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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My latest meal at the Ritz began with a trio of canapes. There were Coronation chicken tuiles and Ragstone cheese mouse with basil and wood-roast pepper on sable biscuits, as well as warm gougeres made from two year aged Comte cheese. I have written about these previously and they are all top of the range canapes. At one time the tuile was a touch sweet but this minor flaw has been fixed a while ago, showing that the kitchen refines its recipes over time (18/20).

The first dish was Norfolk crab with espellete pepper, creme fraiche, avocado puree, Granny Smith apple foam, elderflower and ginger jelly and a crab-flavoured tuile. This was refreshing and elegant, the sweetness of the crab working well with the kick of pepper and acidity of the apple. I really liked the touch of ginger (18/20).

Foie gras ballotine was made with a duck liver port reduction, wrapped in cherry jelly and yoghurt. On the side was pistachio cake with cherry gel, yoghurt, wood sorrel and fresh pistachio, accompanied by warm brioche toast. The terrine was smooth and deeply flavoured, the cherry cutting through the richness of the liver (18/20).

Scottish langoustine was poached in butter and served on a bed of cauliflower puree, along with broad beans, with a garnish of herbs including chervil, basil, bronze fennel, tarragon and broad bean flowers. The shellfish rested in a creamy herb nage, made with white wine, mirepoix, vegetable stock, butter, cream, lemon, herbs and dulce seaweed.  This dish has become a signature of the Ritz, and was superb today, the creamy sauce going beautifully with the natural sweetness of the shellfish, with just enough lemon to balance the richness of the nage (19/20).

Veal sweetbread was smoked in hay with a truffle glaze. The sweetbreads, sourced from the Netherlands, had silky texture and delicate flavour. On the side was Roscoff onion, confit shallot and puree of shallot, finished with Perigord truffle sauce with Madeira wine vinegar. This was another fine example of classic French cooking, the richness of the sweetbreads balanced by the sharpness of the shallot, while the sauce brought a note of luxury (19/20).

Fillet of beef from Herefordshire was roasted in butter and topped with smoked bone marrow. It came with salsify glazed in red wine jus with lovage emulsion and a classic Bordelaise sauce. The sauce is made with red wine, bone marrow, shallots, butter, and a demi-glace, the latter dating back to the days of Escoffier. A demi glace is itself a mix of two basic sauces, espagnole, one of the five French “mother” sauces, and a brown stock based on a mirepoix of vegetables. Few kitchens these days have the resources to make sauces the old fashioned way, but the Ritz still does, and the result is a rich, concentrated creation that captures the essence of the beef. The protein itself was lovely, but the sauce was the star. The beef was tender and had plenty of flavour, the salsify being a good balancing pairing for the beef and the sauce was a rich thing of beauty (easily 18/20).

I have written previously about the crepes Suzette here. This was followed by peanut mousse with vanilla sable, waffle crumble, deluxe cremant, sugar tuile, vanilla ice cream and a Valrhona Dulcey blond chocolate cage. This was a pretty and carefully constructed dessert, the blend of textures and flavours being very effective (18/20).

Service was as slick as ever. I was being treated today by a friend so didn’t see the bill but a typical cost per person is around £125. The Ritz has established itself, in my view, as the top fine dining place in London and the meal today simply confirms that. The setting is grand, the service slick, but above all the food is glorious.


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 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

  • Alan Spedding (cumbriafoodie)

    I remember a time (I`m showing my age here) where EVERY top end kitchen would put their stock pots on to simmer as their last job every night , it was just part of their normal kitchen routine. Nowadays I wonder how many are left that actually do that ? Such a shame as the skills of the Saucier are all but gone. Your main course looks amazing Andy , stunning work.