1 Kinnerton Street,
Tel. 0207 592 1609
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge
Pétrus is a restaurant under the Gordon Ramsay group but one which does not receive much in terms of publicity since its opening back in 2010. For those who have been around the London dining scene for a long time, you may remember that Pétrus was also the name of a restaurant located in the Berkeley Hotel, under one Marcus Wareing. After a much publicised spat and ‘divorce’, Wareing kept the original restaurant site, renamed it Restaurant Marcus Wareing (now simply Marcus) and Gordon kept the restaurant name Pétrus. Thus Pétrus in its current iteration was born. With its opening, Gordon had brought in his big guns, with Mark Askew (his then Group Executive Head Chef) and Sean Burbidge, tasked to ensure Michelin success. The restaurant went on to win a Michelin star in the next iteration of the guide, which it has kept ever since, but reviews on the internet, particularly from the blogging community have been ambivalent at best. The cooking these days is led by National Chef of the Year winner, Larry Jayasekara.
The dining room here is modern and contemporary with a central circular glass-panelled wine cellar the show piece of the room. Although the wine cellar may look aesthetically pleasing, I am not so sure about its practicality in terms of the storage of the wine itself. The list contains plenty of high-end wines including, of course, a vertical of the eponymous wine and I suspect some of the more expensive wines are kept away so as not to risk it from any light oxidation. We visited for Saturday lunch, where along with the usual a la carte (£75 for 3 courses) and tasting menu (£95) was also a cheaper lunch menu (£37.50). We were hungry and thus opted for the tasting menu with an additional course from the a la carte.
Our meal began with a fairly uninteresting take on Waldorf Salad. In a little bowl was a set walnut custard with cubes of compressed celery and a celery foam hiding some apple. It may just be me but I don’t think I have come across a version of deconstructed Waldorf Salad which tastes better than the actual thing. From Heston’s Waldorf lolly to Tristan Welch’s (formerly of Launceston Place) martini glass concoction, they all feature individual components which are all well made, but the flavours just do not amalgamate well. Here, the flavours of the custard was rather muted, thus the overall dish was dominated by the taste of celery.
Things started to pick up however with the first course of asparagus with lemon and Burrata. The asparagus was cooked to achieve a fairly soft texture and served on a bed of creamy Burrata and dressed with a little lemon. I was interested to see how the chamomile would be used in this dish where it was used to give a gentle perfume without overpowering the other elements on the plate. For a little texture, a disc of parmesan crisp sat on top of the asparagus. This was an excellent, seasonal dish showcasing excellent British produce.
Next was a lone diver caught scallop, sat on top of a savoury egg sabayon with bacon and braised kombu. The scallop was kept whole and perfectly timed, with a crisp, seared exterior and a moist and juicy interior. I was worried that the egg sabayon would have made the dish rather heavy but there was a lightness of touch in the person making the sabayon and the result was one which was airy. The braised kombu (kelp) added an additional umami note to the dish. This dish was the very definition of the concept ‘less is more’ as, although there were very few components on the plate, each of them were there for a reason and were perfectly executed.
As an additional course, we tried the butter poached lobster served with a cannelloni stuffed with truffle and more lobster meat. I am not sure whether the lobster was butter poached in a sous vide machine or by more traditional means, but the resulting effort was a perfectly timed piece of lobster. To tie the dish together, there was a lobster bisque foam which added body to the dish while keeping things light. Stellar dish.
My favourite dish of the day was the cod, served with some peas and broad beans. The dish is finished on the table with a classic sauce gribiche, although one which is a lot lighter than you find in more traditional versions. The fish itself was pan roasted with a lovely crisp exterior and the flesh flaking away beautifully. This is a dish which encapsulates the best of spring.
The main course was another stunner – Herdwick lamb served in various forms with an excellent pomme puree and seasonal wild garlic and morels. There were 3 cuts of lamb provided. The rack of lamb had lovely flavour, remaining moist and pink but with the fat rendered down nicely. Slow braised lamb shoulder had a big meaty flavour and was stuffed in a little casing with a bud of garlic flower providing a lovely burst of garlic flavour. Finally a crisp sweetbread completed the trio of lamb. This plate of food may not be the most avant garde cooking, but it sure was tasty!
After the highs of the savoury courses, desserts were a much simpler affair. First a palate cleanser of ‘Mint tea‘ was essentially that – mint granita with tea foam. I normally don’t pay much attention to pre-desserts/ palate cleansers but in this case I was wishing that the kitchen could have been a little more ambitious with their creations. The final dessert of the day was a Madeira cake with seasonal Alphonso mangoes. The cake was light and moist and you can’t really go wrong with Alphonso mangoes which have the loveliest perfume and sweetness. There was also a well-made yoghurt sorbet to provide a touch of acidity to balance out the sweetness on the plate. A classy end to the meal.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised with our meal at Pétrus, especially after reading all the indifferent reviews of the place. On the surface, each plate of food looked simplistic. But this is simply a reflection of the confidence of the chef not to overcrowd the plate with frivolity. Take the lobster dish for example which literally contained three elements – the poached lobster tail, stuffed macaroni and sauce/ foam. Each element was immaculately executed. No unnecessary micro herb or foraged sea vegetable garnish. This was plain, simple, honest cooking at its best. Perhaps, for some of the younger crowd, such cooking is not trendy enough. Dare I say it, some may even call it boring and old-fashioned. For me however, there is nothing boring about a tasty plate of food. Apparently many are in agreement with the restaurant packed for Saturday lunch and turning tables.