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 become something of a regular at  The Ritz, so for general background see my earlier reviews. My latest meal started with a series of canapés. Lovage emulsion rested on a potato tuile with a garnish of chive flower. On top of a Parmesan sable biscuit was Ragstone cheese mousse and wood roast pepper purée with basil emulsion and little basil leaves. There was a crisp cylinder of coronation chicken and a brik pastry tuile filled with steak tartare and mushroom emulsion. Finally there were warm and perfectly piped gougeres made with 30-month aged Comte cheese. These were classy canapes, in particular the precisely judged steak tartare cylinder and the classic coronation chicken in its crisp shell. Although many restaurants offer gougeres, few do it as well as here: the Comte flavour was evenly embedded within the delicate choux pastry, whose texture was lovely (18/20 average).

The first course was a scallop tartare with Datterini tomatoes from Sicily, fennel fronds, cucumber flower and tomato consommé. The scallop was from the Isle of Mull, and was shown to us, still alive, just before the dish was prepared. This had excellent natural sweetness, and the tomatoes had plenty of flavour, including in the clear far from insipid consommé (17/20).

Ballotine of duck liver was made with a port reduction, served with a little fresh peach, peach purée, creme de peche, yoghurt with fresh almond and a garnish of red sorrel. On the side was evenly toasted brioche. This was a fine piece of classic cooking, the ballotine having deep flavour and smooth texture, the touch of acidity from the peach a good foil for the richness of the liver (18/20).

Particularly large langoustine tails were cooked briefly for just 40 seconds before being served with broad beans, fennel, celery, chive flowers and a creamy herb nage. This was top of the range produce, the live langoustines being shown to us before being whisked away to the kitchen, the cooking precise and allowing their natural flavour to really shine. The creamy sauce and earthy hint of celeriac were a fine complement for the superb shellfish (19/20). 

A fillet of turbot from a large 8 kg fish was poached in brown butter, and served with poached lobster, cauliflower purée, sea fennel and two different sauces. One was a mussel sauce with shallots, herbs and a white wine reduction of with a little butter.  The second sauce was classic lobster américaine, which is made from fish stock along with onions, tomatoes, white wine, brandy and butter. This combination of sauces was visually pleasing, and their respective flavours went well with the turbot, which was accurately cooked and had excellent flavour (17/20).

We had pre-ordered the pressed duck, a dish made famous at Tour d’Argent in Paris. Here the duck is absolutely top of the range, Bresse duck from the award-winning supplier Mieral.  The duck is roasted whole and then the legs are removed for further preparation. The breast was served with a rich sauce that was prepared tableside here. First, green peppercorns were sweated in butter, then flambéed with cognac and then enhanced with a port reduction. The carcass of the duck is put through the silver duck press, which extracts the juices of the bird, to be added back to the sauce. Further red wine and port is added, and then a little foie gras that is slowly cooked and completes the sauce. On the side were mixed green vegetables and pommes soufflé. The duck was stunning, as you might expect with such careful sourcing and precise cooking, and the beautifully rich sauce was nicely complemented by the mixed vegetables and the delicate shells of pomme soufflé. Finally the confit legs of the duck are served as a second serving, along with orange segments and caramelised walnuts with a little lettuce. This is the second time that I have eaten this dish here and for me it is just about perfect: combining tableside theatre with flawless cooking of a top drawer main ingredient (20/20). This is better than the version at Tour d’Argent, nice though that is.

A pre-dessert was meringue filled with creme diplomat (light pastry cream) infused with woodruff, along with almonds and a mirabelle plum compote. This was fine, and the plums were very ripe, though after the rich duck I wondered whether a lighter pre-dessert might have been a better idea (16/20). The main dessert was a caramel fudge with an elaborate shell of waffle pastry, filled with peanut parfait, peanut brittle, a sugar tuile and vanilla ice cream, along with chocolate drops and chocolate cake. This was very pretty and its flavours carefully balanced (18/20).

Petit fours were classy too. There was an excellent pistachio financier, white chocolate and vanilla ganache, a lovely passion fruit pate de fruit, a vanilla macaron with white chocolate mousse and a tonka bean ganache. they serve Musettii coffee, so I drank tea. Service was silky smooth and friendly, and the bill came to £196 per person. A more typical cost per person if you went a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine might be around £125. The Ritz is operating at the top of its game at the moment, with dishes being enhanced and tweaked over team, every little detail carefully considered and worked on. There is no better food to be had in London at present.


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