Around eighteen months ago, a dear friend of the family turned 80 and to mark the occasion I wanted to treat him to something he would really appreciate and enjoy. So I asked him what his favourite meal would be, and he said “a proper mixed grill.”
This is not to downplay the merits of a quality mixed grill, on the contrary, I took to the web to search the local Windsor and Maidenhead area for something special. My research led me inexorably to 65 St. Leonards Road, Windsor, not least via the plethora of numbers that bombarded the researcher when googling the restaurant.
As of mid November 2017 a google search showed 53 google reviewers gave an average mark of 4.3/5, 429 reviewers for OpenTable provided an average of 4.6/5 and that familiar stalwart Trip Advisor scored 4.5/5 from 441 reviews. I decided I would like to add my own opinion to this rather impressive sea of data.
The Windsor Grill opened in 2007, a short walk from Windsor Castle (also with ample and convenient on street metred parking), on the site which once housed the Merry Wives of Windsor Pub. This historical tavern was famed in urban legend for linking tunnels to Windsor Castle that served the dual purpose of smuggling the otherwise inappropriate guests in, as well as allowing the monarchs of the day out (when they desired some discretion around their departures.)
Chef/Proprietor David Wilby is a gentle connoisseur, a man of over 35 years pedigree in the restaurant industry across such notable kitchens as The Royal Garden Hotel (Kensington), The Mirabelle (Mayfair) and Menage A Trois (London and New York). David also traveled America developing an interest in grilled and cajun cooking. Indeed it is this breadth and depth of pedigree joined to his unbending passion for his craft, that has led David to source the very best of ingredients and treat them with consistent tender loving care: As David says “you can make poor food from good produce but you can’t make good food out of poor produce.” The results are a premium grill restaurant of impressive quality. David is also a natural wine lover, having invested over time in wine en primeur and stored in bond, the top end of the wine list is a treat for old world wine enthusiasts, even the Robert Parker score is provided for those influenced by the old maestro.
As eighteen months before, I had sat and watched my dining companion devour ‘The Windsor Grill,’ on this occasion I jumped at the chance to try this signature for myself: Rump Steak, Pork Sausage, Lamb’s Kidney, Calf’s Liver, Bacon, Lamb Cutlet, Black Pudding, Chorizo, Pork Belly, Tomato & Mushrooms. For well timed, superior quality ingredients £25 is entirely reasonable, which is a general sentiment on the price points of the menu, backed by a steady flow of both regular private clients and corporate trade, too. The location is just close enough to the centre of town to service the local clientele and just far enough away not become a tourist restaurant. As an independent it is one of the stronger businesses in the Windsor area.
I chose to swap the rump steak for an additional lamb cutlet, a request for change like 18 months before, when my dining companion had chosen to upgrade his beef from Rump to Sirloin (for a small premium). Neither request was too much trouble for the well versed service, who on each visit set the tone for a warm, convivial atmosphere. David pointed out that making his restaurant a pleasant and happy place to work was an ethos that would translate into the dining room being a pleasant and happy place to eat. Indeed front of house and kitchen have been at David’s side for many years and on only one notable occasion has he had to recruit a senior replacement. This mutual loyalty extends to suppliers where David maintains relationships that benefit the output of his kitchen. He claims not to change a produce supplier for the sake of a few percentage points when he knows they will not let him down when he needs their time and energy, it is worth the premium for consistency of quality and the peace of mind that brings.
A further signature of David’s is another meat eaters paradise – Pork “Five Ways” 6’ Hour Slow cooked Pork Belly, Grilled Iberico Black Leg Pork Loin, Sweet Potato & Chorizo Gratin, Bacon Greens, Apple Puree & Crackling. Priced at £22. The almost obligatory side of triple cooked duck fat chips proved crispy on the outside, slightly sweet and melting in the mouth on the inside.
While the emphasis is on meat, in particular an array of quality steaks, there is something for fish lovers too, such as the Fish Mixed Grill – Prawn, Scallop, Squid, & Three Seasonal Fish Pepperonata, Roast Herb & Garlic Dressing priced at £22.
On the starters David turns his hand to Scotch Eggs or for the more adventurous cum traditionalists Devilled Lamb Kidneys on Field Mushrooms or a classic Steak Tartare.
While it may not be a restaurant of choice for a no meat no fish vegetarian, one option did stand out in Aubergine, Courgette & Roast Pepper Parmigiana, Melting Mozzarella, Rocket Salad priced at £13.
The tasting plate of desserts was most generous and in fact defeated me, the most notable being the delicate and not too sweet interpretation of Eton Mess (centre above).
Overall David Wilby and his extended team provide “a family atmosphere” feel to the relaxed and accessible restaurant that has become a regular favourite for locals as well as something of a destination for those spanning all age demographics, particularly those with a taste for a premium grill, and will undoubtedly continue to go from strength to strength. I look forward to returning in the not too distant future.