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Jun 17, 2013 02:12 AM

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London

I have to confess, this wasn’t my choice of place to eat and I was tagging along as I thought I should try it, rather than because I was expecting anything wonderful. However, I was blown away.

We had the set lunch - £55 for three courses – and there was nothing about any of the dishes that I or my dining companions could fault. Couple this with charming service and we are already contemplating a return trip with the one friend who was unexpectedly unable to join us.

very good gruyere gougeres to start while we chose our food followed by a pea mouse and smoked ricotta amuse bouche – this was such a pretty dish, served in a little glass bowl with the incredibly light mousse layered over the ricotta and topped with teeny baby vegetables.

To start, two of us had the lobster, asparagus and herb tortellini with broad beans, tomato and lobster consommé which had a wonderful depth of flavour. Generous portions – three very plump tortellini. However, the other starter at our table was actually the portion-size -winner – delicate tartlet of confit salmon, shaved fennel, radishes, grilled piquillo pepper, quail’s egg, rocket and basil. Apparently this is clare smyth’s take on a salad nicoise/pan bagnat from when she was in Monaco and used to eat these on the beach. Here the tart is a filo case that holds everything else together.

My main was the miso glazed cod with black quinoa, squid, grilled Shiitake mushrooms and lapsang souchong broth – every mouthful made me pause and reflect on how much I enjoyed the flavours. However, I do remain uncharmed by quinoa! Again, generous portions. The other dishes were mutton, which had a lovely lightness and both smoked aubergine (and the prettiest baby aubergine “crisps” as a garnish) and a hint of curry spice to add a touch of the exotic; plus a lovely rabbit dish with pickled mustard and hazelnuts.

Finally, roasted pineapple with coriander financiers, coconut sorbet and vanilla cream. The richness of the pineapple was wonderful and I loved the use of coriander shoots as part of the garnish, as well as the flavour from coriander seeds in the financier. The other pudding was a banana, peanut butter and chocolate concoction which I didn’t try.

Petit fours included a dish of strawberry ice cream bon bons, dipped in white chocolate and served atop dry ice, which we were very lucky to be bought a second portion!

Lovely, and very affordable Bergerac sec to drink, with charming advice and conversation from head sommelier Jan Konetzki.

Comparing this with le Gavroche, which has a similarly priced lunch menu, except they throw in ½ a bottle of wine and coffee (I visited with the same group of friends c18 months ago and posted a review at the time, if anyone wants to look back), I think there is no question that you should spend your money on Clare Smyth’s cooking - the complexity and deliciousness of the dishes totally reflect the quality of the 3* kitchen and it was a real treat.

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  1. Abby - a really interesting review. I have seen a number of very good reviews of RHR recently saying Clare is really cooking superb 3 star food. Ramsay is oft maligned but there is no doubt he can spot and nurture talent, it's good to see one of his places is still delivering (I was in Tokyo last week and saw that Cerise his outpost there has now closed).

    10 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      some pictures...

      1. re: abby d

        All the dishes look exceedingly elegant... beautiful photography, too.

        1. re: zuriga1

          Indeed. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words. Those made me want to try out Gordon Ramsay's more than any voluminous written essays on the food there.

          1. re: klyeoh

            It's on my list! We're just back from North Wales, and thanks to Harters we ate very well. I had one of the best steaks I've eaten since coming to the UK. I forgot to take photos!

            1. re: zuriga1

              Ah, but you should update this board with your dining experience in Wales, June.

              1. re: klyeoh

                You're right... and I will get around to it, Peter. I have Harters to thank for all the great suggestions.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Too kind, June.

                  The board is all about sharing information which is all that I do.


      2. re: PhilD

        It's really Clare Smyth at the Royal Hospital Road though now isn't it.

        We had an flawlessly executed meal there but it did lack pizzaz and imagination compared to many other places. A very good option though.

