Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road
Tel. 020 7352 4441
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Sloane Square
Website: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is one of those restaurants which has been pretty much under the radar with the Twitterati and online community. Yet it has silently held 3 Michelin stars for more than a decade. One can speculate why – the restaurant is very small and getting a table here requires plenty of luck and planning. The restaurant also hardly does much in terms of PR work – you know those free meals that certain blogging groups oh so love. I have dined here on one previous occasion when Clare Smyth was then heading up the kitchen. These days, the kitchen is run by Matt Abe with Clare Smyth serving as a consultant. Needless to say, even though there are pictures of Ramsay cooking on the menu, the big man himself hardly does any cooking in the kitchen anymore.
On this occasion, we chose to dine at the Inspiration table – a new addition to the restaurant after their refurbishment. The website does not clue you in much into what an experience here would be like. For certain, this is not a chef’s table experience like many of Ramsay’s other restaurants. Think of it as sort of a semi-private dining room with your own bespoke tasting menu. The cost? £250 which is paid up front at booking with 2 weeks notice for cancellation. For that money, you are served up a 13 course ‘bespoke’ menu and the experience will be different every time you choose to dine at the table. The restaurant also does a very good job with the table setting with beautiful candelabra lighting up the table, creating a wonderful romantic atmosphere. During the course of the meal we were served by sous chef Anthony.
While we were waiting for my other guests to arrive, the restaurant kindly offered up some cheese goujeres as a little nibble. It was my fault for leaving them for a bit before eating them – in all honesty, I had completely forgotten about them because I was busy chatting with my dad who had travelled to London for our wedding. By the time I popped them in my mouth, the goujeres were already lukewarm but they nevertheless retained an excellent texture and had plenty of good cheese flavour.
The meal began with a serving of caviar with all the traditional garnishes of blinis, melba toast, chopped egg, onions, creme fraiche and chives. The caviar had a lovely rounded sweetness with a hint of nuttiness and the curing process was very gentle without being too salty. Anthony informs me that they serve Petrossian caviar which is definitely up there as one of the better caviar producers and a far cry from the terrible Exmoor caviar which is very popular with restaurateurs. Ok, so there isn’t much in terms of cookery here but I certainly enjoyed that little spot of luxury. We drank Krug Grand Cuvee N.V. with the caviar service (and the following canapés) which was not too shabby way to start our dinner!
We then began a sequence of canapés. First was smoked salmon wrapped with sea lettuce and topped with dashi jelly – a playful take on a sushi roll. The salmon had good flavour with the smoking gentle balanced by the umami from the dashi jelly. Next was a take on the latest London food fad – bao. The steamed buns were stuffed with black truffle and artichoke and finished with some parmesan and basil. The East meets West idea may sound ridiculous but actually tasted fantastic with the earthiness from the truffle and artichoke tempered by the slightly sweet notes from the bun. We were then served a crowd pleaser – iberico ham croquette. How can you not love a crispy, crunchy, fluffy croquette topped with the best ham in the world? The last in our sequence of canapés were chicken wings. Presented in a jar filled with smoke, the lid was lifted to reveal silver skewers of deboned chicken wings beautifully glazed with maple syrup which had received a lovely lick of smoke. Give me a glass of beer and 20 of these wings and call it a day!
The first starter was an English classic – pea, ham and mint soup. Now, I have tried some outstanding versions of this dish and my benchmark until this meal had been the version served at Robuchon au Dome in Macau. You know what? The version here completely blows Semblat’s version out of the water. The pea soup (served) cold had excellent sweet pea flavour which is a testament to the kitchen’s skill and ingredient sourcing. This is all the more remarkable since serving a soup cold normally mutes some of its flavour. It may not be the most original or skill intensive dish, by it sure was a tasty one!
Next up, Anthony returned bringing with him a heavy Himalayan salt block which had been preheated. After pouring a small drizzle of oil on the block, he would proceed to cook slices of XXL scallops from the Isle of Mull on it. He explains to us that because of the nature of the salt block, the scallops would require minimal seasoning as the cooking using the salt block would impart a degree of seasoning to the scallops. The scallops were cooked in a matter of 30 seconds by which points the waiting staff had brought along plates containing diced apple and celery. Anthony would proceed to plate the scallops up table side before the dish was finished with a sorrel sauce. It was very interesting cooking the scallops on the salt block as the scallops did not develop the golden char you would obtain from sautéing it in a pan, yet the scallops themselves had developed the same crisp crust that you would expect. They were naturally cooked perfectly and the garnish a fresh and light pairing foil.
