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 magnificent Ritz dining room dates back to 1906 and remains the only restaurant in London where male diners need to wear a jacket and tie. Such formality seems entirely appropriate in such a grand setting. Indeed, there is even song about it: Irving Belin wrote “Puttin’ on The Ritz” (to dress up) back in 1927, inspired by this very hotel. There is a wide range of menus here, from three courses at £82 right up to a seven-course tasting menu at £197 and several options in between. I have written previously about the extensive wine list, so see earlier reviews for more on that.

The meal today started with a pair of canapes that have stood the test of time. Parmesan mousse was flavoured with Kalamata black olives and garnished with a sprig of basil. A little duck liver parfait was partnered with sour cherry and yoghurt to balance its richness. Further canapes followed. A crisp pate de brik tartlet case was lined with oyster bavarois and topped with white Dorset crab meat seasoned with espelette pepper, salt, lemon and mayonnaise. This was topped with a julienne of radish, a little fresh Menton lemon zest and a garnish of Bellis daisy flowers. The crab’s natural sweetness had just enough lemon for freshness, and the contrasting texture with the tartlet case made this a very satisfying bite. A further pate de brik case contained beef tartare and a neat layer of oscietra caviar, the beef resting on an oyster leaf. The beef was carefully seasoned, with the brininess of the caviar contributing to that. A final amuse bouche was raw slices of Isle of Mull scallop in a thin jelly made from rice wine, topped with fennel pollen and both hyssop And shiso flowers. An aromatic bergamot dressing is poured over at the table, the dressing made from soy sauce, salt, sugar, olive oil and citrus including orange. This is a particularly pretty and delightfully refreshing dish (18/20 canapes, higher for the scallop).

The first formal dish of the meal was an old favourite, a classical ballotine of duck liver using duck liver from Landes in the southwest of France that was de-veined and marinated in salt, sugar, pepper, pink salt, port, Armagnac and Sauternes. This was served simply with damson mousse and pistachio Bakewell tart, a little salad and toasted brioche on the side. It is hard to fault this dish, the texture silky smooth, the liver flavour rich and just balanced by the acidity of the damson and the salad (19/20).

A fairly new dish to the menu is heritage potato cooked in kombu and wakame seaweed butter until it is tender. In the centre of the ring of little potato discs was a Colchester oyster that was poached lightly in champagne and dressed verjus glaze, chive curls and cornflowers. A crème crue sauce was made by reducing shallots with kombu, white wine and peppercorns. Finally, there was a topping of golden potato tuile and chive oil. This was a terrific dish, the humble potato elevated to a high flavour level by its careful treatment, the crisp tuile providing a pleasing texture contrast, the contrasting flavours of the sea and the earth combining beautifully. I have had plenty of worse dishes in three-star Michelin restaurants than this, and it always impresses me when a kitchen can elevate a traditionally humble ingredient to something special (19/20).

Langoustine a la nage is a signature dish of the restaurant that I have written about before. Large langoustine tails from the east of Scotland were poached in butter and served with cauliflower puree, Cornish baby vegetables, fennel and some seasonal flowers from Merseyside. This all rested in a lovely herb nage, which is a stock of white wine, vegetables and herbs. The key to the success of this dish for me is the vegetables, which bring balance to richness of the shellfish and nage (19/20).

The Loire region of northwest France is noted for its Anjou pigeon, here cooked and displayed whole at the tableside. The birds are filleted and the carcasses are placed into a large silver duck press, which extracts the juices of the carcass into a concentrated liquid. This along with duck liver is used to deepen the flavour of a red wine sauce with green peppercorns that is flambeed at the table. The pigeon breast is served with celeriac puree, baby turnips and girolles. The gorgeous sauce was nicely lifted by the peppercorns and the richness of the meat and sauce was countered by the earthy flavour of the celeriac and turnip (18/20). Pre-dessert was yoghurt chantilly, with elderberries poached in vanilla stock syrup and then seasoned with gin and lemon juice, topped with Asti foam and lime zest. This was a light and refreshing dish (17/20). The main dessert was cocoa and nibs, a chocolate gavotte filled with vanilla caramel, dark chocolate mousse and milk ice cream. This was a pretty dish to end the meal, the chocolate and vanilla a classic flavour combination (18/20). Petit fours were a dark chocolate and hazelnut praliné with salted caramel, vanilla macaron and a grapefruit pate de fruits. To go with these, I had an infusion of tea with fresh leaves snipped from a large trolley housing half a dozen mint plants – the leaf that has a hint of grapefruit flavour is one that I find particularly appealing, but of course this is just a matter of taste. The service was superb today. The bill today came to £425 per person including service and plenty of nice wines. The menu element came to £197 each. Of course, you could eat for much less, especially if you went for just a regular three-course menu and shared some modest wine. The Ritz continues to be convincingly the best overall fine dining experience in London.


Further reviews: 28th Mar 2024 | 02nd Feb 2024 | 11th Dec 2023 | 01st Nov 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 | 14th Dec 2021 | 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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User comments

  • Lucullus

    In response to Lee, I recently had the seven course menu (as Andy did) and had all of the same dishes, with the exception of the main dessert (which was an equally excellent Menton Lemon dish), so no, these are not “specials for repeat custom”. It’s true that the dishes aren’t available on the Three Course Menu but most are usually available A La Carte, with the exception of the Anjou Pigeon a la Presse. And yes, The Ritz continues to offer the best classical French food and the best overall fine dining experience in London.

  • Jean luc Alexandre

    I totally agree with Andy. This is the best restaurant in London food wise Why Michelin only gives one star to the Ritz will remain a mystery as deep as the origin a the Michu Picchu

  • Lee

    Great review, as always. I have been to the Ritz 4 times on the back of your recommendations. However, many of the dishes you've had I've never seen on the menu. How are you managing to get these? Are they specials for your repeat custom?

  • Edesia

    I spent most of my life thinking it was Pudding on the Ritz and a song about dessert.