Editor's note: in October 2016 it was annoounced that Clare Smyth would leave to set up her own venture, with Matt Abe replacing her as head chef.
Clare Smyth has been in charge of the kitchens here for several years, with Gordon Ramsay content these days to spend his time on TV. The lengthy wine list had bottles such as Domaine de l’Aumonier Cuvee Henri 2012 at £48 for a label that you can find for £13 in the high street, Bodegas Roda 2008 at £75 compared to a retail price of £27, and Roc de Cambes 2006 at £145 for a bottle that will set you back £53 in a shop. For those with the means and desire to splurge, l’Ermita Palacios 1998 was a hefty £660 compared to a retail price of £286, and Le Pin 1995 was £2,900 compared to a current market price of £1,534.
A series of nibbles began the meal. Goujeres were made with Gruyere cheese, the choux pastry delicate and there being plenty of cheese flavour (18/20). Salt-cured salmon with dashi and sea lettuce was quite refreshing (17/20), followed by steamed black truffle buns with artichokes, basil and Parmesan in the style of luxury dim sum (17/20). In a little jar there was smoked chicken wing glazed with maple and almonds, the chicken having excellent flavour and avoiding being too smoky (18/20).
Bread is finally made in-house now after years of buying it in, with a choice of pretzels, soda bread and delicate brioche, a vast improvement on the commercial supplier that they used to use (18/20). Baked potato mousseline with smoked egg yolk, crispy shallots, Vacherin mousse and black truffle from Périgord was served in an eggshell. This was the best of the array of nibbles, the combination of potato, egg and truffle gloriously luxurious (19/20).
The signature poached ravioli of lobster, salmon and langoustine is still on the menu, with sorrel velouté and oscietra caviar. This is a classic combination of flavours, precisely executed (18/20). Poached lobster tail with lardo di Colonnata came with pickled vegetables and coral vinaigrette. The lobster was tender though the vegetables were of good rather than dazzling quality (17/20).
The dish of the meal was linguine with an emulsion of 4-year-old aged Parmesan topped with Perigord truffles. This was a simple dish yet was beautifully executed, the pasta having lovely texture, the Parmesan emulsion going beautifully with the high quality truffles (easily 19/20).
Suckling pig came in several forms: crispy belly, spiced sausage of shoulder, roasted loin and chou farci with crushed potatoes and spring onions. The pork had excellent flavour, and the sausage in particular was terrific (between 18/20 and 19/20).
A little pre-dessert of cucumber and lime sorbet was offered on a spoon over freshly crushed leaves of mint, lemon balm, salad burnet and lemon verbena. For me a bit less cucumber and more lime would have been more successful, though I always struggle a bit with the mix of a sweet dish with herbs, so I am not a good person to assess this. We were on safer ground with caramelised tarte tatin of Pink Lady apples with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. The apples were just right, nicely golden and not overly caramelized, the pastry excellent (18/20).
Coffee was from a company called Drury and was suitably rich, avoiding bitterness. The menu was £150 each plus £25 for the truffles, with a few glasses of wine bringing the total to £256 a head. Three courses from the à la carte would have been £95, with coffee £6 each and mineral water £4.50 a bottle. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical bill per head might be around £150. Of course this is hardly cheap, but the food here is very good, and the technical skill on display in the kitchen is high.
Further reviews: 05th Dec 2012