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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Executive chef John Williams leads a huge team in the cavernous kitchens of The Ritz – 67 chefs work there in all. Despite the vast scale, the level of consistency of the cooking is impressive, and the sheer size of the team allows labour intensive sauces and dishes to be created that would be difficult for a small kitchen. The Ritz dining room is magnificent, looking out over Green Park and decorated with mirrors, gilt, marble and huge chandeliers. The thick carpet means that noise levels are low even in such a large room.  

My most recent visit to The Ritz began with a trio of nibbles. Crab tartlets were delicate, gougeres had very good choux pastry and coronation chicken rolls were, as ever, lovely – crisp and mildly spicy (17/20). Langoustine a la Russe featured flawlessly cooked Scottish langoustines served with celery cress, cauliflower puree, celery in lovage oil and a nage (shellfish broth) sauce. The earthiness of the celery and cauliflower was a lovely foil for the inherent sweetness of the langoustines, and the light sauce lifted the dish. This was top of the range cooking, showcasing superb ingredients (19/20). 

Next was an interesting dish of whole baked Cornish celeriac. We are used to seeing table-side carving of roast meat but not to seeing the same treatment of vegetables. This dish illustrates how well this idea can work, as the celeriac had glorious flavour, paired with a deeply flavoured sauce of autumn truffles, their natural fragrance enhancing the celeriac (18/20).

This was followed by another top dish: fillet of turbot served with baby leeks, romanesco broccoli and caviar with a sauce made from champagne and caviar. Turbot is a fish where size matters: the bigger the fish the better the flavour, all else being equal. Here the fillet came from a huge 8 kg specimen, and had glorious flavour. The baby leeks were lovely too, and the champagne sauce complemented the superb fish without dominating it (18/20).

The last savoury course was woodcock served with a Madeira and cognac sauce that had been made with the offal of the bird. On the side were croutons topped with truffle butter and foie gras, as well as a little pot of mixed vegetables from Cornwall. The woodcock was not too gamey and was carefully cooked, and the green vegetables nicely balanced the richness of the sauce (16/20). 

A pre-dessert was an unusual one: puff pastry topped with white truffle cream, toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut cream. The pastry itself was very good, as were the nuts themselves, though for me fragrant white truffles are best served with savoury dishes (16/20). I preferred the main dessert, an elaborate Mont Blanc (a classic sweetened chestnut dessert) with fudge, buckwheat sponge, hazelnut milefeuille, pear flambéed in rum encased in a hazelnut Chantilly topped with tubes of meringue. This was very pretty and had lovely texture, the various elements in lovely balance (18/20). Petit fours were also excellent: a prune financier was delicate. There was also a cinnamon and vanilla cream, an exotic fruit tartare and salted caramel on a choux bun. All were made with impeccable technique (18/20). 

Service was superb, with every little detail attended to. The bill came to £121 a head, which I actually think was excellent value given the very high standard of cooking and the lovely ingredients that featured. There are very few London restaurants that can match the cooking at the Ritz on a day like today.



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 | 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 | 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

  • Jayne Worth

    It was my son's dream to be a pastry chef at The Ritz & he's doing it. He knows that the sweat & tears & exhaustion are all part of his learning & part of his future. He has reached rock bottom but then risen up to tell us he loves it. He started at just 18 years old & moved out of home to work so hard & such long hours, but we've been told 'if he can work at The Ritz, he can work anywhere in the world'. We are incredibly proud & will continue to support & encourage him in his passion. He's learning from the best.