While we were enjoying our scallops, a perculator was brought to the table and a candle lit. Anthony would return later to explain that the perculator contains a ras-el-hanout broth which they were reinfusing with the flowers, herbs and spices used to make the broth. The broth would be used to complete one of the restaurant’s newer signature dish of halibut with king crab. The halibut itself is sourced from the Isle of Gigha which produces excellent farmed halibut which rivals its wild counterpart. I am not a big fan of halibut in general as the fish is easy to overcook and dry but this being a 3* restaurant, the cuisson of the fish was on point. The halibut was glistening, juicy and moist. The infused broth was out of this world – delivering bags of flavour without overpowering the seafood. What made the dish magical was the addition o f the finger lime which gave the dish bursts of acidity. I can see why this dish has become a modern classic for the restaurant.
Finally to our main course and two Challan Ducks, roasted with lavender, were brought to the table in all its burnished, mahogany glory. Anthony would proceed to carve one of them table side while the other was returned to the kitchen to be carved – a race he won by a matter of 10 seconds. The duck breasts were garnished with fennel (both roasted and puréed) and apricot. The duck had good flavour, which was expected given its provenance and the garnish sensible. This was followed up with the legs which were served as salad Landaise – with crispy croutons, duck ham and walnuts. I loved the richness from the salad which proved an interesting counterpoint to the main dish which was a lot lighter.
Instead of the cheese trolley (which features excellent specimens from Bernard Anthony), we were served a seasonal Rove des Garrigues paired with toasted amaranth and marigold. The cheese is a very fresh goats cheese with herbaceous notes of thyme, grass and lemon. This was the least interesting of all the courses for me and I would have instead preferred to indulge on a few slices from the board.
For pre-dessert, Anthony once again made an appearance – this time with a flask of liquid nitrogen where he would proceed to freeze chamomile and marigold in front of our very own eyes. This would then be distributed into individual frozen mortar and pestle where we would encouraged to grind up our very own flower and herb mix. A spoon of green apple sorbet was then brought to us and we were told to toss them into the newly formed crushed mix. The sorbet was technically perfect – smooth with zero hint of ice crystallisation. The sweet, fragrance of apple married perfectly with the floral and herbaceous notes of the ground up frozen mixture.
The last official course on our menu was another of their signatures – Lemonade parfait. The wow factor in this dish was the crazy sugar work – a cylindrical ring of honey so delicate that it shatters at the mere sight of the diner looking at it. I am sure that there must have been plenty of casualty rings in the kitchen to achieve such delicate perfection and is a reflection of a pastry chef at the top of his or her game. Honey is notorious as it has such a dominating presence on the plate that it often overwhelms every other element. Here, while the honey element is definitely there but it is balanced by the acidity from the lemonade parfait and the yoghurt sorbet.
We could not help but add-on a cheeky extra course with Ramsay’s signature Tarte tatin. Anthony explained to us that the restaurant went through plenty of trial and error to create what they think is the perfect example of a tarte tatin. First, the all important decision of apple variety, in this case Pink Lady apple. This is an interesting choice since many chefs commonly opt from Braeburn or Cox as their apple of choice. I personally use Golden Delicious apples when making tarte tatin at home and so completely understand the choice of Pink Lady apple given that it is a hybrid of Golden Delicious. Next is the matter of the caramel and how far it is taken. Ramsay opts to push the caramel to the limits with a deep mahogany hue to it but avoiding any bitterness. The apples were nicely cooked through and had plenty of time to absorb the lovely caramel without losing its texture. Last but not least the ice cream. It may ‘only’ be Vanilla ice cream, but a lot of care is taken in one of life’s simplest pleasures. Jersey milk is naturally chosen because of its richness and Tahitian vanilla because it has a fruity perfume to it.
At the end of the meal, we were served a sequence of petit fours. Special mention goes to their madeleines which has to be some of the lightest I have ever eaten and that includes some of the best 2* and 3* restaurants in Paris.
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay may not be the most avant-garde restaurant in London. In fact, a lot of the cooking is rooted in the classics but whilst still embracing modernist techniques. With the Inspiration table experience, we were able to enjoy some fantastic cooking accompanied by some theatre which would have otherwise been absent in the main dining room, and definitely adds to the overall dining experience. The service, led by Jean-Claude Breton, is attentive and slick and made all the more wonderful with Anthony who spent plenty of time explaining the dishes, thought process and cooking methods to us. For me, the cooking here is up there with the best and fully deserving of every one of its 3*s.