        On the side point about food photography I love great blogger photo reports but I always try and avoid them for somewhere I'm going soon after as I always think it ruins the surprise a little to see exactly what's going to be put in front of you.

        1. re: ManInTransit

          MT - it is Clare but who hired and developed her? Whilst I think GR gets much deserved critisism he at least should be recognised for his ability to spot and nurture talent. Think how many chefs served their apprenticships with him (or his organisation), and I mean served, they didn't just stage. I say credit whhere credit is due.

          1. re: ManInTransit

            it's definitely all about Clare Smyth - she was there, the dishes were explained in the context of her inspiration etc. but in agree that GR deserves credit for his role in developing her and many others

            i have mixed views about photos - i too like a suprise but often i find them helpful when choosing between places when i have limited time (i did this when researching San Sebastian places, before ending up with Akelarre)

        2. It’s been nearly 35 years of my life, except until last month, I’ve never actually been to any place in the United Kingdom at all. I often had desire to visit London, one of the most dynamic cities in the world; however as far as the gastronomy world is concerned, it’s quite underrated. The number of michelin 3-star restaurants were relatively minimal for a megapolitan city like London; moreover I hardly heard any convincing rising star chef/restaurant coming from this place – recently, the closest one would be Hedone, in which I had a chance to have dinner also. For me, Hedone deserved its one star and I don’t see it would get its 2nd one any time soon. Anyway, my main purpose at the moment is to share my view of the dinner I had at Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road.

          These days, who doesn’t know the notorious Gordon Ramsay? He’s all over the TV and he probably has more restaurants and/or cafes than any other chefs. I watched his first season of Hell’s kitchen in 2005 when I had not had any experience eating at fine dining restaurant. I am usually skeptical with the chef who often appears on TV, but I learned that Gordon was different because the Red guide book believes that his restaurant deserves its highest accolade albeit only one. So, if I had to try his food, it should be the one he’s proud of the most. My wife and I arrived 30 minutes earlier than our initial dinner reservation. Interestingly, within 5 min, there were 8 other people, (all of them happened to be Asians) making up 3 other tables, reaching the restaurant. It was quite windy and cold. Some of us tried to open the door, but it would not happen until 6:30 PM. For those of you who will dine here in the peak of winter season, please don’t arrive too early; there was neither any door bell, nor will the staff open the door for you to be there earlier. They were still busy doing the briefing.

          Once, the restaurant opened its door, everything went smoothly even though we’re still 15 min earlier. We passed the mirrored and marbled corridor before arriving at the small waiting area. After taking off our jackets, we’re escorted to our table. The dining room was not too spacious; seated about 40 people. It was fully booked – securing a table for dinner here with 1 week notice or less is virtually impossible. The setting was discreetly luxurious and elegant with some feminine touch; grey, beige and lilac color dominated the restaurant’s theme. The distance among tables was quite closed, similar what you would experience when dining at l’Arpege. As many of you might have known, there are 3 menus offered here and we picked the Menu prestige that consists many of Gordon Ramsay’s signature dishes. Since it’s the season of Alba truffle, the staffs diligently promoting the truffle dish: pasta with parmigiano cream sauce – any dish in the menu could be substituted with this at an additional cost of GBP 45. We decided to stay with the original degustation menu.

          The meal started quite well. For the amuse, we had an egg served with parmesan cream, smoked potato and white truffle - It's creamy, rich and 'round'; the egg yolk was nice. Prior to this, for the canapé I quite enjoyed the cured salmon in shiso as well as basil bun filled with truffle. For the actual menu,

          -the first course was pressed foie gras that was tasty but not too creamy; there were green apples, turnips and watercress to balance the duck liver’s richness – a decent dish.

          -it’s followed by the signature dish: the “seafood” ravioli. I really look forward to eating this dish, but sadly it was forgettable. While the pasta was well-made, the lobster, langoustine and salmon inside were dry and lacked flavor. The veloute & bisque gave some moisture, but the sorrel especially was a little too salty and dominant. I also ate something similar to Ramsay’s ravioli with bisque, liver sauce and black truffle at Gaddi’s HK and it was slightly more superior to what I had here. At least, at Gaddi’s the langoustine and salmon were sweet and ‘juicier’.

