Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road
Tel. 020 7352 4441
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Sloane Square
Website: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
I have been very slow to update my blog. One of the main reasons is because of my new job which requires me to do a fair bit of commuting. That leaves me very little free time in between to blog. With free time at a premium, I have prioritised eating over blogging. In between, I have also discovered Instagram. Yes, I know I am a bit late to the game, but the whole app is rather addictive and I have found myself spending more time uploading pictures and notes of my meal there rather than writing a formal blog.
Anyhow, almost a year to the date, we returned to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road for lunch. Last year, we dined at the Inspiration table which was an excellent experience altogether. Much like my free time, getting a table at RHR is hard to come by given how small the restaurant is. Despite the restaurant not featuring prominently with today’s Instagram crowd (the restaurant allows photos via camera phones only) it is still a very popular spot for both their regulars and gastro-tourists alike. One of the main reasons is because the food here continues to evolve with todays trendy dining crowd. Although the cooking here may be rooted in classical flavours, they continue to modernise, embracing newer cooking techniques and lighter flavours. Of course, Ramsay has been blessed with a very talented team as well with long time sous chef Matt Abe now heading up the kitchen.
Jean Claude Breton is widely regarded as one of the best maitre-D’s in England with a keen eye for detail. He was very quick to acknowledge us as return customers, and although he was busy with another table, quickly nodded and smiled to us. He certainly must have a memory of an elephant. I have been to other restaurants in London more frequently (in one case, I have visited a certain restaurant 10 times in the space of 2 years) without the Front of House team ever acknowledging our custom. It is not that I am looking for preferential treatment, but it is certainly tiring when you have to sit through them trying to explain the menu to you for the umpteenth time. Recognising us as repeat customers meant that the restaurant could tailor the experience to suit their customer. For example, in our case, they pointed out the new dishes available on the menu as well as offered to swap dishes on the tasting menu so we could try them. This was what we did, going for the Menu Prestige (£145) – the Seasonal Inspiration menu is only available at night – with a couple of swaps.
No canapés for lunch (unlike at dinner service) but you do get an amuse bouche. Not too dissimilar to the amuse bouche I had on my previous visit (the pressed ham hock substituted for radishes), the seasonal pea & mint veloute is deceptively simplistic, but packs such a huge explosion of pure concentrated pea flavour. Three spoonfuls it may be, but that probably contains more peas than you can shake your fist at. The seasoning is bold but exact, taken to the limits to heighten the pea flavour without you having to reach out for a glass of water. It was a lovely start to the meal.
The first official course for us was asparagus from Jérôme Galis. This is one Matt Abe’s new creations on the menu, and what a humdinger of a dish. I look forward to more of his creations as he gets time to put his stamp on the menu much like his predecessor Clare Smyth. Jérôme Galis produces some of the best asparagus in the world, but this dish is understated confidence from a chef who understands how superb his produce is. Often times, chefs muddy the flavour of the asparagus by adding frivolities like truffle coulis. Here the dish is a pure expression of how amazing asparagus is and can be. Three fat spears are just barely warmed through so that they are both tender and yet retain their bite. Dotted around the dish is egg yolk which have been smoked and confit bringing just a background note that complements the asparagus so well. Nothing too overpowering. The sauce that finishes the dish is a light asparagus and wild garlic veloute. Spring is my favourite season of the year and this dish encapsulates all that I love about it.
Not much to say about the next dish – the raviolo of lobster, langoustine and salmon. This is a Ramsay classic for almost 25 years and yet still relevant today. This dish is a clear example of how Ramsay continues to modernise and move with times – understanding todays foraging trend and lighter eating habits. It would have been easy for them to leave the dish unchanged all these years given how popular the dish is with the regulars and new customers alike. The dish has undergone a makeover replacing the cream based chervil veloute with a lighter sorrel veloute. This gives a herbaceous, lemony note as a counterpoint to the richness of the shellfish. The seasoning of the veloute very gentle in expectance of the natural brine from the seafood. Although this may be a pasta dish, here it acts as a vehicle to carry the large chunks of poached shellfish. It is the bridesmaid and not the bride.
