.50 3 courses £28.50