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 is a regular haunt of mine, so please see my previous reviews for a discussion of the history of the restaurant, its main chefs and an analysis of its wine list. The meal today was a surprise tasting menu (£175), which is what I usually opt for. There are numerous menu options, including a la carte and a three course £70 menu at lunch. The meal began with a sequence of canapes. Ragstone cheese mousse with wood roasted pepper and basil roasted on a sable base, the mousse smooth in texture and the base of the canape delicate. Alongside was a sable base with duck liver parfait, sour cherry and yoghurt, the parfait having silky texture and deep liver flavour, its richness balanced by the acidity of the cherry. This was followed by a tartlet of beet tartare topped with a layer of oscietra caviar and crème fraiche. The fillet of beef is chopped finely and mixed with diced shallots, egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce and mustard as well as salt and pepper, with the brininess of the caviar acting as its own seasoning. Finally Isle of Mull scallop was served raw with a thin jelly made from rice wine, topped by fresh fennel pollen, hysopp and shiso flowers, finished with a dressing of soy sauce, salt, sugar, olive oil and assorted citrus fruits including lemon, lime, orange and bergamot. The scallop was beautifully sweet and precisely balanced by the acidity of the citrus, resulting in a dish that was as refreshing as it was pretty to look at (18/20 canapes). 

Ballotine of duck liver is served with damson and pistachio. The foie gras was from the Landes region in France and was marinated in port, Sauternes and Armagnac for 24 hours before being rolled out with a port and spice reduction, then wrapped in spiced port jelly. The ballotine is served with preserved damson gel, pistachio yoghurt and a miniature pistachio Bakewell tart, the pistachios being from Bronte in Sicily, and finally a slice of toasted brioche. The ballotine had lovely texture and plenty of rich flavour, the acidity from the damson providing some balance, as did a little salad of micro leaves. This is a tried and tested dish, refined over years, and is up there with similar offerings at three star restaurants (19/20).

Another signature dish is the langoustine a la nage. A pair of large Scottish langoustine tails were poached in butter and served on a bed of cauliflower puree with bronze fennels and baby Cornish vegetables. This all rests in a nage, a broth flavoured with white wine, vegetables and herbs and stock from the shells of the langoustine. The little vegetables are a particularly nice touch, providing balance to the rich sauce and the natural sweetness of the shellfish (easily 19/20). 

Troncon of Cornish turbot is served in Veronique style, with grapes dressed in verjuice, a herb emulsion and a smoked beurre blanc, the dish finished with finger limes, chives, dulse (red seaweed) and wakame (kelp). The fillet of turbot, from a large fish, had plenty of flavour and the acidity of the grapes nicely balanced the butter sauce. If I am to be picky, for me the turbot could have been cooked a fraction less (17/20). 

We then had wild fallow deer from supplier Deer Box (founded by Mike Robinson, who part owns The Harwood Arms), the venison served with smoked beetroot, blackberries and caramelised walnut and a sauce of the cooking juices. The deer itself comes from Hampshire woodlands and is seasoned with salt and pepper before being roasted in a hot pan, rested and then seasoned with juniper powder and Maldon sea salt. On the side was a puff pastry wafer filled with caramelised onions and cooked in a waffle iron, then garnished with thyme leaves, shallot puree and onion flowers. This was superb venison, the rich sauce nicely complemented by the earthy beetroot and the acidity of the blackberries, the little pastry waffle bringing a contrasting texture (18/20). 

We indulged in cheese from the trolley, which had a quite wide selection of mostly but not exclusively British cheeses including Berkswell, Ticklemore, Stinking Bishop, Tunworth and Cornish Yarg. Pre dessert was apple foam, which concealed caramelised Cox apple, Sauternes puree and compressed fresh apple, along with green apple sorbet and caramelised almonds. This was a lovely, refreshing dessert with plenty of acidity from the excellent apples (18/20). It was followed by a modern Mont Blanc with chestnut cream, caramelised pear and rum soaked baba with rum ice cream and meringue. There was a pleasing contrast of textures with the firm meringue and soft baba, while the seasonal chestnuts provided plenty of flavour, balanced nicely by the pear (18/20). 

Service was superb throughout, and the bill today, including wine, came to £426 per person. Of course, if you had the three course set lunch and shared a modest bottle of wine then you could eat for dramatically less than this. The full tasting menu at £175 actually represents pretty good value these days in central London fine dining, especially when you consider the calibre of ingredients and the high technical skills of the kitchen brigade, which currently number sixty chefs. There are plenty of multi-starred London restaurants charging more and delivering less in terms of luxury ingredients and indeed in culinary technique. 


Further reviews: 28th Mar 2024 | 02nd Feb 2024 | 11th Dec 2023 | 01st Nov 2023 | 24th Sep 2023 | 26th Jun 2023 | 10th May 2023 | 08th Mar 2023 | 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

  • Tanya Morris

    I love this restaurant and greatly enjoyed the Surprise Menu last Saturday lunch. This is some of the best and most consistent cooking and service in London. How this still only has 1 Michelin star beggars belief!

  • alan fowle

    We don't visit The Ritz as often as Andy, just occasionally , last time 2 years ago and I had almost forgotten how beautiful the room is This time , as last , it was for the "live at the Ritz " evening for which there is a special menu. So the dancing though good was nowhere near as spectacular as before. Although the langoustines a la nage was not on the special menu i had to have it - and it was wondrous , plump and firm quite delicious - this better actualy than 2 years ago, then the scallop in smoked butter , the halibut finally the chocolate mousse. I had printed off the wine menu before going to study and chose one they no longer had, no problem finding a suitably expensive alternative -the setting makes one rather reckless. We wondered looking at other large tables around us about the size of the bills . Its obviously expensive here but sufficiently splendid to justify (just)the size of the bill . we have previously stayed here afterwards in a suite - which was rather lovely .

  • Jla

    I agree fois is excellent and one can wonder why the Ritz has only one Michelin star when quite a few French food based restaurants which are not as good for three stars This being said the reservation process is truly awful ( looks like you have to play lottery on the web site numerous times) and the service is quite patronising and sometimes quite rushed So in my view there is overall a need for improvement before getting g a second star My be the spirit of the owner of the Ritz, which does not seem to be nicest person on earth is respiring in his restaurant