Our fish course of Dover sole was another swap (for the excellent halibut). This is a dish from Clare Smyth’s time here and featured on the StaffCanteen video. The sole is naturally timed perfectly. Moist, glistening and retaining a meaty texture. I suspected the fish has been pre-salted to firm it up beforehand. The shellfish, a mixture of razor clams, mussels are on point. In particular, the razor clams, a trickster of an ingredient, was simply melt-in-your-mouth tender. Pin-point, exacting timing here. Probably the best razor clams I have eaten. The minestrone, a love poem to the sea full of the salty-sweetness that brings you to the seaside.
Mains was the classic Ramsay dish of lamb navarin, one that I have enjoyed many, many years ago during my first visit here. It has undergone a few tweaks here and there but the spirit of the dish remains the same. Our British lamb (in this case Herdwick) is at its best at this time of the year and I dare say would rival its Pyrenees counterpart. In fact, having eaten a fair bit of lamb this season, I must say that the lamb this year is truly outstanding. I rarely enjoy eating best end of lamb, but the specimen here would put paid to those pre-conceptions. Hidden under the medley of vegetables are a braised lamb shoulder and confit belly, both bringing a different textures and flavours.
We skipped the pineapple and coconut soup for cheese (supplement £10). Their board contains fantastic specimens from Bernard Anthony, all of which were in tip-top condition. None over or under-ripe. I forgot to enquire as to whom their British cheese supplier was. Unlike in France or Germany where most diners would indulge in some cheese during their meal, only a small percentage of British diners actually have cheese during their meal out. This means that restaurants often keep cheeses on the board past its best rather than judiciously throwing them out. There may be other cheese boards in England which have a larger selection but I challenge you to find a board where all the cheese are in such uniformly perfect condition.
Todays palate cleanser was a small tweak from our previous visit with a new English tea sorbet. You crush the liquid nitrogen frozen mint leaves in the mortar and pestle and then add the little rocher of English tea sorbet. A bit of fun, but the pièce de résistance is to follow. As a side note, my wife had popped to the toilet when the kitchen sent the dish. Many restaurants would have simply served the dish which would have ‘died’ on the table but the team here were very quick to return it to the kitchen until my wife returned.
We finished with the Assiette de l’Aubergine at a supplement of £20 which I was happy to pay for given that you get a huge selection of desserts. I have already written about the lemonade parfait and the tarte tatin previously so I will focus on the newer dishes. Replacing the classic bitter chocolate cylinder is a new creation of milk chocolate with malt mousse. At a guess this is a smart version of a millionaire shortbread. The chocolate work here is perfect – excellent tempering with a good snap and the flavours were not overly sweet. A new, seasonal creation of strawberries was my favourite of the lot. Both ‘regular’ Gariguettes and wild are bursting with flavour with a strawberry consommé poured at the table. The ice cream is perfumed with Sarawak pepper which has an almost vanilla note to it. The final dessert comes a few minutes later – raspberry souffle with almond ice cream. Classic textbook souffle with good raspberry flavour but remained light. The ice cream is toasted almonds which works very well with the raspberries.
This was once again another highly enjoyable meal at RHR. The cooking here is immaculate, with every single element executed with great precision and care. The asparagus dish was pure 3* cooking – confident and assured, featuring great produce – that I would have happily paid €90 for if I were eating it in some of the grandest restaurants in Paris. Contrary to popular belief, the ingredient quality here is extremely high. They could do a better job of marketing it but perhaps choose to keep it understated and allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. The pastry section, which is often a letdown in England, has always been a strength, featuring a repertoire of both classical and more modern desserts, all of which were equally delicious. There is no doubt that despite Clare Smyth taking a step back to a consultant role prior to her new restaurant opening later this fall, the kitchen is in excellent hands with Matt Abe and will continue to go from strength to strength.