Gilbey’s Bar (Eton, UK)

I started visiting the UK regularly when my brother started dating my now sister-in-law Sophie, and on most visits we had between 2006 and 2019, a common side trip was visiting my Aunt Sue, who lived just outside of Windsor, which is just a relatively short train trip from London, usually visiting with Sue, helping out around her house, and occasionally going out for a nice meal. She had a few favorite places, including The Pineapple in Dorney, the Windsor Farm Shop, and, for special occasions, Gilbey’s in Eton. Unfortunately, my aunt passed away in September 2022; in April we were finally able to complete the arrangements to bury her ashes in the splendid Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens in a small ceremony. Afterward, we retired to nearby Eton, and had a memorial dinner at Gilbey’s in her honor.

Gilbey’s sells itself as “Upscale Modern British”, and that’s the vibe from the moment you step in the door: it’s a well-decorated, cozy pub that’s also expanded into the adjacent storefront, with a variety of large and small tables to accommodate diners; our group of six was seated just across from the main bar on a nice long table with padded bench along the wall with a nice view out onto the street through the front window. Looking over the menu, it’s the classic menu approach I expect from most high-end Gasto-pubs, with a list of starters and mains covering all the main bases you expect for a gastro-pub (British-inspired meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes) while also offering a more cost-conscious Set Menu of starter, main, and pudding, and as a nice bit of flexibility, all of the items from the set menu are also available a la carte. The menu is also quite seasonal in nature, especially on the a la carte side, but there’s a good amount of variety here. We ended up skipping the starters in general and just ordering a main course each, with some passing around so we could sample everything.

My brother went for the Seared King Scallops and Tempura Squid. This was a nice line-up of several well-seared scallops, garnished with both tempura squid rings and tentacles, and mixed with some pea shoots and pancetta shards, served with a nicy curry veloute over a bed of cauliflower puree. Everything here was quite good: the scallops perfectly seared, the squid tender and not rubbery, and the sauce and puree rounding this out into a nice dish.

My sister-in-law went for classic seafood, with some mussels. In this case, St Austell Bay Mussels, served with white wine, cream, garlic, and parsley sauce, crusty bread, and a hefty bowl of chips. Like any good mussel dish, these were nicely steamed, and the wine/cream sauce lightly flavoring the mussels without overwhelming them. Along with the perfectly-done chips, this reminded me a lot of La Marée in Brussels, which is one of Sophie’s favorite spots.

Myself, I’m particularly unable to resist “pork belly”, and here I gave into the urge, getting the Belly of Suffolk Pork and Crackling. This was a very nicely done slab of pork belly with just the right amount of cooking to soften the fat and sear it a bit, served with one long crackling with some creamed savoy, honey-glazed carrots, bacon and sage croquette, and a cider sauce. The pork was delicious, and the crackling just the perfect item for dipping in the sauce.

After that, it was time for dessert. Dan went classic, going for the sticky toffee pudding. Gilbery’s was a nice rendition, with a butterscotch sauce and Cornish clotted cream, and one of the better sticky toffee puddings I’ve seen in recent years, and a reminder to me of some of the unique flavors in the world of British desserts.

Myself, I was looking for something a bit less sweet, and went for the Lychee Crème brûlée. This was definitely one of the more modern dishes, served up with mango gel, hibiscus meringue, and salted cashews. With a lot more flavor and herbal notes than sweetness, I really enjoyed this, although the combination of a meringue and the crackle-top of the brûlée was a bit of a textural overkill. But still, pleasant enough.

Overall, it was nice to be able to have a good dinner with friends to remember our late Aunt Sue, enjoying one of her favorite restaurants, and sharing stories of some of our better memories. I’d definitely not hesitate to come back to Gilbey’s in the future if looking for a great pub dinner around Windsor and Eton.

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