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 with its glorious 1906 dining room has become a regular haunt of mine. See earlier reviews for analysis of the wine list and for the background of the executive and head chefs. The longest tasting menu, which we went for today, was £170 per person. However there are plenty of other options, including a la carte and a three course lunch menu at £70.

This meal began with a pair of tried and trusted canapes. Ragstone goat cheese from Herefordshire was made into a mousse with wood-roast pepper and a garnish of basil, and was silky smooth. Duck liver parfait with sour cherry and yoghurt was excellent, the acidity of the fruit cutting through the richness of the liver (18/20). These were followed by two newer canapes. A tartlet of beef tartare was topped with oscietra caviar, a pretty dish whose pastry base was delicate, the salinity of the caviar acting as a natural seasoning to the good quality beef. A Colchester oyster dressed with sorrel and champagne was harmless enough, but ultimately was just an oyster with some dressing, so hard to get very excited about (just about 17/20 for the average of these).

Better was raw, marinated Isle of Mull scallop with a citrus dressing that included finger lime, soy and bergamot lemon. The shellfish had lovely natural sweetness and the dressing was finely judged, not too sharp but just enough to balance the flavour of the scallop. This was a deceptively simple dish, but one with superb balance (18/20). 

Ballotine of duck liver is a tried and tested dish here, the Landes foie gras being of top quality. The liver is marinated in port, Armagnac and Sauternes for 24 hours before being rolled out with a port and spice reduction, then wrapped in spiced port jelly. This is served with preserved damson gel, pistachio yoghurt and a little pistachio Bakewell tart, the pistachios being from Bronte in Sicily.  The final touch is a slice of high class toasted brioche. The ballotine had silky smooth texture and deep flavour, the acidity from the fruit providing some balance, the high-quality pistachios elevating the dish further. This is a top notch dish, something that just about any three star kitchen would be happy to serve (19/20).

A signature dish here is langoustine a la nage, featuring large langoustine tails from Scotland that are poached in butter, served on a bed of cauliflower puree, fresh fennel, baby Cornish vegetables and edible flowers. The creamy nage sauce with herbs could be too rich, but the little tender vegetables create just the right balance for the dish and complement the superb flavour of the gorgeous langoustines (19/20). Fillet of Cornish turbot was prepared on “Veronique“ style. The fish itself was a very large 8kg specimen having lovely flavour, the fillets being seared in a pan until golden then turned over and cooked with butter, lemon, rosemary and bay. They were served with grapes that had been peeled and then dressed in verjus, herb emulsion and a vermouth sauce, fished at the table with a little herb oil. Turbot is arguably the king of fish and this was a fine specimen, the acidity of the grapes nicely cutting through the richness of the butter that the fish was cooked in (18/20).

Veal sweetbread was sourced from The Netherlands and was cooked in a steamer until tender and then roasted in butter, thyme, garlic and rosemary before being glazed in a truffle sauce. The latter was made using black Perigord truffles that were chopped, cooked in butter and deglazed with Madeira. A second sauce was then poured at the table, this being a Parmesan sauce using 36 month aged Parmesan, using the cheese to infuse milk with bay leaf and Parmesan rind. The overall effect was pretty, but the glory of the dish is in the superbly cooked sweetbreads, light and subtle in flavour, enhanced by the complementary richer sauces. Maybe something green could be added to provide a little balance, but this is a fabulous dish for all its richness (19/20). 

Yorkshire grouse was hung for six days in its feathers and served with a duck liver parfait dipped in a cranberry glaze and seasoned with juniper powder, cassis puree, celeriac puree and finishes with a jus roti sauce. The meat was garnished with blackberries, girolles, excellent caramelised walnuts and wood sorrel. On the side was a little puff pastry wafer filled with caramelise onions that was cooked in a waffle iron. A final garnish was shallot pure with thyme leaves and onion flowers. The grouse was carefully cooked and was not overly gamey, the fruit providing useful acidity and the earthy celeriac flavour with the mushrooms balancing out the richness of the bird. I am not a big grouse fan, personally preferring just about every other game bird such as woodcock, snipe, pheasant and mallard. Nonetheless this was a carefully made dish, the meat tender and the garnishes balancing the dish well (17/20).  

We indulged in the recently reinstated cheese trolley, a selection of mostly British cheeses, all in excellent condition. A pre dessert used in-season Cox apple that was caramelised and combined with a Sauternes puree, along with compressed fresh apple, caramelised almonds, green apple sorbet all topped with green apple foam. This was a fine pre-dessert, refreshing and seasonal, the sorbet smooth as silk, the almonds providing a contrasting firm texture and the combination of elements being lovely (18/20).

This paved the way for a new dessert, a modern take on Black Forest gateau. This comprised a chocolate brownie base with a layer of tempered chocolate and Mascarpone Chantilly. Inside this were cherries soaked in kirsch and a cocoa nib tuile. Accompanying this was a “cherry” that was actually constructed from cherry mousse, cherry gel, kirsch and kirsch ice cream. The combination of chocolate and cherry is a well proven one, and this was a superbly executed take on the classic dessert. The chocolate had just enough fruit to avoid the overall flavour being too rich, the mix of textures being pleasing and the dish itself being pretty as a picture. This is top notch work from a high-class pastry section (easily 19/20).

Service was very slick and the bill came to £349 per person including wine. This was another fine meal, showing a kitchen operating at the top of its game. There are plenty of three Michelin star restaurants that are inferior to this.


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 | 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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