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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 is a London institution that I have written about many times, so please read my previous reviews for background and details of the wine list. It is blessed with a magnificent Renaissance style dining room complete with ceiling mural, marble, gilt and carpet thick enough to sink into. The meal today began with a trio of canapes. Two were regulars on the menu and one was new to me. Ragstone goat cheese from Herefordshire was combined with roasted red pepper, resting on a black pepper sable biscuit with basil emulsion. Coronation chicken in a sugar tuile is a favourite of mine, the gentle spiciness of the curry sauce nicely lifting the flavour of the chicken. Also excellent was a foie gras canape with silky texture and deep liver flavour (18/20 canapes). 

Norfolk crab was mixed with mayonnaise, chervil, diced celery and apple with Espelette pepper from Pyrénées-Atlantiques in France, along with avocado puree and croutons. This was topped with a foam of Granny Smith apple, celery and lovage foam and garnished with beach herbs and flowers grown in the rooftop garden of the Ritz. This was a lovely dish, the crab of high quality, the acidity of the apple and earthiness of the celery nicely balancing the natural sweetness of the crab (18/20). 

This was followed by the signature langoustine a la nage with bronze fennel, the very large langoustine tails having gorgeous natural sweetness, combining beautifully with the herb sauce (19/20). This was followed by a quite new dish, the savoury egg custard with truffle and aged Parmesan that I was introduced to a few weeks ago here. The truffle cuisson jelly was made with Australian black truffles, port and Madeira, the egg custard infused with kombu and rind of aged Parmesan. This was topped with a foam of 36 month aged Parmesan and accompanied by a gougere stuffed with Parmesan and truffle cream. This savoury custard is a real triumph, the texture velvety smooth, the Parmesan gloriously rich, the dish elevated by the scent of black truffle (20/20).

Next was Cornish turbot fillet from a large 8 kg fish, cooked in brown butter and served with a champagne sauce and Belgian oscietra caviar supplied by Kings Caviar in west London; this particular caviar is from a ten year old gueldenstaedtii fish, known as diamond sturgeon or Danube sturgeon. On the side were sea vegetables and Scottish girolles. The turbot had excellent flavour and was accurately cooked, working well with the light champagne course, while the excellent caviar brought a further element of luxury to the dish (18/20).

The main course was beef Wellington, the Angus beef from Shrewsbury being aged for 32 days, the Wellington having a central core of foie gras and truffle as well as an outer layer of cep and girolle mushroom duxelle, encased in puff pastry made from scratch in the kitchen. On the side was cep mushroom, celeriac puree and a celeriac and truffle sauce, with black truffle slices added at the table; a little side dish of green vegetables brought some welcome balance to the richness of the beef. This was a superb beef Wellington, the pastry excellent and the meat’s flavour beautifully complemented by the truffle and the earthiness of the celeriac. You won’t find beef Wellington much better than this anywhere (easily 19/20).

A first dessert was fig pithivier, with Provencal figs just in season right now, encased in puff pastry along with homemade fig jam, frangipane, vanilla crumble, fig leaf ice cream and a little fig leaf oil. This was certainly well made, and the figs were ripe, but somehow I wasn’t sure, much as I love pithivier when encasing game, that this was the very best way to show off the figs (16/20). This was followed by an elaborate Amedei chocolate mousse with hazelnut and tonka beans. A gianduja (hazelnut chocolate spread) cremeux was combined with salted caramel crumble, salted caramelised hazelnut, milk ice cream, and grated hazelnut. Amadei chocolate mousse was laced with hazelnut praline, on a base of fudge cocao nib tuile and tonka mousse encased inside a dark chocolate cage. This was suitably rich and well balanced, the flavour of the hazelnuts coming through well, the touch of saltiness a clever way to balance the richness of the chocolate (18/20).

Service was silky smooth as ever here, and the bill came to £169 per person before service, with the surprise menu itself being £120 per person. The Ritz is serving some of the absolutely best food in London at the moment, and many of the dishes here (at what is laughably assessed as a one-star Michelin restaurant) are better than at, for example, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and Sketch, which have three stars. This relative assessment of Michelin is incomprehensible to me, but is not lost on the dining public. The very large Ritz dining room is almost always busy, even on a weekday lunch. The Ritz is one of the few places left in London that takes the trouble to make classical French sauces from scratch and embraces the other labour-intensive techniques of classical French cuisine. The occasional new dish, such as the truffle and Parmesan custard, demonstrate that innovation is also possible here, even in a kitchen that highlights the classics. The Ritz is a jewel of a restaurant.

 

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Further reviews: 11th Oct 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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