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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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I have been many times to The Ritz, so see my other reviews for additional background. We went for the surprise menu, as usual.  There were tasting menus at £105 and £130, a three-course lunch at £61 and a full a la carte selection. There are also a few special dishes to share like beef Wellington and hay aged Bresse duck too.

The wine list is very extensive, stretching out over 93 pages, though it is far from cheap. Sample references were Cave de Domaine de Mignaberry blanc Irouleguy 2015 at £55 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Lo-fi Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc 2016 at £95 compared to its retail price of £27, and Istvan Szepsy Dry Furmint 2015 at £110 for a wine that will set you back £29 in the high street. For those with the means there was Chateau Angelus 2003 at £990 compared to its retail price of £372, and Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Barolo Riserva 2001 at £2,200 for a wine whose current market value is £1,211. Some of the grandest wines have pricing that is indefensible e.g. Mouton Rothschild 1985 can be found retail for £469, yet here is listed at £3,200.

A selection of nibbles today included my favourite coronation chicken in a sugar tuile, as well as Ragstone cheese mousse with wood-roast pepper and basil on a Parmesan sable biscuit base (18/20 canapes). Duck liver ballotine with port gel is one of those classical dishes that The Ritz does particularly well. The ballotine had silky texture, the port gel going beautifully with the deep liver flavour (19/20). 

Langoustines a la nage is a signature dish at The Ritz. Here the langoustines are delivered live to the kitchen from Scotland, and the tails are beautifully cooked, showing off their natural flavour, with a hint of sweetness. The nage, made with white wine, vegetables and fresh herbs, was superb, the herbs offsetting the richness of the sauce. Bronze fennel completes the dish (19/20).

Fillet of turbot came from a large 8kg fish (with turbot, the bigger the fish, the better the flavour as a rule) with cauliflower puree, served with a champagne sauce. The fish had excellent flavour and I really liked the smooth cauliflower puree, while the sauce was lovely (18/20). Salt baked celeriac with truffle sauce is surely the ultimate dish to convince a sceptic that vegetarian food can be exciting. The celeriac itself had lovely texture and flavour, but the sauce is really the star. Here the depth of flavour, augmented by black Perigord truffles, is a thing to behold (19/20).

Fallow deer came with several different treatments of beetroot, including golden beetroot and pickled beetroot, as well as glazed chestnut and a red wine reduction flavoured with juniper. This was good but was quite rich; although the beetroot provided some balance, maybe one more element to counter the richness would be beneficial (17/20). 

An apple dessert involved little caramelised apple spheres that were flambeed in Calvados at the table. At the bottom of the dessert was a layer of almond tart, on which was a sort of sandwich of frangipani layers containing caramelised apple, then white chocolate with vanilla Chantilly, almond, vanilla and white caramel and finally the caramelised Apple flambeed with Calvados. This was all very enjoyable, the acidity of the apple cutting through the richness of the cream (18/20). Finally, there was a superb chocolate souffle, evenly cooked and nicely risen, topped with a disc of chocolate with the Ritz logo emblazoned on it. This souffle is hard to criticise (easily 19/20).

Service was excellent, being extremely attentive and friendly; the service operation at The Ritz is like a well oiled machine, despite its vast scale. The bill, including copious wine, came to £300 a head, of which the food element was a pretty reasonable £115 given the amount of dishes and the skill involved. You could of course eat for a lot less if you chose a la carte and carefully scoured the wine list for a modest bottle of wine to share. I was actually due to eat at a Paris 3 star restaurant today but our flight was unable to land due to a storm, and flew back to London. I am not sure that the food would have been much better over in Paris, but I am certain that the entire food bill here would barely have purchased a main course in a Parisian 3 star.

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Further reviews: 31st Jul 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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