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Test Driving Upstairs at The George - a Michelin-starred take on pub classics

ALTThe dining room upstairs consists of these two interconnected rooms, a bar and a private dining room.

What do we need to know about Upstairs at The George?

You may or may not be aware of JKS Restaurant Group's (yes the ones behind Bao, Gymkhana etc) new pub arm, teaming up with publican Dominic Jacobs (of The Running Horse). They started first in Chelsea with The Cadogan Arms and their most recent makeover was of The George - a Victorian pub in Fitzrovia. As part of this group they've brought in James Knappett of the two Michelin-starred Kitchen Table to run the food side of things.

Here at The George, there's a more traditional pub menu downstairs and they've also had the opportunity to make over the pub's upstairs dining space with an elevated pub menu by Knappett. So it's that we were here to try.

Where exactly is it?

The 18th century Grade II listed pub itself is on Great Portland Street, just a few minutes walk from Oxford Circus.

Drinks downstairs first presumably?

Well, yes and no. While the downstairs pub is a rather glorious one, with a fine range of cocktails, wines and beers on offer, upstairs has its own special place to drink. There, in a tiny room, you'll find a bar devoted to English wine. There are a few chichi stools to perch up at the bar and - our favourite thing - a mantlepiece that's been converted into an English sparkling wine ice trough.

upstairs at the george pub restaurant review londonThe gorgeous-looking bar at Upstairs. We covet those stools. At the back, you can see how they've really made the best of that mantlepiece. 

What kind of food are we talking?

The menu here is full of the British pub classics Knappett remembers from his time working in his own family's pubs (with, we feel, a couple of notable exceptions that wouldn't be out of place in a top French brasserie). So you'll find whelks, a half-pint of prawns and bangers & mash on offer. But, as you might imagine, the dishes aren't as simple as they might seem at first glance.

Here's what we had to give you a flavour.

upstairs at the george pub restaurant review londonSt Ewe devilled egg with espelette and chives (£4 each) - these are a trigger dish for us, and hard to resist. These may be the most beautifully presented we've had (and they get extra points for the doily). 

upstairs at the george pub restaurant review londonDressed crab (£16) - another example of a traditional dish where the presentation has been significantly amped up. Like no other dressed crab out there (in a good way). 

upstairs at the george pub restaurant review londonJuniper steelhead smoked trout with dill mayonnaise, pickled cucumber salad and a rye cracker (£15). Such beautifully cured fish and we were utterly won over by that pickled cucumber to go with it.

ALTSteak Tournedos Rossini (£39) - fillet steak tower topped with caramelised foie gras and a beef fat crouton. And - if you want to go all bouji on it - you can add black truffles to it too as an option. Not something you'll normally find in a pub, but an excellent version of the classic dish. 

upstairs at the george pub restaurant review londonScottish langoustine scampi and chips (£35) with lovely tartare sauce, crushed minted peas - not mushy peas in case you were thinking, but far superior from our own point of view. Love how they managed to breadcrumb and fry the body without detaching it from the rest of the langoustine. Clever but also delicious.

Anything for vegetarians?

Absolutely. There's a soup of the day and artichoke Caesar salad in the starters section and a rather good-sounding celeriac and mushroom pie served with roasted celeriac gravy.

Room for dessert?

We wanted everything on the short pudding menu and only the fact of it being lunchtime stopped us going all out and having one of their Bread & Butter Old Fashioneds to go with it. Here's what we had:

ALTKnickerbocker glory (£10) - if you've overindulged in the earlier courses, sharing one of these is a good option. Soft serve on its own (with toppings) is available if you want to downsize. 

upstairs at the george pub restaurant review londonSticky toffee pudding (£8) - a perfectly sized pudding, in that it's not enough to kill you after all the food you've had, sitting in a good caramel sauce and topped with proper clotted cream rather than the ubiquitous creme fraiche.

What about the drink?

With so much attention focused on English wine here, you really ought to try something from the list. They've gone to great lengths to construct a particularly interesting collection of still and sparkling wines - there's even a Leicestershire Pet Nat for goodness sake. There's an opportunity to try some by the glass too, and they're looking to expand the options there. 

As for us, we had a bottle of Ortega Rose from Westwell in Kent (£52) which matched the day's lovely spring weather with loads of fresh fruit.

upstairs at the george pub restaurant review londonDon't forget to look out for their 'staircase to nowhere' which they've turned into a temperature-controlled wine room (there's also a lot more down in the pub's cellar).

Anything else we should know?

There's a lovely private dining room up here as well which serves up a family-style feasting menu that would be great for a special occasion.

Overall thoughts:

Normally the idea of 'elevating' classic dishes comes with all sorts of issues over whether the act of elevation has ended up distorting the original dish so much that it's lost its true essence. Happily that's not the case here at The George. The menu is one of those that reads so well and you'll be torn on what to order. Add to that the particularly interesting English wine list and you've got a lovely pub dining room that's really worth making a trip to.

 

More about Upstairs at The George

Where is it? 55 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7LQ

How to book: book online

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @thegeorgepublichouse.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of The George. Prices correct at time of publication.

 

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