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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 has become my “go to” place for fine dining in London. I have written in previous reviews about the history of the place and its wine list, and will confine this review to my latest meal there. The canapes set the tone. Gougeres were made with two-year aged Comte cheese and were neatly piped out, had excellent choux pastry and plenty of flavour. Crucially, they were served warm, which is more than they can manage at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. Ragstone cheese mousse came with wood-roast pepper and basil on a delicate Parmesan sable biscuit base. Coronation chicken in sugar tuile cylinders is a lovely creation, the crisp tuile a lovely container for the precisely judged flavour of the Coronation chicken (18/20 nibbles). 

Beef tartare was carefully seasoned with Worcestershire sauce and a hint of Tabasco, the meat not chopped too finely. This came with shallots, radish and cress and also beef consommé jelly, the beef bookended with thin brik pastry tuiles. The beef had excellent flavour and the texture contrast with the pastry worked well, the seasoning being very accurate (17/20). 

Foie gras ballotine with port jelly and damson jelly was next, accompanied by a little yoghurt with red and green sorrel leaves. The ballotine had silky smooth texture and deep liver flavour, served with warm brioche, the little sorrel salad and the acidity of the damson providing balance to the richness of the liver (18/20). Oscietra caviar from Belgium was supplied by Kings Caviar, and came with chopped chives and potato skins that had been infused in milk and then aerated.The contrast of the earthiness of the humble potato with the brininess of the luxury caviar worked nicely (17/20).

Langoustines in a creamy herb nage sauce are a signature dish of the Ritz. The langoustines are alive just before cooking, in contrast to the frozen langoustines that appear all too often in London. These specimens were displayed at the table, large and lively, before being whisked away to the kitchen to meet their fate. They had superb flavour, very delicately and lightly cooked, their natural sweet flavour and tenderness being a thing of beauty. The sauce is a lovely foil for the seafood, the herb flavour complementing the shellfish, the sauce deep and rich (19/20). This is a dish any restaurant would be proud to serve. 

The main course was Bresse chicken laced with black Perigord truffles cooked in a pig bladder, served with supreme sauce and celeriac. The classic sauce is based on chicken stock reduced with cream then strained through a fine sieve, and finished with Jura wine. The sauce takes days two days to make, and is a fine example of the labour-intensive glory of French sauces that few restaurants these days have the resources to make. The meat itself was lovely, the cooking in the bladder retaining all the aromas of the cooking before being cut open at the table. White truffles from Alba were then shaved over the dish, bringing their distinct earthy aroma. On the side were seasonal vegetables. The chicken was lovely but I was actually almost more impressed by the superbly cooked celeriac, which had been cooked in goat butter and was gorgeous. It is one thing to take a luxury ingredient like Bresse chicken and make it taste good, but it takes serious skill to elevate the humble celeriac to this level (18/20). Incidentally, the Ritz gets through an amazing 56 kg of Perigord truffles in a season. Last year this rare ingredient was going for almost £900 a kilo. 

A little cheese course followed, St Jude cheese from Suffolk drizzled with honey made from hives on the roof of The Ritz (about 80 jars a year is made from these hives) and a little more of the Alba white truffle. Dessert was apple and calvados diplomat along with pieces of apple flambéed in Calvados at the table, the dish accompanied by classic creme anglaise sauce. This was a beautiful dessert, with a touch of almond and vanilla flavour beautifully balanced by the acidity of the apple and lifted by the calvados. This was top notch pastry made with a level of skill that is a rare sight indeed in the UK these days (19/20). 

Service was excellent, and the bill, with corkage, came to £172 per person. If you ordered three courses and shared a modest bottle of wine then a cost per person of around £125 a head would be more typical. The standard of the food here is simply higher than in any of the capital’s multi-starred restaurants. So why this has just one star is a mystery that only Michelin can answer. The fact that the vast dining room was packed out on a Tuesday lunch time, at a time when plenty of prestigious restaurants in London have worryingly empty dining rooms at off-peak times, tells you that its customers have figured out what Michelin have not.

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Further reviews: 28th Aug 2020 | 31st Jul 2020 | 29th Feb 2020 | 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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  • Chr Fredrik Holmboe

    Lunch yesterday was our first visit to this institution; and it IS grand and beautiful, as was the service. 3 of four in our party are pescetarians, and opted for a specially adapted 5-course menu. Excellently executed with the langoustines providing the pinnacle part of our experience. The fine-wine pairing was also spot on from a Dönhoff GG through off-sweet Vouvray from Huet and Charmes Chambertin 2013 from Pacalet. Our only concern is that three consecutive coursses were accompanied with very similar saucing; varieties of beurre blanc and nage. This lent a heavy note to the meal as a whole. The sole was also slightly overdone in my opinion whilst the turbot was spot on. No pre-presentation of the langoustines for us as "less famed" guests though.