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Ritz

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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I have written extensively about my meals at The Ritz, so please see my previous reviews for some history and analysis of the wine list. There is a wide range of menu options, from three courses for £84, through to a seven-course tasting menu at £202. We went for the latter today.

This began with several canapes. A new one was lobster barbajuan, a luxurious take on the Mediterranean fritter that is usually stuffed with Swiss chard and ricotta. The version here upgraded to tender lobster knuckle bound with sauce Americaine (made with chopped onions, tomatoes, white wine, brandy, salt, cayenne pepper, butter and fish stock), while the pastry casing was top-notch. There were also two old friends, a Parmesan mousse with Kalamata black olive and basil, and duck liver parfait with sour cherry and gingerbread. There was also a croustade of heritage potato bound with truffle emulsion and topped with finely grated fresh winter black truffle, which was lovely. Finally there was beef tartare covered with a layer of oscietra caviar and crème fraiche in a pate de brik pastry case. Here the crème fraiche is whipped and seasoned and dipped into the centre of the pastry case along with an oyster leaf, with the pastry then being filled with the tartare and finally the caviar layer. The latter adds its own natural seasoning, and the crisp pastry case provides a good texture contrast to the softness of the filling (canapes 18/20).

A new dish to me was Dorset crab with crème fraiche and imperial caviar. The white crab meat was mixed with lemon zest, crème fraiche, lemon juice salt and pepper. This was garnished with chopped jelly made from Granny Smith apple juice, fennel juice, grape juice and verjus. Finally, there was a dressing of kefir (“the champagne of milk”) from Hollis Mead dairy in Dorset and seasoning of salt, lemon and chive oil, finished with Imperial caviar. On the side was a warm English crumpet topped with whipped brown crab, cream cheese, lemon and espelette pepper. This was an extremely attractive and beautifully balanced dish. The sweetness of the crab was contrasted by the salinity of the caviar and the acidity of the apple juice, with the chive oil bringing an additional flavour dimension. Glorious (19/20).

Ballotine of duck liver is a classic at The Ritz. Top class duck liver from the Landes is deveined and marinated in salt, pepper, pink salt, sugar, port, Armagnac and Sauternes before being rolled out, served with a damson mousse, micro salad and a delicate pistachio Bakewell tart on the side. The duck liver had a silky texture and deep liver flavour, its richness balanced by the acidity of the damson. It is hard to fault this dish (19/20). 

Langoustine a la nage is a signature dish of the restaurant. Large Scottish langoustine tails are poached in butter and served on a bed of cauliflower puree, baby Cornish vegetables and fennel and edible flowers and garnished with a lovely seafood nage flavoured with herbs. This is in some ways quite a simple dish, but it is beautifully presented and is entirely dependent for success on top-class live langoustines, which had a lovely natural sweetness and were beautifully cooked. The creamy sauce finds superb balance with the baby vegetables, and the combination of flavours is a joy (easily 19/20).

A savoury egg custard was made with cream, milk, kombu and Parmesan. This was whisked with 36-month aged Parmesan foam, truffle sauce and shaved truffle. This was a lovely, rich creation with deep flavours from the Parmesan and truffle.  On the side was a little gougere made with Gruyere cheese and a truffle bechamel, the choux pastry delicate and neatly piped, the cheese flavour coming through well, nicely enriched by the truffle (19/20).

Anjou pigeon a la presse featured a whole pigeon from the southeast of France, cooked in the oven and carved at the table. The pigeon carcass was pressed in a duck press and its juices contributed to a red wine sauce with green peppercorns and duck liver that was flambeed at the side of the dining table. This came with the very first white asparagus of the season from France. White asparagus can sometimes be a little string or too hard in consistency, but this was superbly cooked. The pigeon itself had excellent flavour and the sauce was rich and complex, the earthy asparagus an excellent foil for it. Finally, there were lovely pommes souffle on the side (18/20).

Pre-dessert was a lemon curd with Moscato d’Asti foam and lemon sorbet. This was quite a simple dish but it is just what you want from a pre-dessert, refreshing and carefully balanced (easily 17/20). The main dessert was a very pretty chocolate tonka and cocoa nib creation. This comprised fudge, chocolate sable, dark chocolate mousse, a puff pastry wafer, a dark chocolate cremeux, cocoa nib brislet, a sugar tube filled with tonka bean ice cream, the whole thing encased by a dark chocolate cage. I liked the tonka bean ice cream very much, as this brought some lightness to a quite rich dish. For me, the texture of the cage could have been improved but this is certainly a very attractive and enjoyable dessert (17/20). Petit fours were dark chocolate and hazelnut praline, salted caramel, vanilla macaroon and grapefruit pate de fruits with very good texture. To end the meal, there were excellent dark chocolate ganache and salted caramel petit fours.

The bill came to £405 per person, with the seven-course menu being £202, the rest being drinks (plenty of wine in this case) and service at 12.5%. If you opted for one of the cheaper menus and shared a modest bottle of wine then you could eat for much less than this, perhaps £150. Service was superb today, with a particularly knowledgeable sommelier. The Ritz is a class act. Nowhere in the capital is serving better food than this.

 

 

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Further reviews: 11th Dec 2023 | 01st Nov 2023 | 24th Sep 2023 | 26th Jun 2023 | 10th May 2023 | 08th Mar 2023 | 09th Dec 2022 | 04th Nov 2022 | 30th Sep 2022 | 20th Jul 2022 | 24th Jun 2022 | 15th Apr 2022 | 08th Feb 2022 | 14th Dec 2021 | 06th Dec 2021 | 22nd Oct 2021 | 14th Oct 2021 | 25th Jun 2021 | 25th May 2021 | 15th Oct 2020 | 28th Aug 2020 | 31st Jul 2020 | 29th Feb 2020 | 19th Nov 2019 | 25th Oct 2019 | 30th Sep 2019 | 30th Aug 2019 | 16th Jul 2019 | 18th Apr 2019 | 12th Mar 2019 | 26th Sep 2018 | 01st Aug 2018 | 04th May 2018 | 20th Apr 2018 | 13th Feb 2018 | 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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User comments

  • Steve

    As an explanation to those who are questioning why the Ritz doesn’t get 20/20, although outstanding it’s not quite on the level of some establishments, for example in Paris and elsewhere. These places are using higher quality ingredients and it shows. It’s also worth pointing out a signature menu with wine le Cinq in Paris is approaching €1000 per person. An entirely different price point to The Ritz.

  • Emma

    I wonder why there are not any 20/20 - because to give a mark less than this suggests that there must be improvement - but from the descriptions above, it would seem that some of the courses were perfection. I don't think that I have ever seen a 20/20 given but I would dearly love to.

  • Ian Crow

    Im dining at the Ritz on Tuesday, celebrating my 60th and my sons 30th birthday. Inspired by you brilliant reviews. We cannot wait! Thank you

  • Ian S

    18/20 overall seems a bit mean based on the most recent review! My one visit was a lovely experience