Posts Tagged 'ramsay'

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London

I suppose this is the big one. The blow-out. Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous flagship restaurant (commonly known as “Royal Hospital Road”) is a “3 Michelin Star” restaurant – one of only three in the whole of Britain. Famously difficult to get a booking, prospective diners are required to request a table exactly two calendar months in advance. Credit card numbers are required and no-shows are subject to a charge of £200. Each. Clearly this place is at the top of London’s fine-dining tree.

I’ve been longing to visit “RHR” for a while now, not only because the menu contains many signature dishes of the great man himself, but because I was keen to discover why a restaurant is deemed “3 Star” when so many other chefs will only dream of obtaining the top accolade.

I’ve dined at Pétrus and Maze in the past. Both establishments, while belonging to the Ramsay empire, mostly owe their fantastic menus to their executive chefs – namely Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton respectively. (Note, Wareing has since split from the Ramsay camp following an acrimonious public spat. But he hasn’t gone away, you know. The Berkeley hotel apparently decided that they would rather work with Marcus Wareing directly and gave Ramsay his cards. The restaurant is now called “Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley” which I’d highly recommend you visit.)

The restaurant is situated on a quiet residential street in Chelsea. Due to the fact that I had left it quite late in the day to ring for a reservation, the earliest I could get a table was 10pm. We cheekily walked through the door 15 minutes early but were greeted warmly and ushered immediately to our table. The first thing that struck me was the size of the room – it’s absolutely tiny. We counted 13 tables, not the smallest restaurant in the world, but I was still taken aback at how small the tables were and how close they were together. You could call it “cosy” if you were being charitable. I wasn’t blown away by the décor either. The whole design is a little cold and slightly austere.

Potato, Basil and Mozarella Wafer

Moments after we sat down, we had two glasses of champagne and some amuse bouche in front of us. The first amuse arrived in a retro toast rack –  a dinky potato ‘wafer’ filled with basil pesto and mozzarella. Tasty and very light. The second  amuse was a ‘cornet’ of tomato and avocado.

After perusing the three menus on offer, we opted for the tasting menu, known here as the “Menu Prestige”. It’s not for the faint-hearted – 7 courses, not counting the inevitable procession of show-off amuses, pre-starters and pre-desserts. We also asked the sommelier to bring us a selection of wines (by the glass) to accompany the dishes.

Some elements of the menu  were off limits for me because of my designer shellfish allergy. However, The Wife bravely stepped in and provided opinions on the parts of the menu I didn’t sample. Naturally, the Maître-D was quite charming and assured me that every care would be taken to keep the shelled critters away from my meal. He also assured me he would bring me something “very special” to replace the “Langoustine” starter. A nice touch, which I very much appreciated.

But enough yakking already, let’s get to the dishes…

Tomato Consommé

Tomato consommé – this dish was our “pre-starter”. The chilled soup was light and very intensely flavoured. Unfortunately, I had the vegetarian version without the langoustine and caviar, but I didn’t feel too cheated.

Foie Gras

Pressed foie gras with Madeira jelly, smoked duck, peach and almond crumble – it’s often said that foie gras is an “acquired taste”. Worryingly, I think I’ve acquired it. Animal welfare concerns aside, it’s true that foie gras can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. It’s just so incredibly, heart-stoppingly rich. This was a masterful dish, so many different flavours and textures – the rich foie was accompanied by micro-leaves, a crunchy crumble, soft fruit and the most wonderful brioche, all of which served to lighten the rich liver. So this is 3-star cooking – masterful. We accompanied the dish with a sweet and spicy Gewürztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre“.

Ravioli of Lobster

Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon with tomato chutney, vinaigrette – I’ve seen this dish described as Gordon Ramsay’s signature dish, but sadly I was unable to partake. Matters were not helped by The Wife gushing praise upon the dish with every mouthful. I think she may have even described the ravioli (a raviolo, surely?) as the best dish she’s ever eaten. Praise indeed.

Vitello Tonnato

Vitello tonnato with shaved fennel salad, pickled anchovies and caper berries – While The Wife enjoyed the lobster and langoustine I tucked into this Ramsay interpretation of an Italian classic, straight off the lunch menu. It was very good, typically Italian, full of clean and distinct flavours.

Fillet of Turbot

Fillet of turbot with braised baby gem lettuce, leeks and cep sauce – soft, translucent turbot which flaked beautifully. How do they do this? Sous-vide possibly? Loved the earthy sauce and vegetable accompaniments. Our fish starters were accompanied by a minerally Australian Riesling, “Egon Müller“.

