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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 reopened this week after lockdown, with the dining room adjusted so that there was even more room than usual between the large tables. For more about the restaurant background and wine list please read one of my earlier reviews. Today we had a surprise menu, which was £114 per person. 

Three canapes began the meal, the first being the classic coronation chicken in a crisp sugar tuile. This is a delight, with the sweetness of the tuile carefully toned down compared to how it was a few years ago, and the dish all the better for the adjustment. Ragstone cheese mousse with wood-roast pepper and basil puree on a Parmesan sable base was lovely as ever, as was duck liver parfait with cherry glaze on a ginger tuile (18/20 nibbles).

This was followed by lobster cooked in a bouillon and served with Datterini tomatoes from Sicily with fresh almonds, cucumber, fennel fronds and basil puree, all resting in a tomato essence made with macerated tomatoes. This was a summery and refreshing dish, the tomatoes having plenty of flavour and working well with the tender lobster (17/20). An old favourite here is ballotine of foie gras set in port gel with pistachio yoghurt, and a prettily presented pistachio cake alongside. The ballotine had smooth texture and plenty of liver flavour, which was complemented nicely by the pistachio. Perfect toasted brioche was on the side (18/20).

Langoustines with herb nage is a signature dish of the kitchen, featuring large, plump langoustine tails precisely cooked and possessing lovely natural sweetness. The seafood is enhanced by the superb creamy sauce that has plenty of herb flavour. What sets this dish apart is the sheer quality of the langoustines, which are alive just before cooking (19/20). 

A new dish was steamed egg custard that had within it some Australian black truffle with Madeira and chicken consommé, 36-month aged Parmesan foam and truffle sauce. On the side were gougeres filled with truffle and Parmesan cream. The texture of the custard was fabulously silky, the truffle flavour intense and the Parmesan and Madeira combining to heady, rich effect. It was a stunning dish; the lovely gougeres on the side were just the icing on the cake, as it were. I asked my very widely travelled dining companion, who has a lot of experience with savoury custard dishes, how this dish could possibly be improved. His answer? “A bigger bowl” (20/20). 

For the main course, tournedos of Angus beef from Westbury was carved at the table. The beef was very good, served with heritage carrots, a little salad and a rich Bordelaise sauce (a complex sauce based on a demi-glace, with red Bordeaux wine, bone marrow and shallots) that in this case was enhanced with onion and port. This kind of sauce is the kind of thing that few kitchens in the UK are capable of making, and is one of the real strengths of the Ritz. The sauce was fabulous, a real work of art, and for me was more interesting than the beef itself (18/20).

Pre-dessert was peach jelly and peach compote with peach sorbet, topped with a disc of meringue. This was a light, refreshing and seasonal dessert (17/20). This was followed by an elaborate fudge caramel cage with vanilla shortbread, caramel parfait, sugar tuile, vanilla ice cream and Dulcey (a Valrhona brand) chocolate cage. This was a striking looking dessert, but the combination of flavours also held together very well, so the result was balanced and not too rich (19/20).

The bill came to £190 per person including wine. Service was as smooth as silk. This superb meal illustrates why, for me, this is simply the best restaurant in London.

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Further reviews: 11th Oct 2020 | 28th Aug 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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