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 many times about The Ritz, so please see my previous for comments on the history, its head chef and its long but ambitiously priced wine list. Today, as usual, I went for the surprise menu, priced at £139.

The trio of canapes were the tried and tested ones of Ragstone goat cheese mousse (which resembles St Maure) with wood-roast pepper and basil, duck liver parfait with sour cherry and yoghurt, and Coronation chicken in a sugar tuile cylinder. These were al beautifully made, prettily presented and providing a series of contrasting flavours to whet the appetite (18/20). 

The first course was a signature Ritz dish, the langoustine a la nage with bronze fennel. The large (300g) Scottish langoustines were presented live at the table, and one was so lively that it actually jumped out of the basket on to the table.  The shellfish were poached in butter and served with cauliflower puree, little Cornish vegetables and bronze fennel from a supplier on Merseyside. The langoustines had lovely natural sweetness and were lightly cooked, allowing their flavour to shine through. They were nicely complemented by the fennel and vegetables, which balanced the richness of the buttery “nage” sauce (19/20).

Egg custard with Parmesan and a shaving of black truffle was next. A truffle cuisson jelly was first made by cooking truffles to extract their flavour. Then an egg custard was made with milk, kombu (seaweed) and Parmesan, and whisked with 36-month aged Parmesan foam and truffle sauce. The savoury custard was silky in texture, suffused with the richness of the Parmesan and fragrance of the black Perigord truffles. On the side were delicate Gruyere and truffle gougeres. I don’t really see how this dish could be improved upon, with deep, rich flavours and lovely texture (20/20).

Cornish turbot from a massive 10 kg fish was cooked on the bone and carved at the table. The fillet was served with grapes dressed in verjus, herb emulsion and a smoked butter beurre blanc. The dish was finished with finger lime, chives, dulse seaweed and wakame (kelp). The flavour of the fish was terrific, helped by being from such a large specimen and also by being cooked on the bone. The timing was spot on too, while the acidity of the grapes cut through the richness of the butter. This was fine fish cookery (19/20). 

Venison Wellington was the final savoury course. Fallow deer was stuffed with sauteed duck liver wrapped with mushroom duxelles and puff pastry and then cooked until pink. It was served with Cornish vegetables, celeriac puree, Hen of the Woods and a truffle sauce. The venison had lovely flavour and the pastry was excellent, while the rich sauce was balanced by the vegetables (18/20).

Pre-dessert was lemon textures, made using lemons from Menton, an area on the Mediterranean border between France and Italy. Lemon curd was combined with lemon cream, a wafer, lemon sorbet and lemon foam. The overall effect was very refreshing, and the textures combined nicely together (17/20).

The main dessert was a Mont Blanc (a Piedmont dish originally, named since the shape resembles a snow-capped mountain) with chestnut, pear and rum, using chestnut cream with caramelised pears, rum-soaked baba, rum ice cream and meringue. This was suitably seasonal, with the pear providing just enough acidity to cut through the richness of the cream (17/20). Petit fours were raspberry and custard tart, vanilla macaroon, and a dark chocolate, almond and hazelnut praline.

Service was very slick as usual, and the bill came to £221 per person in total. Your bill will vary substantially based on the menu that you choose and the wine that you select, but £139 for a menu using all these top ingredients is hardly unreasonable, and would barely buy you a main course at a Paris three-star restaurant. At the risk of repeating myself, there is nowhere in London serving better food than the Ritz at present.


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 | 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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