DINING OWL AWARDS: 3rd – serving staff; 3rd – wine list; 4th – sommelier; 4th – petits fours
When I visited: February 2008, Autumn 2011, April 2017
Location: London, near Sloane Square
Team: Gordon Ramsay (Chef Patron), Matt Abé (Chef de Cuisine), Jean-Claude Breton (maitre d’), James Peter Lloyd (Head Sommelier)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: 3 stars
What to wear: Men – shirt and jacket and nice trousers and shoes; women – a smart dress and/or smart trousers and a top
Ambience: Small, quietly confident, brushed dark mirrors
Course of the meal: Ravioli – lobster, langoustine, salmon, oxalis and wood sorrel
If I could change one thing: Price (but understandable given the location)
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was the first Michelin restaurant I ever visited, and obviously it’s a blinder with 3 stars that it’s retained for several years now, and has the best maitre d’ I’ve met in terms of charm personified, Mr Jean-Claude Breton. On my second visit there with my partner Owl, we were also given a quick look at the kitchen where we saw the rightly well-regarded (then) Head Chef Claire Smyth holding court. On my first visit, there was a speck of dust or something on one of my fellow diner’s plates and Jean-Claude whisked the WHOLE SET away before bringing back a completely clean set. Perfect service is clearly the aim, and this restaurant perhaps comes the closest I’ve seen to achieving it.
The restaurant is expensive but there’s no question that every mouthful is worth it. The lunch menu includes bonuses featuring liquid nitrogen, beautifully cooked meat, a tree of white chocolate truffles and sumptuous white wine. We had a bit of a laugh with the sommelier on our second visit when he claimed that it took him months to whittle down the wine list to the massive tome it is now – seriously, one of the heaviest wine books I’ve ever seen.
The restaurant is small with very tasteful décor, including light lilac chairs, light pink roses, smoky mirrors and abstract patterns on the walls that pick out the patterns on the stunt plates (see fine dining hallmarks) and the menus.
Most recent visit:
Jean-Claude and the other serving staff were as friendly as ever and were interested to talk to us about other restaurants we like around the world – we discussed Japanese food and were given the offer to see the kitchen (as mentioned above, we had seen it before). When asked about what other restaurants we liked, we discussed L’Astrance and Arpege in Paris, and our waiter concurred with us about some of Arpège’s slight shortcomings.
On our second visit to this restaurant, female guests were given menus without prices on, but refreshingly this time guests were all allowed to see the prices. The wine list was still extremely extensive but had been updated to include maps, a useful and interesting touch. We selected a white Saint-Aubain to accompany the ‘Menu prestige’ with the help of the sommelier and enjoyed a glass of house Champagne each first. There were no canapés or posh crisps but we were given some amazing malted sourdough bread with butter shaped into a honeycomb under a white ridged mini bowl.
Before the Menu prestige got going we were given a bonus amuse bouche – peas, green beans and green consommé, which was refreshing and delicious. Next came the pressed foie gras with green apples, turnips, watercress and smoked duck – a complex and satisfying dish.
A highlight for me was the ravioli with lobster, langoustine, salmon, oxalis and wood sorrel – it was perfectly balanced. The poached Isle of Gigha halibut was served with Atlantic King crab, finger lime, and ‘ras el hanout’ (herbs and spices) infused broth this was a Moroccon-themed dish. Our ‘main’ within the menu was braised, confit and roasted Herdwick lamb with spring vegetable ‘navarin’, which was lovely and tender.
I particularly enjoyed the ‘soup’ of pineapple, coconut and kaffir lime – this was served in a long thin tube with a glass straw and was like a virgin pina colada. We were also given a sorbet of English breakfast tea and mint before the ‘proper’ dessert of lemonade parfait with honey, bergamot and sheep’s milk yoghurt. The tea and mint was a special dish served with dry ice, and the sorbet shaped into a quenelle, where we had to crush our own mint into a fine powder with a pestle and mortar provided. In fact, throughout the whole menu there was a lot of action at the table itself, with a lot of dishes involving something being poured or prepared in front of us.
We were also given a bonus chocolate with handwriting to commemorate a special occasion, which was a lovely touch. Our petits fours with our green tea were a light Turkish delight cube, white chocolate spheres with ginger ice cream, and macadamia nut and milk chocolate pieces (Jean-Claude allowed us to indulge in some extra pieces, saying these are a ‘customer favourite’).
If you want to visit perhaps the most high-end restaurant in London in terms of pure quality, you should book yourself a trip here. It doesn’t open at weekends so a day off or a special trip after work might be required.