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 in previous reviews about the history of the Ritz, its kitchen team and about the extensive wine list; please refer to those earlier reviews for information on those things. In this review I will just jump in to my latest meal in this historic (1906) dining room. From the wide variety of menu options, today we had the tasting menu.

Today the meal began with a series of canapes, a mix of old favourites and one that was new to me. Ragstone cheese mousse was flavoured with basil and wood-roast pepper on a crisp base, and had a silky texture and gentle flavour from the goat cheese. Tartare of beef covered with a layer of Imperial oscietra caviar was excellent, with good pastry and well-judged seasoning. White crab meat rested on a layer of oyster bavarois, all served in a pastry case and garnished with Menton lemon zest, radish, finger lime and dill. This was a very well-balanced set of flavours, with the sweetness of the crab nicely balanced by the sharpness of the lemon. The lobster pillow with espelette pepper and fennel pollen was pleasant, with a crisp outer coating, but I didn’t think that the flavour if the filling really came through sufficiently. Still, with that one caveat, these were still a fine set of canapes (18/20 average but 19/20 without the lobster canape). 

Scallop from the Isle of Mull was sliced into cylinders and served raw, encased in a jelly made from rice wine and topped with shiso flowers, hyssop flowers and fresh fennel pollen. There was also a delicate dressing of bergamot, soy, olive oil, citrus, salt and sugar that was poured at the table. This was a very attractive dish featuring a top-quality main ingredient that was subtly complemented by the jelly and dressing (19/20). 

Following this were two dishes that have been on the menu for some time, and deservedly so. Duck liver ballotine used foie gras from Landes that was de-veined and marinated in salt, sugar, pepper, port, Armagnac and Sauternes before being wrapped in a jelly of sour cherry. This was served with brioche and a little tartlet of pistachio. This is a really good example of high-grade technique using top notch produce, a dish that does not over complicate. The texture of the ballotine was silky and the flavour deep and rich, balanced by the sour cherry (19/20).

Next was a pair of large Scottish langoustine tails that had been poached in butter and served with cauliflower puree, little Cornish vegetables and bronze fennel, the dish finished with a creamy herb nage poured at the table. These langoustines were of very high quality, precisely and lightly cooked and having gorgeous natural sweet flavour. These were complemented really well by the fresh vegetables and the gorgeous herb sauce (19/20).

The fish course was line-caught Cornish sea bass fillet served with a stuffed courgette flower. The fish was pan fried and finished with a little lemon juice, the courgette flower stuffed with a farce made from crab, lobster, grilled mussels, tomato fondu, basil, fennel, lemon zest and preserved lemons. There was also courgette and basil puree and Menton lemon puree, and finally a saffron aioli foam and bouillabaisse sauce. The fish was accurately cooked and went really well with the rich filling of the courgette flower, the lemon’s acidity bring just enough sharpness to avoid the dish being too rich (comfortably 18/20). 

The meat course was Bresse pigeon, which had been cooked en cocotte and served with English asparagus, St George mushrooms, pea puree and a truffle sauce. The pigeon was stuffed under its skin with chicken mousse and truffle and then cooked with hen of the wood mushrooms. The pigeon itself was top of the range and had lovely flavour, and the vegetables were also excellent. The one issue was that the cooking of the pigeon whole meant that the skin was rather flabby; for me it would have been better if this had been crisped up before serving. The only reason that I don’t score this dish higher is the treatment of the pigeon skin, as the flavours and other dish elements were lovely (17/20).

Pre-dessert was an apple dish using Fuji apples (a quite sweet tasting apple created in Japan, a cross of Red Delicious and old Virginia Ralls Janet apples) coated in apple jus and vanilla, served with caramelised almonds, apple marigold sorbet and espuma of Moscato d’Asti sweet wine. This was refreshing enough, but obviously this is not apple season in the northern hemisphere, and I didn't think the apples themselves had especially great flavour, though the almonds worked well (16/20).  

The main dessert was a new one based on wild strawberries. It was a wild strawberry compote in a chocolate shell, with vanilla mousse, vanilla sponge, verbena ganache and a gavotte biscuit tuile, accompanied by meringue, fresh wild strawberries and lemon verbena sorbet. This was a highly successful dessert, the new season strawberries having lovely flavour and the dish having a lovely mix of textures from the different elements. This was a top-class dessert (19/20). I finished with tea and a tray of petit fours, which comprised a delicate vanilla macaron, a coffee tart and a praline of dark chocolate, hazelnut and almond. 

On this occasion I was being kindly treated by a friend so I did not see the bill. Service was top notch throughout, the staff being attentive but unobtrusive. For me The Ritz is currently at the pinnacle of fine dining in London.


Further reviews: 28th Mar 2024 | 02nd Feb 2024 | 11th Dec 2023 | 01st Nov 2023 | 24th Sep 2023 | 26th Jun 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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  • tim wharton

    I'm not a huge fan of the dress code, but Andy is right about The Ritz. The sheer quality of the cooking (and the decor, and service - which to me are all secondary to the food) mean it is beyond compare. Quite how the Michelin guide thinks it is best described by the phrase "Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie" rather than "Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage" is totally beyond me.