Bresse Pigeon

Roasted pigeon from Bresse with grilled polenta, smoked pork belly and date sauce – happily, the tasting menu includes a choice of lamb or pigeon for the meat course. Being the blogging anorak that I am, I went for whatever option The Wife rejected. In this case, I scored the pigeon. No harm there, I adore pigeon, absolutely love it. (The pigeon dish I ate at Maze ranks as one of my all-time best restaurant dishes.) This bird was expertly cooked and matched perfectly by the sweet date sauce. I’d have happily eaten an entire dish of the smoked pork belly, the flavour was amazing and the texture as soft as butter. The sommelier paired my pigeon dish with a Sicilian “Rosso del Soprano” – to my palate, a fantastic combination.

Cornish Lamb

Canon of Cornish lamb with confit shoulder, ratatouille and thyme jus – lamb was always going to be a winner with these two diners, but this was superb. The meat was beautifully rare, with a quirky little surprise – the intensely flavoured ratatouille was served inside the roasted pepper.

Créme Brulée with Granny Smith Apple Shot

Crème brulée with Granny Smith Apple Shot – This dish arrived as a pre-dessert. I figured I should drink the zingy apple shot first, as a palate cleanser, then have the rich crème brulée.  Visually appealing and very satisfying.

Strawberry Soup

Strawberry, Champagne and elderflower soup with vanilla cream – this soup (a milkshake really) was served in a tall glass, to be consumed with a straw. I didn’t pick up much elderflower from the soup (maybe it was in the foam?) but it did deliver a delightful surprise – the addition of “space dust”. You remember that fizzy popping candy we used to enjoy as kids? I imagine every Michelin star kitchen in the world has a huge vat of this stuff in the larder!

Caramelised Tarte Tatin Service

Caramelised Tarte Tatin

Caramelised tarte Tatin of apples with vanilla ice cream – I was surprised to have been offered this dish as it is not officially on the “Menu Prestige”. It is however, on the “à la carte” menu. The Wife could not resist the urge to have such a classic dessert prepared in such a fine restaurant and ordered it before I knew what was happening. We were now truly starting to feel the effects of this feast, especially given the lateness of the hour. The presentation, as we had come to expect, was fantastic. The waiter presents the tart, decorated with sugar-dusted vanilla pods. He then swirled the most wonderful toffee sauce on each plate before carving the tart. It was incredibly, almost overwhelmingly rich. As delicious as it was, both the Wife and I failed to finish the dish. Time to admit defeat.

Bon bons #1

Bon bons – So full and tired were we that we declined coffee and asked for the bill. Undeterred, the waiter brought us out a selection on bon bons. The show-stopper was the white chocolates filled with strawberry ice-cream, presented in a steaming “cauldron” containing dry ice. Great theatre. We also nibbled on some tasty chocolate truffles and some Turkish delight, but our hearts were not in it at this stage. I can honestly stay, I’ve never been so well and truly stuffed in all my life.

Bon bons #2

A little aside…

I noted that some diners were quite obviously regulars. Strange to think that a restaurant like “Gordon Ramsay” is a local, neighbourhood restaurant to some people. But Chelsea is that kind of neighbourhood. My wife and I pondered that we had been looking forward to this meal for so long, and the fact that it was such a big (read expensive) treat. When you have the kind of money that GR is your local noshery, where do you go from there? Interesting…

Let’s not bother with figures, let’s just say the bill was pretty hefty. It’s certainly the most I’ve ever paid for a meal.  The food we were served was quite literally flawless in terms of taste and technical execution. The service was friendly, charming and effortlessly slick. But I do feel that for a lot of restaurant lovers, the whole experience will never live up to the price tag. There is a certain premium to be paid because of the sacred “third star”. Despite this, we had a wonderful meal and would recommend it to any fans of fine-dining, as long as money is no object.

Next up, tapas at Soho’s “Barrafina“. Olé!

Verdict: 9/10

Gordon Ramsay on Urbanspoon

Maze, London

The Lounge at Maze

I love the Maze concept: small “tapas-style” dishes served in a buzzy, informal atmosphere – but with an attention to detail that is all part and parcel of the Gordon Ramsay brand. It almost seems a little unfair that Ramsay’s name is above the door given that the menu seems to be very much the vision of head chef Jason Atherton. Atherton certainly has an accomplished CV, including stints at the likes of La Tante Claire, Harvey’s and El Bulli. He joined the Ramsay empire in 2002 as executive chef of Verre, Ramsay’s Dubai outpost. He and Ramsay then opened Maze in London’s Grosvenor Square in 2005, winning a Michelin star months later.

Although it’s now awfully fashionable to assign homely, familiar titles to posh, teased-out restaurant food, I love the sense of fun on Atherton’s menu.  One of Maze’s better known dishes from the tasting menu is “Assiette of Sandwiches“. A lot of people know this dish because Atherton cooked it as part of BBC’s “Great British Menu” series in 2008, winning the “Starter” section of the competition with the dish.  It’s a cheeky little number, consisting of a “Croque Monsieur” and a novel take on a “BLT”.

