GBR at Dukes Hotel: a contemporary British classic

Great British ingredients get a modern makeover in Mayfair


Sharing food is now more-or-less compulsory at the inventive end of the new restaurant spectrum. This can be frustrating: the more surprising and enticing your first bite of a dish, the more likely it is that you’ll have to hand over what’s left of it to the rest of your table.

And yet the traditional three-course approach is constraining too, especially if, as is often the case, most of the really creative stuff is in the starters.

GBR, the in-house restaurant of Dukes Hotel in St James’s, London, has squared the circle with a pleasingly flexible approach to plating. All the dishes are available in either small or large servings, and the big ones cost twice as much as the little ones.

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How you schedule an evening of consumption is up to you: a bunch of small plates all at once to share, a customary small-plate-followed-by-large-plate, or three small ones each, served consecutively in courses.

We opted for the latter approach, encouraged by a menu that invites experimentation: smoked eel, crispy pig’s head, haggis Scotch egg and rabbit leg are among the bolder choices. Lamb cutlets, rib eye steak and salmon cater to more traditional tastes.

Vegetables get equal billing with the fish and meat. There’s grilled radicchio with raisins, salted walnuts and baked goat’s cheese, and beetroot with Yorkshire fettle, quinoa from Essex and smoked lemon oil.

Everything is rooted in traditional British fare (GBR stands for Great British Restaurant), but the treatment is crisp and modern. There’s nothing soggy or nostalgic about Wye Valley asparagus with fresh peas, cured egg yolk and burnt onion mayonnaise.

I had it as an interlude, after hulking great Scottish scallops - tender, sweet and underpinned by umami-laden smear of roasted almond milk - and before a deliciously meaty wing of skate, slightly caramelised and served with cauliflower, curry oil, cockles and sultanas. Definitely no nostalgia here.

The setting is suited to the food: bright, stylish and housed within a classically British hotel, somewhere in between Jermyn Street and St James’s Palace. It’s excellent value, too, for this part of London. Dishes average out at £16 for a big plate and £8 for the small (the scallops are a bit more, the veg a bit less).

The wine list is approachable too, ascending benignly (for Mayfair) from just under £30. Five whites and five reds are available by the glass, providing another opportunity to mix and match - or indeed, for the benefit of diners unwilling to share wine as well as food.

GBR, Dukes Hotel, London SW1

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Holden Frith is The Week’s digital director. He also makes regular appearances on “The Week Unwrapped”, speaking about subjects as diverse as vaccine development and bionic bomb-sniffing locusts. He joined The Week in 2013, spending five years editing the magazine’s website. Before that, he was deputy digital editor at The Sunday Times. He has also been’s technology editor and the launch editor of Wired magazine’s UK website. Holden has worked in journalism for nearly two decades, having started his professional career while completing an English literature degree at Cambridge University. He followed that with a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago. A keen photographer, he also writes travel features whenever he gets the chance.