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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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My latest meal here began with a selection of canapés. Crisp pastry cylinders filled with Coronation chicken are a classic here, and are even better since they toned down the sweetness in the tuiles. The balance of the filling is superb, with gentle spice enhancing the flavour of the chicken. Ragstone cheese mousse combined with wood-roasted pepper puree comes served on a Parmesan biscuit base with basil emulsion and a garnish of basil. This had excellent balance, the pepper balancing the rich cheese, the biscuits providing a texture contrast. Little cylinders filled with beef tartare were lovely, topped with blobs of mustard emulsion. Finally there were lovely cheese gougeres, served warm and neatly piped out, with plenty of cheese flavour permeating the choux pastry (18/20 nibbles).

Tomatoes from Provence appeared in a little dish with lobster claw, almonds and basil leaves, with a tomato consommé poured over at the table. On the side was a tartlet of tomatoes with almond cream and wild garlic flowers. The tomatoes had very good flavour and the lobster was tender, the almonds giving an extra texture. This was a light and refreshing summer dish (17/20).

A favourite dish of mine here is the langoustine tails served in a creamy herb nage, with broad beans, a little cauliflower puree and a garnish  of mixed herbs. The langoustines, displayed alive just before they were cooked, had lovely natural sweet flavour and were beautifully tender. They went really well with the lovely reduced white wine and herb sauce, and the herbs themselves were impeccably fresh, having been picked from the roof garden of The Ritz earlier in the day (19/20).

Red mullet is a fish that is a bit risky to order in a restaurant, as it often has a muddy flavour (mullet being bottom feeders). However at its best red mullet can be one of the finest fish to eat, and the version here was certainly in the latter category. The fish came with courgette, basil puree, fennel, olives, artichokes and basil leaves, with a tomato dressing flavoured with garlic and pepper. This dish had a lovely Mediterranean feel to it, and the mullet itself was precisely cooked (18/20). 

The main course was something that we had pre-ordered. Pressed duck is a dish made famous at Tour d’Argent in Paris. It requires a specialist duck press, a device designed to extract the blood and juices from the duck. These are used to make a rich reduced sauce involving foie gras, red wine, peppercorns, juniper and port, which was flambéed with cognac at our table. The duck used here is pretty much as good as you can get, from a top supplier in Bresse called Mieral, who regularly win competitions for their poultry. The duck was beautifully cooked and the sauce had great depth. Balance was provided by a side dish of turnips and green vegetables, and the dish was completed with ultra-light pommes soufflé. The duck leg appeared confit as a second serving, with a mustard bread crumb coating with shallots and a little parsley. This was served with an excellent endive salad, whose naturally bitter leaves were just the thing to balance the richness of the duck confit. This was a theatrical dish that requires a lot of skill to do well, and at lesser restaurants can be easily screwed up (royally so when I tried it at Otto’s). Here the high quality of the bird, the terrific and deeply reduced sauce and the top-notch cooking technique delivered a truly fabulous dish. I don’t know how this could really be improved (20/20).

An initial dessert was compressed cherry with vanilla yoghurt and elderflower cream, along with some almonds, cherry gel and cherry sorbet. This was a lovely summery dessert, the cherries having plenty of flavour and the sorbet having lovely texture (18/20). This was followed by a pretty strawberry meringue cup with white chocolate Chantilly, strawberry sorbet, sweet cicely a Tahitian vanilla mousse and a base of puff pastry. The strawberries were a mix of English and French and had excellent flavour and, as you might expect at The Ritz, the meringue had excellent texture (18/20). Just about the only minor flaw here is the low quality Musetti coffee, but if you drink tea instead then you can avoid this entirely.

Service was superb as it always is here, and the bill came to £159 a head including wine. The cooking at The Ritz continues to be of a very high standard, with the centrepiece duck today a shining example of what can be done with a top notch kitchen working with superb products. Its solitary Michelin star is farcical, as there is no restaurant in London that is currently producing better food than this. As a bonus you have the glorious historic dining room and silky smooth service. The Ritz has the complete package.

 

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Further reviews: 25th Oct 2019 | 30th Sep 2019 | 30th Aug 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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  • Alan Spedding (Cumbriafoodie)

    Hi Andy , your last paragraph totally sums up the Ritz restaurant ...Superb service , very well priced , top of the tree cooking , farcical Michelin reviewing and best food in London by far.....The best of the best. £159 for an amazing meal inclusive of decent wines , that`s fantastic and I hope that doesn`t change. I must make the effort to return soon and also request a classic. Believe it or not there`s a lot of dishes I still haven`t experienced yet.... Chicken en Vessie , Pressed Duck , A "proper" Tournedos Rossini , A "proper" Lobster Thermidor....Only the Ritz can meet those requests.

  • Nick

    I had been wanting to eat here for years. Finally, last week, I did. Wonderful food. How can this possibly rate only a single star?