We had made a reservation at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Being extremely well known, it is difficult to get reservation at short notice. By short I mean 2 months during the off season. As soon as we knew we were coming to London we booked. We had a table at an early 6.30. We did not protest.
This was our third visit to the restaurant. I am not going to bore you with photos of the food. I am going to try and tell you how utterly great the whole experience was. The food, the service, the ambiance and the staff.
As is our wont we arrived a good 15 minutes early, so in the chilly London evening twilight we went for a short, time-wasting walk. We wasted the requisite 10 minutes and arrived at the restaurant at the appointed hour delightfully frozen. We were greeted and our name found in an instant on the computer. HRH the Queens coat was whisked away and we were escorted to our table. Every staff member who made eye contact wished us good evening. The restaurant was about ¼ full, only to fill to capacity as the evening progressed. The Sommelier turned up and asked if we would like an Apertif or Champagne. Two Champagnes were ordered and served in the most delicate glasses I have seen in a long time. Once this was over, the Captain in charge of our table had probably had a look at the computer that indicated we were repeat visitors. He come and welcomed us back, handed us the menus and said, as we know starters are on the left side and mains are on the right.
Soon the utterly charming Maitre D’ Jean-Claude Breton arrived at our table and shook hands with both of us and warmly welcomed us back to the restaurant. Obviously the computer was the reason he had this knowledge. There was no way he would remember us 6 months after our previous visit. I take my hat off to this level of training. You have a computer system, use the damn thing, use it sensibly and teach the staff to use it. Let me be totally honest, we have no relationship with Jean-Claude Breton, but the way we were treated you would have thought we knew each other for years.
After we had ordered, the Sommelier Jan Konetzki turned up to help us with the wine. This can be a fairly daunting task for us. We have really no knowledge of wine so we need help. I started getting recommendations for wines which were simply too expensive. I told him I wanted cheaper wines. Without blinking he turned the page to much cheaper wines. Ultimately he gave us a relatively cheap wine that met our specifications [medium bodied with less tannins]. It seemed to make no difference to him that we were ordering such a cheap wine. Professional to the core. Just to put matters in perspective, the wine cost Rs 5,000/-. The wine was excellent. You cannot get a wine of this quality in India at the best 5 star restaurant at this price. It would probably cost 3 times as much in India.
The food itself was a work of such skill that it was shocking. After eating in relatively ordinary restaurants for the last few days we realised what high quality cooking really is. Every component was cooked with high skill. Every component was perfectly salted and full of flavour that you did not think was possible. The knife skills in cutting the vegetable, the colour of the vegetable, the sourcing of the vegetable [all baby vegetable sourced from a dedicated grower in Pembridge] and the quality of meat and fish was all of the highest order. Each plate looked like as the cliché goes – a work of art.
This is what we ate:
Ravioli of Lobster, Langoustine and Salmon poached in a light bisque with Oscietra caviar and Sorrel Velouté
Sautéed Foie Gras with roasted Veal Sweetbreads, Carrots, Almonds and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
Cornish Turbot baked on the bone with Seaweed, Palourde Clams, Fennel, Broccoli and Romanesco
Cotswold Lamb, winter vegetable “Navarin”, Best End, Braised Shank, Confit Breast and Shoulder
Bitter Chocolate cylinder with Coffee Granité and Ginger Mousse
English Peppermint Soufflé with bitter Chocolate Sorbet
The service was faultless. The friendliness of the staff and their knowledge of the food and the ingredients was a constant source of delight. In case they did not know something they immediately went to the kitchen and asked. We had two questions, what was the green puree in the fish – Brocolli, and, what was the herb in the Foie Gras – Dried Parsley.
The evening ended. A taxi was called and Jean-Claude Breton asked if we would like to see the kitchen and meet Clare Smyth the head chef. We said we had already seen the kitchen but would love to again. We went in and the kitchen was flying. You could seek chefs in the background scurrying about. But at the pass where the plates were being assembled was Clare Smyth and a couple of Chefs, armed with tweezers carefully and purposefully and calmly plating food. It was unbelievable. Ms Smyth suddenly shouted `Service’ and busboys arrived to take food out. The kitchen was spotlessly clean. Photos were taken, including one with Chef Clare who charmingly agreed to pose for a photograph in the middle of a busy service. We were very touched.
As we left the kitchen, HRH the Queens coat was magically waiting for her as was the taxi.
It was an end to a stunning evening. It was perfect in every way. I do not think I have ever had a better restaurant experience. I certainly hope that this is not the last. I want to experience more. Gordon Ramsay does not cook here. His name is on the door. This is what his standards are. I have the highest respect for him. I can understand why he shouts so much. It is all about perfection.
That night, I thought was perfect.