My dining companion (her indoors) and I sat down with some great breads and a glass of wine and were allowed to take our time over the menu. We rejected the set lunch in favour of the amazing tasting menu. The waiter nicely asked if we had visited Maze before (which we hadn’t) and explained the menu to us. The tasting menu is divided into two sections; the first section containing smaller, lighter dishes and the latter section containing larger and heavier dishes. He suggested that we both order two dishes from each section, which turned out to be spot on.

Here are the dishes. I’ll do my best to describe the dishes my wife kindly let me taste!

Assiette of sandwiches, 'BLT' and croque monsieur

Assiette of sandwiches, ‘BLT’ and croque monsieur – As I stated above, this dish was an absolute eye-popper. The “BLT” comprised a tomato jelly, a rich bacon and onion cream with tiny onion rings. The final flourish was the shockingly green lettuce velouté, poured by the waiter during service. Unfortunately it’s let down slightly by the flavour; I think the tomato jelly needs to deliver a bigger hit here. The “Croque Monsieur” element was pleasing but unremarkable.

Iron bark pumpkin latte with braised duck, black truffle syrup and cep brioche

Iron bark pumpkin latte with braised duck, black truffle syrup and cep brioche – another great piece of food theatre, assembled by the waiter at the table. The cup contains only foam, the waiter pouring the rich and perfectly flavoured pumpkin soup through the foam before finishing the dish with a drizzle of truffle syrup from a dropper bottle. This was an excellent dish, great looks and a sublime flavour. A definite highlight.

Braised octopus, oxtail vinaigrette, dehydrated black olive, fine herbs and confit lemon

Braised octopus, oxtail vinaigrette, dehydrated black olive, fine herbs and confit lemon – a great combination of flavours; tender pieces of octopus which are lent a deep savouriness by the oxtail vinaigrette. The lemon flavour is very distinct and lightens the dish, but I feel the olive flavour is lost here.

Roasted sea scallops with textures of apples, butterscotch and bacon

Roasted sea scallops with textures of apples, butterscotch and bacon – I didn’t sample this dish as I’m not into shellfish, but my wife described it as the best scallops she’d ever tasted. ‘Nuff said.

Roasted Anjou pigeon, 70% chocolate ganache, blueberries, red wine and celeriac

Roasted Anjou pigeon, 70% chocolate ganache, blueberries, red wine and celeriac – definitely another stand out dish for me. I’ve often seen game meats paired with chocolate but never tried it. It works perfectly here, the rich flavour of the pigeon coming through the bitter chocolate. The blueberries are a great addition, offering a sweet, fruity contrast to the chocolate. For me, one of the most well-conceived dishes of the day. Triumphant.

Roasted hake in Parma ham, chorizo and pimento purée, squid paint

Roasted hake in Parma ham, chorizo and pimento purée, squid paint – a tasty but very simple dish; good flavour from the fish, the pimento purée is quite fiery but does not overwhelm the hake. Pretty good.

Roasted hake in Parma ham, chorizo and pimento purée, squid paint

Cornish lamb and tongue, salt marsh mutton shepherd’s pie, spring cabbage and mint jelly – as you’d expect, the lamb here was perfectly cooked, the cutlet particularly melting in the mouth. A nice hit of mint delivered in the unusual form of a slice of jelly. The flavour of the accompanying “shepherd’s pie” (not pictured) was intensely savoury and well presented in a small cocotte.

Irish ox 'tongue 'n' cheek', caper raisin and ginger carrots, horseradish pomme purée

Irish ox ‘tongue ‘n’ cheek’, caper raisin and ginger carrots, horseradish pomme purée – another cheeky dish title and probably the most impressive dish I ordered. The cheek was particularly fine, perfectly flavoured and as soft as butter. The tongue unsurprisingly had a firmer texture but bags of flavour. I was intrigued with the idea of pairing these meats with such strong flavours as ginger and capers, but they were subtle and perfectly complimentary. 10/10, no question.

Peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich with salted nuts and cherry sorbet

Peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich with salted nuts and cherry sorbet – nothing like a jam sandwich of course, but a fitting end to a great meal. The salty nut topping made a nice contrast to the peanut and cherry cream.

Madagascan vanilla rice pudding, fig jam and fig roll

Madagascan vanilla rice pudding, fig jam and fig roll – how I wish I had ordered this! Definitely the better of the two desserts we ordered. This is the rice pudding of kings, rich and sumptuous with a big hit of vanilla. I wouldn’t normally eat a regular fig roll for love nor money, but Atherton’s witty interpretation of the classic biscuit was perfect!

The Kitchen at Maze

We finished our trip to Maze with a tour of the kitchen and were permitted not only to ask plenty of questions of our guide, but to take a few photos as well. A very nice touch for two inquisitive (and extremely full!) foodies.  Highly recommended.

Verdict: 10/10

Maze, 10-13 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6JP

Maze on Urbanspoon