This is written by HRH The Queen of Kutch
Eating out in London on this trip had not got off to its usual cracking start and with two middling meals under our belt. Both of us were looking forward to our evening at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay with a bit more than our usual anticipation This was our fourth time at this iconic 3 Michelin starred restaurant and, with each visit, my appreciation and pleasure at eating at this flagship restaurant of the inimitable Ramsay has only grown. Was this evening going to be as good as I hoped or would this be fourth time unlucky?
Oddly, this was echoed by the charming Maitre d' Jean-Claude Breton when he came across to chat with us soon after we were seated. “I remember you were very happy with your meal the last time you were here; I hope we manage the same this time”. Uh oh! This was ominous.
Notwithstanding the portents, we settled in cheerfully enough and asked for two glasses of champagne to start off the evening. A word here about the seating, although the tables are very close to one another and the room has a rather cosy and intimate feel, the way the chairs are arranged is that almost everybody is looking into the restaurant rather than out of the window or towards a wall. So the Gourmet Lawyer and I were seated next to one another at a round table rather than across from each other. Nice and practical I thought as it gives everyone a look at the going-ons in the restaurants and, more importantly, the servers are never sneaking up behind your back, but, facing you and talking directly to you.
Champagne was accompanied by a trio of absolutely superb hors-d'oeuvres: Quail Scotch Eggs, Parmesan and Truffle Pockets [made with Chinese Bao] and a third with Nori Jelly and Salmon Roe. We have had these the last time we were here as well and they were absolutely lovely. A fabulous showcase of techniques and flavours.
The ratio of staff per customer seems ridiculously high and at some point you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking there are more staff than customers. Several bloggers and reviewers of this restaurant have commented on this and said the number of staff is intimidating. This, they say is because people are always hovering around, it is difficult to relax and enjoy an intimate evening. Right and wrong I think. Is this not the restaurant for a gazing in the eyes and whispering sweet nothings? I believe that if you want to whisper sweet nothings then the staff will certainly recognise this and adjust their service accordingly. But then again, you can have as long a private conversation as you want without once being disturbed. Sweet nothing yes, but discussing an assassination or some sort of terrorist activity, definitely not! Yes, there are many many servers and staff but they are never hovering around. Service is done in a fairly discreet way and staff only stops for a chat if you invite them to. I actually find it quite right that empty dishes get whisked away, glasses get refilled as soon as they run low and you never ever have to look around to catch the eye of a server; there is always someone looking in your direction. No need to get away from whispering sweet nothings by having to stop to call a waiter to clear your plate.
The special for the day was Linguini with aged Parmesan sauce and Black Truffle. This was a no brainer for both of us as there are few things as delightful as creamy pasta with freshly grated Truffle. We opt for it on as many occasions as it is offered anywhere in the world and at Gordon Ramsay’s we guessed it would be the best we had ever eaten. Mains for the Gourmet Lawyer was Cotswold Lamb, and winter vegetable “Navarin”, the best end, braised shank, confit breast and shoulder. I asked for the Roast pigeon with Fennel, sautéed Foie Gras, Lavender, Honey and Orange. Orders placed, we settled down to look around the busy restaurant and sip our champagnes.
In the course of an evening, we interacted with no fewer than 6-7 staff. The first of course was the legendary Maitre d' Jean-Claude Breton, who either has the memory of an elephant or has a computer system that pulls up all kinds of information about returning customers, because he smoothly referred to a conversation we had with him on our last visit a year ago. Next was the captain in charge of our table and the bread server, followed by the junior sommelier and the bus boy to clear our empty hors-d'oeuvres plates.
Within a few moments of perusing the wine list we had at our table the head sommelier – Jan Konetzki who was recently accredited with the prestigious award of UK sommelier of the year 2012. Quick recovery I think by him because after a few seconds he looked at me and said; “I thought I recognized you but your hair is shorter and you have changed your frames” Both completely correct and fairly incredible - if he remembered. Going with the mellow mood of the evening, we asked for a gin and tonic followed by a bottle of good Crozes Hermitage.
The next surprise dish to arrive was an airy potato foam with shaved Black Truffles served in an eggshell. Yet again a stunning showcase of cooking techniques and flavour combinations.
The Linguini, when it arrived was an absolute work of art. Cooked pasta rolled into a tight spindle bathed in a superb light and airy aged Parmesan sauce. The sauce was absolutely fabulous rich in umami flavours and seasoned perfectly. I could have eaten just this without the Truffles. The Black Truffles that were shaved on were wonderfully perfumed and added a layer of luxury to an already superb dish. I must say though, I have never seen a restaurant as generous with their truffle. In most places they will either specify the amount of truffle you will get or stop after shaving what they feel is an appropriate amount. Not surprising, because the last I checked one ounce of black truffle cost 100 pounds!!. The lady who shaved on the truffle for me kept going till I almost yelped. She smiled sweetly and said, “We keep going till you ask us to stop”. Do take a look at this photograph and see the mound of shaved truffle on my pasta. Superb first course quickly demolished, we waited for our mains.
|The `Navarin' of Lamb|
|The skill and delicate hand. These are the baby vegetables that came in the Lamb|
The Crozes Hermitage worked wonderfully with my Pigeon and the Gourmet Lawyer’s Lamb and both of us thought our dishes were absolutely wonderful. Packed full of flavour, pretty as a painting and technically flawless.
The outstanding dessert at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is the Apple Tart Tatin for two but since we have eaten it twice before I opted for the Carrot cake with Mead, Bee Pollen and Cream Cheese Ice Cream for me and the English Peppermint Soufflé with Bitter Chocolate Sorbet for the Gourmet Lawyer. To accompany or dessert the suave Jan served us a glass of Armagnac and Calvados. There was much hilarity when I said I would only drink my Armagnac if he promised to have a cab waiting at the door. The desserts were very good and I thought shaving some fresh carrot on my carrot cake was a lovely touch.
After the bill was paid Jean-Claude asked if we would like to see the kitchen once again and meet the chef. Yes we said, we would love the chance and we would also like a photograph with him this time. In the surprisingly clean yet super busy kitchen we met the superbly talented Clare Smyth. Jean-Claude jocularly summoned a bus boy to act as paparazzi and click a photograph where Clare and he happily posed along with us. Unfortunately the nervous bus boy just pretended to click and ran away after handing back our camera. There is no photograph to share. On checking later I was happy to read that Clare Smyth is not just executive chef but chef patron of this restaurant. This means that she is Head Chef, the boss and owner even if in part, of the restaurant.
There are however memories. Of a fabulous evening with exceptional food and flawless friendly service. Would I go back again? In a heartbeat. Is the London eating scene back on track for us? Absolutely. This one evening easily surpassed the minor blip of two disappointing meals.