I never tire of food – being a blogger I eat out far more than I should and yet the excitement of a new fine dining experience always brings a new wave of anticipation, desire and hunger.
When my grandparents invited me to Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road, yes the restaurant with the highest accolade, three Michelin stars, I knew it would be a memorable meal. The pressure of looking forward to a meal of this calibre occupied my mind for days before, I couldn’t help but boast to everyone I spoke to.
The restaurant is simple and smart as you might expect, nothing distracts from the food. The atmosphere avoids any stuffiness with personable, genuine staff who enjoy making every guest’s visit perfect. As regulars at the restaurant, my grandparents introduced me to the friendly head waiter Jean-Claude, a warm and enthusiastic character who kindly assisted us at every stage of our meal.
The table was dressed stylishly and we admired the surroundings while sipping superior chilled Rose and nibbling at fresh crusty bread. The preliminaries delighted me… unexpected mouthfuls of joy, created seasonally by the chef to excite and cleanse the palate. We were treated to more than our fair share, warm cheesy choux pastry bites and an adorable ‘English garden’ in a glass which was particularly pretty and pleasing, a lovely pea mousse with soft mild cheese topped with tiny edible purple petals. We cooed as we marvelled over our little dishes, they were far too attractive to touch or eat!
Head Chef Clare Smyth is a magician in the kitchen and what followed was a whirlwind of sensational food, exceptional presentation and exemplary service. The waiters and waitresses must be trained and rehearsed much like a performing cast, as they dance fluidly round the restaurant in a perfectly choreographed routine: replacing, refreshing and replenishing any condiment or extra needed. It sounds strange but the service here is quite beautiful to watch.
The a la carte menu is priced at £95, the daily lunch menu at a reasonable £45, both for three courses. Everything sounded divine so we all chose to stick to the lunch menu – the less choice the better otherwise my indecision gets the better of me, and anyway at a restaurant like this every dish is ‘the best dish’. Sweet smells wafted from nearby tables and my stomach whirled in excitement for the plates to come. The waiters arrived with the most stunning culinary arrangements I have ever seen… no effort is spared here. To start I ate the heavenly Smoked potato and poached hen’s egg ravioli with pak choi, roast chicken jus and leek veloute. It was a striking dish, one plump piece of pasta filled with an egg that burst to reveal a gorgeous silky orange yolk. A light sweet but salty sauce accompanied the softly flavoured ravioli, combined with the mild leek soup, it was a lovely light first course. The Salad of Szechuan pork, tiger prawn, chargrilled, pickled and marinated vegetables, Asian herbs and daikon dressing was a work of art, so delicate and colourful, it looked and tasted spectacular, a genius balancing of flavours with an oriental twist.
For main I debated long and hard between the Roasted rabbit loin with Bayonne ham, confit tomato, marjoram, broad beans, grelots and chargrilled charlotte potatoes and the Spiced free range Devon duck with Swiss chard, beetroot and grilled onions. My grandparents both ordered the Rabbit so it seemed appropriate that I try the other option. Although lean, my duck preserved every drop of flavour, tender and meaty subtly spiced to enhance the flavour of the duck and cooked with sweet onions, beetroot and refreshing pak choi. The Rabbit, from the mouthful I tasted, was faultless – a unique and imaginative dish that was full flavoured without feeling too rich. Each ingredient served its role without any element stealing too much attention, a delicious composition.
Ensuring our puddings were memorable, Jean-Claude specially adapted the menu to bring us each our dream dessert. First though, a passionfruit and coconut soup cocktail served in a tall glass flute with a fragile straw, a comforting thick liquid with a hint of lemongrass. I opted for the Roasted pineapple with coriander financiers, coconut sorbet and vanilla cream for dessert, a dainty dish with caramelised fruit and various spicy and sweet accompaniments. The soft pineapple paired perfectly with the refreshing sorbet and cream and the slightly bitter coriander cakes gave an unusual kick. The chocolate dessert looked epic, a cylinder filled with a creamy, melt in the mouth, sweet interior… it was very rich and the portion size perhaps a little too generous. The cheese trolley was quite a titillating experience, every variety and speciality was on offer, to pick only a few was almost impossible.
The Petits Fours arriving suggested the sad realisation that the meal was coming to an end: rich buttery chocolate truffles, very odd and slightly disappointing jelly like Turkish Delight (that seemed to be elderflower flavoured) and best of all, ice cold strawberry ice cream coated in thin jagged white chocolate and served in a puff of dry ice. These chocolates were so good I would like to finish every meal with one! We popped into the kitchen on the way out, to see a radiant Clare exhausted after lunch service… and her workstation where all the thrilling cooking happens… it was hard to imagine just how much energy goes into every single plate that leaves this room.
We are lucky to have many exceptional Michelin starred restaurants in our city, but there are only a few restaurants that really come this close to perfection. Temperamental and talented, Gordon Ramsay goes in and out of fashion but Clare Smyth’s supreme cooking ensures that his restaurant on Royal Hospital Road will always provide one of London’s finest dining experiences.
More information and book here.