The Goring restaurant review

The Goring restaurant review

by Ella Timney 30 January 2015

Don't be intimidated by the old-school air of The Goring. Ella discovered the wonderful staff are experts at putting all diners at ease.

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After serving as head of content for Great British Chefs and Great Italian Chefs, in early 2019 Ella took the plunge and moved to Toulouse in pursuit of a life of cheese, pastis and cassoulet. She is now a freelance food editor, writer, and content specialist.

After serving as head of content for Great British Chefs and Great Italian Chefs, in early 2019 Ella took the plunge and moved to Toulouse in pursuit of a life of cheese, pastis and cassoulet. She is now a freelance food editor, writer, and content specialist.

Full disclosure: I am not what you’d call posh. It is only by practice and commitment that I can drag myself into some seriously posh places that come with the territory in this job and not make a total tit of myself with every twist and turn. I did a sociology degree: I know about Bourdieu’s notions of Habitus, and it’s totally true. It’s been a hard struggle to get to the point where I can start enjoying these things now, through a lot of practice eating in posh places. I know - poor me!

At this point, I treat going to really posh places with what could be deemed a mischievous sense of glee. There’s much fun to be had. With that, I booked a table for two at a place that is so posh, The Queen goes there. So posh, that Kate Middleton had her wedding thing, or whatever, there.

I took a solidly middle class friend, albeit one with class-consciousness, purple hair and a septum piercing, to enjoy this feast. I have long been admiring chef Shay Cooper’s recipes on the site, and was curious about the melding of traditional, well-loved (by the Queen Mother) dishes with some of his more experimental touches.

Let’s start with the Edwardian dining room - it is quite unlike anywhere I have been before - a kind of creamy, hazy, sparkly place, with glittering lilac chandeliers. Somehow everything about this place is ‘just so’ - the perfect temperature, the perfect muffled hum of conversation, and yes - the perfect staff, who were utterly charming in every way.

After tucking into several slices of seriously addictive onion bread, I opted for a starter of Crisp fried cod cheeks, delicately poised on a bed of thinly sliced octopus, surrounded by dots of red pepper and tomato purée. And crisp the cod cheeks were, the perfectly light batter encasing the richly unctuous cod.

My friend opted for the Warm salad of cauliflower with goat’s cheese, sliced grapes and pine nuts - a perfectly balanced dish that was at once comforting to eat, while still offering bags of interesting touches.

Now for mains, with which I was incredibly torn. It was a difficult menu in that everything sounded, again ‘just so’ - there was the Halibut with roast celeriac purée, Squab pigeon with pumpkin purée, Brill fillet with rose shrimps, all calling to me. I tried to edge away from more legendary dishes, like the Glazed lobster omelette, in favour of something more meaty. My Telmara Farm duck was served perfectly pink, perfectly tender, with a seriously heady richness running through every bite. The gorgeous little chervil roots added just enough respite between the waves of intense ducky flavour from the duck breast, duck cabbage (oh, the duck cabbage!) and stuffed prune to keep me from passing out.

My friend’s Roasted best end of Romney Marsh Lamb with rosemary jus was equally euphoric - carved at the table by one of those lovely, lovely waiters, plated beautifully on a mound of greens, with a side of dauphinoise and a thick drizzle of jus and mint sauce - it tasted like the best bits of the best roast lamb ever cooked, combined on one beautiful plate. In fact, the next day when recalling the meal, I started fantasising about returning that very day for the lamb, in what would have been the most extravagant Sunday roast ever. I resisted, somehow.

After tussling over the very real, very difficult struggle of ‘cheese or dessert?’, we both went for desserts. My pistachio sponge with the newest of the new season’s forced rhubarb was as visually spectacular as it was delicious. The sponges, which resembled vibrant moss (look up ‘siphon gun sponge’ if you want your mind blown) were light and nutty, and provided a great pillowy accompaniment to the tart, but delicate rhubarb. The baked custard was the star of the dish - utterly rich vanilla decadence.

My friend’s vanilla cheesecake was, of course, not your average cheesecake - fantastically light with little refreshing hits of nut and grape to end the meal.

After all of this richness, food as rich and elegant as the people surrounding us, we supped down some incredibly potent Calvados, gobbled down some incredible petit fours and reflected on the scene. Yes, if you’re not used to it, the old-school air of the place may feel intimidating. But after 5 minutes, you are put at ease by lovely staff who are just as used to mere mortals who don’t quite know how to use a fish knife, as they are pouring bazillion pound champers to regulars.

They are true experts at combatting social anxiety, and will endlessly adapt to make you feel like everything’s great - like true professionals. This is the antithesis of some more ‘relaxed’, hipster places I have visited, where the attitude is ‘If you don’t know why this is good, you don’t deserve to be here’, which has produced some of the most miserable dining experiences I have ever experienced.

In short then, give it a go. Go and be spoilt - enjoy the brilliant food, enjoy the lovely staff, and enjoy peeking into this world. It’s pure escapism, and it’s great.