Reopened in November 2021, The George is the second pub venture by JKS Group; the wildly successful brand behind legends such as Gymkhana and the two-starred Kitchen Table. In February this year, James Knappett (head chef at Kitchen Table) took the helm in their upstairs dining room, aiming to deliver reimagined pub classics. The Handbook contributor Katie Renouf checks it out.
As someone who has been known to choose venues based exclusively on their lighting, the soft glow that emits from The George makes me feel content before I even set foot inside.
The downstairs bar retains the best qualities of a classic London pub; a cosy dark palette, friendly staff, a wide array of spirits and space to sit down. I immediately earmark it for a nightcap after dinner.
I climb the stairs to the Dining Room, reaching a space which is equally beautiful but altogether different.
Taking inspiration from former landlords that resided here, “Upstairs at the George” has more of a parlour feel; sumptuous fabrics, ornate mirrors and candles provide a luxurious setting for the 30 or so covers. This would be a stunning space for a private function – perhaps an intimate wedding or family celebration.
We are seated in a curved banquette which allows us to survey the Thursday night clientele. The crowd is quite varied; groups of men, a double date, a family dinner. This is clearly a venue which works well for all, and that is not easy to achieve.
We kick off the evening with a couple of cocktails – my friend opts for the Morning Glory Fizz, with lemon verbena, whiskey, lemon and fennel pollen. It is considerably larger than my innocent-looking Granny Smith Gimlet (this came with a helpful suggestion of trying without alcohol, which I ignored entirely), however my drink is wickedly sharp and vibrant, fizzing slightly on the tongue.
I am pleased to discover that the menu is set out in starters and mains – as used to be the norm before we all became obsessed with sharing plates and spending our evenings trying to divide a poached egg.
For lighter lunches or decadent long dinners, kick off with the Seafood Bar menu, with oysters, dressed crab and prawns among the options. We started with six deliciously fresh and plump oysters, topped simply with a dash of lemon, red wine vinegar and Tabasco. Perfect.
There is a delicious selection of “seafood bar” items – with oysters, dressed crab and prawns among the options.
The starters and main dishes have the feel of revamped classics – whilst steak tartare, Caesar salad and scotch egg will always catch my eye, there are clever twists such as the addition of artichoke to the Caesar.
We start with six deliciously fresh and plump oysters, topped with a dash of lemon, red wine vinegar and Tabasco. Perfect.
Next we have a ½ pint of prawns with Marie Rose sauce and the artichoke Caesar. I struggle a little with the prawns – they are served warm so lose the firmness which makes chilled ones easier to peel – however my efforts are rewarded with deliciously sweet flesh and a top-notch Marie Rose sauce.
The Caesar is colourful and crisp, with an artichoke and egg topping giving it a rich, nutty twist. It would make a great main course option at lunchtime.
We also taste some of the Flor bread – if you, too, are missing their presence in Borough Market then this fluffy, crisp and light sourdough will be sure to put a smile on your face.
We move on to our main courses of whole lemon sole and langoustine scampi. The lemon sole is perfectly cooked and served with wild garlic butter, brown shrimp and mussels. My friend confirms that it is delicious – a very generous portion that you could easily share if adding some sides.
My scampi makes quite the entrance – the huge langoustines arrive looking majestic, their rear ends encased in little breadcrumb outfits. Despite appearances, this turns out to be quite a light option and the tails are consumed in no time. I use the pliers provided to extract more meat – although perhaps I’d have gone to more effort if I hadn’t already peeled the prawns. The accompanying tartare sauce, crushed peas and fries are all perfectly executed.
I’m feeling full just writing this, but yes – we also manage to have dessert. I find it hard to resist a good sticky toffee pudding plus we order the knickerbocker glory, which turns out to be a delicious and enormous creation.
My sticky toffee is divine; light sponge with toffee sauce that has been taken to exactly the right point without burning, finished with a lick of cream. I demolish the entire thing.
As I head home, I mull over the evening and find no fault. This relaunch has been done in a sensitive manner – one that pays homage to the building’s past, yet also meets the high standards of today’s diners.
I am certain that it will do well and highly recommend a visit.
Upstairs at The George
55 GREAT PORTLAND STREET, LONDON, W1W 7LQ
Tel. 0203 946 3740