150 Piccadilly, London, England, W1J 9BR, United Kingdom

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Chef interview

John Williams MBE is the head chef of the Ritz Hotel in London.

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The Ritz has a glorious dining room that seats over a hundred people, with large, widely spaced tables, comfortable chairs and impeccably ironed white linen. The carpet is thick enough to sink into and the walls are lined with marble, mirrors and gilt. It is like stepping back into another, gilded age. There are assorted menus, from three courses at £57 up to a six course tasting menu at £105, which we opted for. We also went with the wine pairing on this occasion. As noted in earlier reviews, the wine list at The Ritz is extensive and thoughtfully put together but is very pricy.

This meal began with a trio of nibbles. Coronation chicken is served in a delicate sugar tuile cylinder, the gentle curry spices enlivening the meat. There are plenty of variations on the classic dish, but this version is particularly delicious. This was accompanied by gougeres made with two year aged Comte cheese, the choux pastry excellent, the Comte flavour coming through strongly. Finally eel flavoured with horseradish came in a cornet, the bite of the horseradish a lovely accompaniment to the distinctive flavour of the eel (easily 17/20 nibbles).

The Ritz is unusual amongst London restaurants in being able to regularly source large, live langoustines. These were shown at the table before being cooked, served with a cauliflower purée, along with baby fennel, chervil, tarragon and lemongrass in a nage i.e. poached broth. The shellfish were terrific, having lovely sweet flavour and the sauce was an ideal foil, delicately scented and nicely matching the langoustines. I have had worse dishes than this in three star Michelin restaurants (19/20).

Next was a dish of sweetbreads with almond crumbs, espuma of wild garlic with garlic oil and a rich Madeira sauce. This was another classy dish, the sweetbreads of high quality and cooked precisely, the Madeira sauce gorgeous (18/20). This was followed by a dish I have eaten before here. A whole celeriac is salt-baked, then carved at the table and served with goat butter and a veal and black truffle jus. It is great to see vegetables given the same degree of attention as meat, but then they need to be good, and the earthy flavour of the celeriac was excellent, given a luxurious twist by the Perigord truffle and the intense, silky jus (18/20).
Next was another classic dish, turbot with champagne sauce, French white asparagus, morels and cauliflower puree. The turbot had lovely flavour though on this occasion was cooked just a little longer than ideal, which is unusual here. However the sauce was lovely and the morels were an excellent foil for the fish (16/20).

The final savoury course was Bresse duck that had been rested for three days, stuffed with hay, lavender and juniper. The breast cooked in the oven and finished with honey. The bird came with celery and lavender, apricot purée and a roast apricot filled with foie gras and apple purée, finished with a sauce of the duck juices enriched with port and infused with lavender. This was excellent, the apricot giving a touch of acidity to balance the duck, the dish accompanied by soufflé potatoes (17/20).

There was a cheese course featuring Tunworth cheese that had been laced with black truffles and aged, served with a pear and walnut salad
with truffle dressing and shaved Périgord truffle. Desserts are a strong suit at the Ritz and this was no exception, a beautiful concotion of vanilla sable with meadowsweet mousse, pear and a twirl of spun sugar with pear sorbet, slices of pear and honeycomb. This was gorgeous, the acidity of the pear cutting through the sweetness of the sugar (19/20).

Service was excellent as always here, the team very carefully trained. The bill came to £178 per person, which was for the surprise tasting menu and a wine pairing. You can certainly eat here cheaper than this: a three-course menu at lunch is £57, while on the à la carte the starters mostly range from £18 to £28, mains £38 to £56 and desserts £17. If you went à la carte and shared a cheap bottle of wine (admittedly there are not too many of these here) then a typical cost per head might be £105. This level of cost seems to me very fair given the high grade ingredients and technical skill present here. The cooking here just gets better and better, and this meal was firmly in two star territory.


Further reviews: 11th Dec 2017 | 02nd Feb 2017 | 15th Jun 2016 | 27th Jan 2016 | 26th Aug 2015 | 28th Feb 2015 | 21st Dec 2013 | 24th Aug 2013 | 30th Apr 2013 | 29th Dec 2011 | 01st Feb 2011 | 01st Dec 2010

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  • Alan Spedding (cumbriafoodie)

    Andy , I needn`t say anything , you nailed it so simply...."This level of cost seems to me very fair given the high grade ingredients and technical skill present here. The cooking here just gets better and better, and this meal was firmly in two star territory".

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