Given how inescapable veganism’s been, anyone would think consumers are shunning meat entirely, but not so. Yes, social media has successfully persuaded many of us to cut down on our carnal desires, but we’re still choosing meaty dishes when out of home (for example, only 40% of evening meals contain no meat or meat substitutes, according to Kantar Worldpanel).
Only now customers are demanding granular detail about the provenance, narrative and quality of everything they’re eating.
They want to know where an animal was born, if it was grass-fed and whether the farmers received a fair wage (if you can tell them the farmer’s name, even better).
People appreciate the transparency and furthermore want confirmation that they’re dining at an establishment whose ethos aligns with theirs. With such high standards to meet, this gives chefs the opportunity to get creative with higher-quality menus.
Gridiron by COMO
Mayfair has this really magical quality of making you feel woefully underdressed no matter how much effort you’ve made – that’s at least how I felt on my way to Gridiron by COMO at COMO Metropolitan London.
Part of COMO Hotels and Resorts and situated on the prestigious Old Park Lane, upon entering I was pleasantly surprised to find that, though exceptionally elegant, the restaurant felt warm and inviting – and not just because of the exposed live-fire grill that begets its name.
Gridiron by COMO looks and feels like a brasserie with its low ceiling, mood lighting and wooden tables, but there are tell-tale signs that remind you that you’re in a 5-star hotel. Stainless-steel cutlery from Studio William, fine bone china plates from Royal Crown Derby – no tablecloths, however.
“Every element has been thought through to make Gridiron by COMO more welcoming and relaxed than perhaps some of the other nearby restaurants,” says Kate Richards, director of marketing and PR for COMO Hotels and Resorts London. “We want guests to feel like they can enjoy themselves and feel comfortable to make a bit of noise.”
In collaboration with Hawksmoor’s Richard Turner and with former Ledbury chef Colin McSherry at the helm, Gridiron by COMO pays homage to the ancient art of grilling with its open-kitchen format. The tables at the 50-cover site are perfectly placed so that guests have a view of the grill from wherever they’re seated, but they can also dine at the countertop for an up-close dinner and show.
Only in-season, ethically sourced British ingredients are featured – Richards explains that this is why the set lunch menu is on thicker stock paper; if the offering has to change depending on what the suppliers bring in, it can be easily reprinted. While we’re on the menu, given that we are in the middle of Mayfair, the prices are extremely reasonable: two courses can be enjoyed for £25 or three for £30.
Richards calls over McSherry, who regales me with the close relationships he and the team have with their suppliers, and how he wants “to know that the animals have had a nice life before they end up on our plates”.
Later, Richards shares that McSherry is not afraid to send produce back.
“He can tell if the meat has been through trauma,” she imparts.
Meat, native fish and vegetables are given equal attention, with specialities including Barnsley Hillside hogget chop and wood-roast cauliflower. Richards and I both happen to fall in the ‘reducetarian’ category, so she opts for the cauliflower, while I go for the roast cod. Though meat is still guests’ first choice, uptake of the fish and veg options are definitely on the increase, Richards notes.
Like a pyromaniacal magpie, I struggle to maintain focus on our conversation and not be drawn to the theatrics of the roaring flames and billowing smoke. My Wednesday lunchtimes are usually a lot different.
“Although we have the grill, we don’t want to be seen as just a meat restaurant; we want to be much more inclusive,” Richards says. “We’re all much more educated now about the environmental implications of eating meat, so it’d be remiss to not offer a range of options.”