The recently refurbished Gordon Ramsay revisited

Saturday, March 10th , 2007

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A busy week of dining, starting in style with the tasting menu at Gordon Ramsay (Royal Hospital Road). The old decor has been replaced by a tasteful and plainer look, but the only things different on the menu are the prices, which have crept up.  Three courses are now £85, the tasting menu is now £110. There are also fewer modestly priced wines, though the mark-ups are not that fierce.  I have written up the meal in detail on the restaurant review page, but in summary it was all very enjoyable without ever really hitting the heights. Ingredients are good, technique was almost flawless, service is excellent and it is indeed hard to find much to fault (except the bread, which they now buy in). Yet I have the impression of a powerful machine coasting along in third gear, not striving for anything really exciting.

I used to enjoy Monsieur Max, and the chef who used to cook there (Alex Bentley) has now moved to the Petersham hotel in Richmond. Perched up on Richmond Hill the view is great, and Alex's cooking is more restrained than at Monsieur Max, and the better for it. For me this was a 15/20 meal and the prices were fair - worth trying on a summer evening.

It is ages since I went to Caprice, and the cramped little L-shaped dining room seems as busy as ever. The menu is very appealing, and this along with smooth service is the secret of its success. Yet the cooking is quite ordinary, only about 13/20 level, and £80 a head is a lot for this. 

This week I also had two experiences of dining in a large group, and it was a revealing contrast. At Foliage they served the regular tasting menu to the group, and very fine it was. The ingredients were high grade, the cooking did not suffer at all from serving such a large group, and the meal was a great success. It was comfortably 16/20. Perhaps some dishes are a little over-complex, but they generally succeeded. 

By contrast a meal at the private dining at l'Escargot was very disappointing, with a watery spinach soup, a really bad mushroom risotto and a decent creme brulee reminding me more of hotel food than the kind of thing you expect to see in a serious restaurant.  I had the impression that they had just felt "it's a company bash, they won't notice". What shocks me is that both restaurants have a Michelin star, yet on the evidence of these two meals you would think the kitchens were from different planets.

Details of the meals are written up in the reviews of the individual restaurants in the "London" section.