We went to Gordon Ramsay’s 3 Michelin star flagship restaurant on Royal Hospital Road–one of Restaurant Magazine’s Top 50 restaurants in the world. It consistently lands in the top 20, and in 2005 and 2004, it was one of the top 10 restaurants in the world, keeping good company with El Bulli, Fat Duck, French Laundry and Pierre Gagnaire.
Gordon Ramsay has a sort of cult status in Britain–he takes up considerable real estate in the cookbook section of Foyles bookstore, and his TV show, The F Word (haha, the very obvious play on his tendency to swear–a LOT) has a brilliant following. Plus, he has at least 9 restaurants in London alone; in a sense, Ramsay is the culinary beacon of England. He burns bright and sometimes, angry.
Americans may know him from his television show, “Hell’s Kitchen” and his new restaurant in New York.
We arrived at Restarant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road nearly 45 minutes early for our seating–usually, a bit of an awkward situation at restaurants. Our plans included sitting at the bar and waiting for our seat. At Gordon Ramsay? No problem. We were seated IMMEDIATELY, to our great delight. (Later, during our chat with the staff, we found that the restaurant normally only does one seating a night, holding that table for one party).
The restaurant is bright and spare–a chic modern space with clean lines, mirrored columns and unique light fixtures, all custom designed by Ramsay’s favorite interior designer. It is a relatively small space, one that seats about 44 covers (and the restaurant only does one seating a night). “Does Ramsay have a say in designing his spaces?” we later asked. The answer reflected a complete trust–No, he does not.
As we opened our menus, my dinner companion and I scanned the menu, perusing both the price fixe menu and the ala carte menu. Before we could ask, “Do we both have to order the price fixe?” the server announced, “You do not have to both order the price fixe”–then asking us for any food allergies. When I decided on the price fixe, he went further by asking if I wanted to make any substitutions to the menu (this is nearly unheard of!). (He further impressed us by asking which of us was hosting the dinner, quickly explaining that this was a courtesy, given that they did not want to make wrongful assumptions).
I gazed wide eyed, and quickly opened the menu back up to scan for any possible substitutions. No dice, every course sounded delish.
After we ordered, we were quickly introduced to several amuse bouche in splendid order. The first was a cornette that I quickly demolished before I bothered to take a picture of it–one with a caviar topping that swam delicious in my mouth. The second amuse bouche was a mozzarella cheese ball. All delightful–off to a great start.
May I say that all this while the service is seamless–a flood of servers upon us with light touches and a warm and friendly flair.
The third amuse bouche was a notable variation of English eggs and beans, which the server placed at our table with a vague description. So we could be surprised. Which we were: inside the eggshell, topped with tomato foam, were scrambled eggs, atop beans. Fascinating! We ate this with a spoon full of caramelized onions and nibbled on a chip with bacon in the middle.
The first course was a foie gras pate dish, and that was followed by the dish you see up above: seared scallops atop octopus with cauliflower foam and a parmesan veloute. Aside from being very pretty, it was a delicious start to the meal.
At this point, I stopped to take a peek at what my companion was eating, because his first course, a lobster ravioli bisque topped with truffle, arrived.
It was, as you can see, something one could not ignore, and he tore into with gusto, stopping only to offer me a bite. It was delicious, a perfectly done piece of lobster meat.
My second course was a filet of wild turbot with coriander and carrot pappardelle in a butter sauce. The fish was simple and perfect, and the pappardelle were fascinating: carrots, shaved so thin, and folded and prepared just like pasta.
The steak was next, followed by a barrage of courses celebrating the meal finale–it was not unlike firework shows on the 4th of July, which also end with quite a bang.
Pre-dessert for me, involved picking from nearly 30 cheeses–for me, that was quite a lot of fun. My companion got a custard pre-dessert (the contents of which I cannot remember right now, sadly).
Pre-dessert was not just one course, but two courses, as I was then presented with a glass of a foamy fruit drink topped with cayenne pepper. Hrm. I peered into the drink and heard a particular noise: that of popping. I held it up to my ear, as it talked to me, and when I sipped it, I recognized the distinct childhood sensation of pop-rocks. Yes, pop-rocks. They were popping in my mouth, cracking. Now, I happen to HATE pop-rocks so I stopped drinking right away–but on a cognitive level, I was delighted by the drink! I held it up to my ear for quite some time, listening to the crackle pop crackle of the drink.
And finally–dessert. My dessert, off the price fixe menu, was a sorbet atop apple ice cream encased in chocolate. But I didn’t look at it, because my companion’s dessert was absolutely intoxicating. His toffee chocolate souffle with banana ice cream stole the show.
No sooner had we recovered from the decadence of dessert–the post-dessert treats began arriving in their delicate beautiful packages. First came chocolates:
And following what I like to call the “ball theme,” came strawberry ice cream encased in white chocolate, served in a container atop foggy dry ice.
Alas, the turkish delight did not take the shape of balls, saving the restaurant from what would have been my unending giggling. The turkish delight was, however, incredible all the same–soft, just this side of gelatin’s consistency and insanely delicate.
This was accompanied by the following drinks:
A 1998 Pauillac–Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
And a 99 Chateau d’Yquem and German riesling eiswein for the cheese and dessert courses.
We ended the meal with a lengthy and thoroughly enjoyable chat with the staff–one lengthy enough that we victoriously closed the restaurant.
What did we talk about? We talked about the meal, Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant venture in New York City, Anthony Bourdain, Bill Buford’s book Heat, the interior decor of the restaurant, its previous look, its current look, Parisian restaurants, the service at Gordon Ramsay, their approach to service. By the time we paid our bill and walked out the door (to a taxi called by the restaurant), we were in quite a happy sleepy stupor, feeling very much like we were the last guests leaving a friend’s house (after all, the restaurant is on a quiet street in Chelsea).
And thus, ends my write up. I was as exhausted by the meal as I was remembering it–a good exhausted mind you, but ready for bed all the same.