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 one of the grandest dining rooms in London, dating back to 1906 and as ornate as they come, with more marble and gold leaf than you can shake a stick at. We opted for a surprise seven course menu today, which was priced at £197 per person. There are plenty of menu options here, from a five-course tasting menu at £177 through to a full a la carte selection or a three-course selection at £82. I have written in a previous review in some detail about the wine list.

The menu today began with a sequence of canapés. Croustade of Dorset crab was flavoured with Menton lemon and radish, the crisp croustade made from a sparkling beer. At the bottom of the tartlet was oyster bavarois, topped with Dorset carb that was seasoned with salt, espelette pepper and finished with mayonnaise, julienne of radish, fresh Menton lemon zest and Bellis daisy. Ragstone goat cheese mousse was flavoured with wood-roast pepper and basil. Duck liver parfait was combined with sour cherry and yoghurt, the other elements providing balance to the richness of the liver (18/20).

Beef tartare tartlet was topped with a layer of oscietra caviar and crème fraiche in a pate de brik pastry case. The whipped and seasoned crème fraiche is poured into the centre atop an oyster leaf and then covered with the beef and the layer of caviar, whose brininess acts as a natural seasoning for the beef (18/20). 

Scallop from the Isle of Mull was served raw with a thin jelly made from rice wine, topped with fresh fennel pollen, hyssop flowers and shiso flowers. The dish was finished at the table with an aromatic Bergamot dressing made from soy sauce, olive oil, sugar salt and citrus including orange. This is an exceptionally pretty and very enjoyable dish, showing off the natural sweetness of the high-quality scallops (18/20). 

Native lobster was soaked in a court bouillon until tender, then removed from its shell, the tail warmed in clarified butter. This was surrounded by San Marzano and Datterini tomatoes, the dish finished with a cold consommé poured at the table. This consommé was made from tomatoes, coriander, basil, shallot and espelette pepper. The dish was complemented by a crisp leaf made from aromatic lobster stock brushed with espelette pepper and fennel pollen. The lobster was tender and the tomatoes had excellent flavour, with the lobster crisps providing a contrasting texture. This was a light and summery dish (17/20). 

Duck liver ballotine is one of the regular dishes at the Ritz and long may it remain so. Top notch foie gras from the south of France is de-veined and marinated in salt, sugar, pink salt, pepper, port, Sauternes and Armagnac, wrapped in a jelly of sour cherry. This is served simply with a micro-salad. The texture of the liver was as smooth as silk and gloriously rich in flavour, with the sharpness of the cherry providing balance. On the side was excellent brioche to complete the dish (19/20).

Heritage potato and oyster was a new dish. The potato is cooked in kombu and wakame seaweed butter until tender, shaped into neat discs. These surround Colchester oyster that was poached in champagne and dressed verjus glaze, and garnished with chive curls and corn flowers. These elements rested in a crème crue sauce made by reducing shallots with white wine, kombu and peppercorns. The dish was finished with a garish of golden potato tuile and chive oil. This was an original and impressive dish, the humble potatoes having lovely flavour enhanced by their sauce, their earthiness matched with the natural salinity of the oyster, the dish tasting as attractive as it looked (19/20).

Chawanmushi with black truffle is a dish I am particularly fond of here. The egg custard is made with cream, milk, kombu (edible kelp) and Parmesan. It is whisked with 36-month aged Parmesan foam and finished with truffle sauce and freshly shaved black truffles, which at this time of year come from Australia. On the side were gloriously rich gougeres flavoured with black truffle. This is a sublimely rich dish with superb texture and a marvellous combination of top class, comforting Parmesan and aromatic truffle. This is food of the gods (20/20).

Anjou pigeon was prepared a la presse. The birds were roasted and the breast meat separated from the carcass. The carcass was placed in a pigeon press device and crushed to extract the juices and blood, which formed the basis of a red wine and green peppercorn sauce that was thickened with foie gras and flambeed at the table. The pigeon meat itself was excellent, carefully cooked and having lovely flavour. The sauce was gloriously rich and accompanied by salt-baked kohlrabi, whose mild, earthy flavour provided very good balance to the richness of the sauce. The kohlrabi was garnished with blanched celery herb emulsion, while on the side were lovely crisp souffle potatoes (18/20).

Pre dessert was green strawberry verbena, macerated English strawberries topped with Moscato d’Asti foam and served with a lemon verbena sorbet and lemon verbena leaf. The flavours worked very well and this was a refreshing dish, the only minor issue was that there was a touch more sweetness than you might want in a pre-dessert, which above all should be a palate cleanser that leads into the main dessert (17/20). 

A new dessert was a pretty concoction of honey and lemon. This comprised lemon from Menton in the Mediterranean, lemon curd and confit lemon, combined with English honey, yoghurt cream and lemon sorbet, topped with a disc shaped honey and fennel pollen tuile. This was superbly balanced, the richness of the honey and the acidity of the lemon in just the right combination, the varying textures working beautifully together. This was a very accomplished dessert. As a bonus, on the side were freshly baked and lovely lemon madeleines (19/20). A final theatrical flourish was the mint tea, where a full trolley of fresh mint is brought out and snipped to order. There were various mint varieties, including one described as grapefruit mint and another seemingly having a hint of chocolate flavour. This came with a tray of petit fours. 

Service was very slick, the staff being friendly and attentive. The waiters were able to answer questions about the details of the menu without reference to the kitchen, something I have observed here before and is actually quite a rare occurrence, even in multi-starred restaurants. The bill came to £369 per person with wine and service. If you opted for the shorter three course menu and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around £145 all in. This was a particularly good meal today, even by the high standards of the Ritz.


Further reviews: 28th Mar 2024 | 02nd Feb 2024 | 11th Dec 2023 | 01st Nov 2023 | 24th Sep 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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  • TM99

    I think this is the best quality and most consistent "grand" cooking in London. I loved the pigeon a la presse when I had it earlier this year. I always know we will have a splendid meal and feel totally treated at the Ritz. Why only one star, Michelin?