So it seems like 'old pub week' here: having previously blogged The Grapes which dates from 1583, The Guinea trumps this claiming a history dating back to the 15th century. With the well to do Berkeley Square just up the road, The Guinea originally provided a public house for the servants and stable-hands to gather. The grill opened in 1953 (originally in a tent out back apparently), but now, while the pub part remains excellent, the restaurant is very much the draw.
Occupying two rooms in the back part of the building, you pass the grill on the way to the table and can see the day's meat offering displayed in a glass fronted cabinet. This stems from the early grill days when there was no menu, you looked into the cabinet and pointed. Today though, they are somewhat more obliging and menus are forthcoming.
In the restaurant itself, while the tables aren't close on the Relais de Venise scale, this is an expensive part of town, a small pub where space is at a premium and a venue in high demand, accordingly, they do make use of every inch of space within the dining area which is either snug or crowded depending on your point of view. Walls are wood panelled up to a height of about four feet after which, prints of hunting, the English countryside and other art that befits a gentleman's study are displayed. In many ways, the place seeks to take you back a hundred years or more and so root you in its own tradition of old English taverns and old English food, an aim it broadly achieves.
Service is provided by a loyal group of waiters all of whom are extremely polite (I think a total of seven waiters wished me goodbye as I was leaving) and throughout the meal service was efficient and friendly. Smart too, the waiters all wear suits and ties as do the majority of the customers. The sommelier who I have seen on each of my visits over the years is especially entertaining and always makes me smile with his enthusiasm and engagement. Accordingly, the venue is far from stuffy, this is a pub after all. Perhaps my one issue with the dining room is that with the small space, crowded with diners, noise levels are really quite high sometimes making it difficult to hear what my dining companion was saying (no Mrs CC on this occasion).
The Guinea Grill's other claim to fame is its pies and this was my choice. The menu lists them as 'three times National Steak & Kidney Pie Champions' and around the place you can see framed certificates all relating to their pie quality and awards won. I've also been told that these pies contain around 2,000 calories but I don't know if that's true. The pie option is also a relative bargain at £14.50 and on the infrequent times I come to the Grill, being famous for it's pies, I'm always inclined to have one.
Alongside the prize winning steak & kidney pie, they offer a steak and mushroom pie too which I go for. The pie comes out in its own bowl wearing a ruffle to make the dish pretty and with a golden crisp pastry top, it's very pretty indeed. The pastry top is fun to break into and reveals a packed interior with plenty of meat and a deep rich gravy. You also eat this pie with confidence because you trust the quality of the beef that's used to make it. I finished the pie and disappointed to come to the end, I started picking at whatever small bits of pastry were left burnt onto the bowl edge; this is comfort food at its best. Despite my attempt to extract more, it wasn't because I was hungry, it's a good size pie and was totally filling. I was tempted by the dessert menu (Christmas pudding featured) but knew I'd be eating for the sake of it; for once, I thought I wouldn't
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