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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 about The Ritz many times, so please see my earlier reviews for more background. This meal began with an array of canapés. There was a “pebble” of Ragstone goat cheese from Herefordshire with a roast pepper insert, resting on a black pepper sable biscuit with basil emulsion. This worked very well, the richness of the cheese balanced by the pepper. A favourite dish of mine here is the cylinder of Coronation chicken. This was terrific, and seemed to have dialled back the touch of sweetness that was just about the only criticism of it that I had previously. Another cylinder of brick (or brik if you prefer, as it is originally Tunisian) pastry contained aged beef tartare from an aged Jersey dairy cow, enhanced by capers and a mustard emulsion, and was most impressive. Finally there were warm gougeres made with aged Comte cheese, which had lovely texture and deep cheese flavour. These were a classy set of nibbles (18/20).

The first formal course was crab with creme fraiche, chives and lemon juice with ginger and elderflower jelly, avocado dressed in elderflower with avocado purée and Granny Smith apple foam, topped with Oscietra caviar from Belgium (supplied by King’s Fine Food in west London). To provide a contrasting texture was a crab cracker, which was thin and delicate and really tasted of crab. This was a lovely dish, the acidity of the apple balancing the crab, the caviar bringing its characteristic briny flavour to the dish (18/20).

Live Scottish langoustines were presented at the table before being cooked, the large tails and claws beautifully cooked and having gorgeous flavour with a touch of inherent sweetness. These came with cauliflower purée, glazed baby vegetables and a garnish of fennel and chervil, all resting in a rich nage, a broth flavoured with white wine, that nicely enhanced the shellfish. This was a fabulous dish, and the quality of the langoustines today was exceptional (strong 19/20). 

A new dish was salsify “tagliatelle”, where the vegetable was shaped as pasta. The crunchy texture of the salsify was complemented by diced and shaved Perigord truffles, supreme sauce, a truffle jam with veal stock and foam made with two and a half year aged Parmesan. This was another success, the star element for me being the Parmesan foam, which had deep flavour that was an excellent foil for the mild earthiness of the salsify and the fragrance of the truffles (18/20).

This was followed by turbot from a huge 9kg specimen that was landed in Cornwall. This came with morels and early season white asparagus from Vauclause in southeast France, along with a chicken stock reduction and a garnish of chervil. The turbot was precisely cooked and had the lovely, distinct flavour that only really large turbot can deliver. The morels were also excellent but even more impressive was the white asparagus. So often a stringy disappointment, this asparagus was magnificent, with fabulous flavour and texture. I cannot recall white asparagus this good since a meal I ate many years ago at Aubergine in Munich, the three star Michelin restaurant of chef Eckart Witzigmann (19/20, but more for the asparagus). 

Ballotine of Dover sole was attractively presented, with grapes and grape gel, terrine of leeks, cauliflower purée, Oscietra caviar and champagne sauce. This was another lovely dish, the vegetables complementing the fish very well, the ballotine itself beautifully prepared (18/20). Pithivier of sweetbread came with Madeira reduction and was stuffed with Perigord truffle, morel mushroom duxelle made with truffle cuisson, spinach and chicken mousse and a base of salt baked celeriac. This was served with celeriac purée and a sauce of Perigord truffles, with mixed Cornish green vegetables on the side. I have rarely met a pithivier I haven’t liked, and the pastry here was very good, the filling rich and nicely balanced by the vegetables (18/20).

The transition to the sweet stage of the meal was made via a cheese from Jude in Suffolk. On this the waiter brushed honey from the two hives on the roof of the Ritz, the cheese being topped with truffle and served with biscuits. This was a nice idea, and the honey itself was lovely, having genuine complexity of flavour. 

Pre-dessert was vanilla sable biscuit base with pear purée, pears poached in tonka beans and vanilla, and a quenelle of milk ice cream and caramel. This was refreshing and enjoyable (17/20). This was followed by chocolate sable, with a layer of feuilletine, Amadei chocolate ganache and speculaas (a spiced Belgian shortcrust biscuit) cremant with orange purée and aerated chocolate, topped with grated chocolate and speculaas ice cream. This was very pretty, the ginger and other spices nicely complementing the richness of the chocolate (18/20). A final mignardise was a bar of Baileys-flavoured chocolate.

Service was silky smooth, and the bill was £154 per person, which I felt was actually very fair given the high calibre of the cooking. This meal was streets ahead of the food I recently had at three star Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, which makes the Ritz’s one star rating seem particularly absurd. Sort it out Michelin.

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Further reviews: 16th Jul 2019 | 18th Apr 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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  • Alan Spedding (Cumbriafoodie)

    I would happily travel from Cumbria to eat that meal and then come straight back home again. The food is so elegant , sheer luxury and prepared by an amazing team....What a superb restaurant. Top Marks.