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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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The Ritz needs little introduction, but see my previous review for a little of the history of the place. It offers a wide range of menu options. Five courses come in at £110, seven courses at £130, or you can go a la carte. There was also a three-course menu at £63. The dining room is a magnificent affair of marble, mirrors and thick carpet, surely one of the finest dining rooms in the capital.   

The meal today began with the usual selection of canapes. Ragstone cheese mousse with wood-roasted pepper and basil had silky texture and rested on a crisp base. This came with deeply flavoured duck liver parfait with sour cherry and yoghurt. I particularly like the Coronation chicken in a cylindrical sugar tuile, the gentle spices lifting the flavour of the chicken, and the tuile providing a nice textural contrast to the chicken. Lovely today were cheese gougeres with a touch of black truffle, topped with a Parmesan crisp. The choux pastry was light and fluffy and the gougeres were served warm, which is what you always hope for but rarely happens even in high end restaurants (18/20 canapes).

Ballotine of duck liver was made using duck from Landes in the south west of France. This was marinated in Sauternes wine, port and Armagnac for 24 hours and rolled out with a port and spice reduction, then wrapped in a spiced port jelly. This was accompanied by preserved damson gel, pistachio yoghurt and a pretty pistachio Bakewell tart using pistachios from Bronte in Sicily. Finally, there was warm toasted brioche. The ballotine had smooth texture and deep flavour, its richness nicely balanced by the acidity of the damson, the dish given an extra flavour dimension by the pistachio tartlet (strong 18/20).

This was followed by exceptional Scottish langoustines poached in butter and served on a base of cauliflower puree, baby Cornish vegetables as well as fennel and broad bean flowers from Merseyside. The shellfish rested in a creamy nage (broth) flavoured with fennel and herbs. This is a long-established dish at the Ritz and is always a delight. Today the langoustines, which were alive and kicking at the start of the meal, were exceptionally large and had gorgeous natural sweetness, beautifully complemented by the anise flavour of the fennel and the lovely sauce (19/20).

Turbot fillet from Cornwall was from a very large 8kg fish and roasted on the bone, seasoned with a light curry salt and seared until golden, braised in butter, rosemary, bay leaf and lemon, served with a herb emulsion and a few sliced and peeled grapes with a champagne sauce. This dish is a nod to the classic sole Veronique, with the superb turbot here having terrific flavour, nicely complemented by the herb emulsion, the richness of the butter cut through by the acidity of the grapes. This was top notch fish cookery (18/20).

The main course was pressed Anjou pigeon. Anjou in the south east of France is famed for the quality of its pigeon, and here it was made in a similar way to the pressed duck dish at La Tour d’Argent in Paris. The pigeon breasts are caramelised until golden with garlic, thyme and salted butter, roasted and allowed to rest, then glazed in a Madeira sauce reduction. A sauce is made from red wine and the juices of the carcass, which is squeezed in the silver press, then cooked in a pan at the table with green peppercorns, port and foaming butter and flambeed with Armagnac. The pigeon was served with celeriac puree, and seasonal cep mushrooms from Auvergne in central France that were braised in butter with thyme, bay leaf and glazed in jus gras, along with salt baked celeriac fondant topped with marinated Perigord truffle. On the side was a dish of Cornish vegetables and crisp pommes souffle. This was another lovely dish, the bird very tender, the sauce beautifully rich but balanced by the vegetables, the ceps particularly impressive (19/20).

Vanilla mousseline was topped with honey made from hives on the roof of the Ritz, along with pear and mead. The dish involved a vanilla and honey mousse, vanilla sponge, poached pear bound with pear puree, Valrhiona Dulcey chocolate cremeux, almond, mead gel and pears compressed in mead, and finally a crumble and vanilla ice cream. This was visually very appealing and was an elaborate dish with a set of contrasting textures and well-balanced flavours, the acidity of the pear cutting through the richness of the chocolate (18/20). To complete the meal there were some excellent petit fours: vanilla and strawberry shortbread, raspberry and custard tart, banana choux bun and a praline of dark chocolate, almond and hazelnut.

Service was slick, with friendly and helpful waiters and excellent wine service. I was being treated here by a friend so did not see the bill, but if you ordered carefully then you could get away with a bill of around £125 including some wine.

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Further reviews: 22nd 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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