          -3rd course was a firm and salty halibut served in ras el hanout broth. It was average; the best part was the small and succulent king crab on top of the fish

          -for the main course, I had Cotswold lamb tasting. My favorite part was the rack part cooked pink; it’s tender and delicious. The other part was the lamb’s breast, shank and shoulder – again, quite salty. Honestly, it’s good but not at the level of Lozere/Aubrac lamb I had in France top restaurants. The autumn vegetables accompanied the lamb nicely. My spouse had roast pigeon (with sautéed foie gras), which is even more tender and juicy compared to my lamb. I think both main courses were well presented and executed

          -for the pre-desserts, I liked the refreshing, sweet and fragrant “soup” (mango and passion fruit). The cucumber sorbet, lemon verbena and mint were alright.

          -both of us had the restaurant’s classic desserts. Mine was the sour/acidic lemonade parfait with yoghurt sorbet combined with the sweet honey and light bergamot jelly. My wife chose the rich and sweet chocolate ‘cigar’ that’s balanced with blood orange and cardamom ice cream. The desserts were pleasant with attractive presentation. My favorite sweet stuff here was actually the cool white chocolate coated strawberry ice cream truffles – simply glorious.

          Gordon Ramsay, for me, is a clear example of a 3-star restaurant with no magic and wow factor. The food is neither spectacular nor innovative and I had no problem with that. However, it’s not really delicious, only pleasant and nothing memorable unfortunately. The food is classical cooking of “old-school” French cuisine, but not at its best. The examples of “boring” food executed to perfection that makes me very excited were l’Ambroisie, Ducasse Paris/Monaco and le Squer’s Ledoyen last time. Even, the “French classic” dishes at the Fat Duck were flawlessly executed and did taste better than any dishes I ate here. After eating Ramsay’s menu prestige, I don’t actually understand the perfect 10 score awarded to Clare Smyth by the Good food guide. Probably, Jonny Lake should get 11 then. In my notes, the food here was 93/100 (2 ½ star by Michelin standard). This might be London’s best, but (IMHO) it would stand no chance of being a 3-star establishment had it been located in Paris.

          The dining room staffs, led by a capable Jean-Claude Breton, were active, ‘noisy’ and (sometimes overly) enthusiastic. The small dining room often made some staffs almost hit one another in a few occasions. Obviously, the FOH team was very proud of their jobs and doing their utmost best in promoting the restaurant’s food. But, when the guests’ (food) feedback was not as positive as they expected, you could not help but notice a little sour note in their face. Only monsieur Breton accepted ‘critics’ charmingly and with ‘dignity’. As a matter of fact, Mr. Breton, who has been working with Ramsay since the Aubergine days, was among the best and finest maître de maison I’ve ever encountered. He’s very genial, ‘smooth’ and knowledgeable. We had a few pleasant conversations with him and he’s the main reason we believed that the service here was actually better than its food. Actually, Mr. Breton invited us to visit the kitchen and meet Chef Smyth, but we politely declined as my wife was exhausted and rather sleepy at the end of the meal. Another reason I didn’t mention to him was that I was not impressed with the food. Normally, the head chef would ask you how the meal went. Me being me, usually I’m brutally honest when sharing my opinion and I just did not want to “hurt” the chef’s feeling. The meal was not spectacular, and at the same time, nothing really went terribly wrong. And I don’t think the fact that we just arrived in London in the morning after having flown more than 15 hours would affect our judgment here. The best meal in my life (first dinner at l’Arpege) occurred after flying from New York; four years ago, I had unforgettable meals in the first day (after sitting in economy seat from Singapore); I could still recall vividly that Pacaud’s truffe ‘Bel humeur’ during lunch and le Squer’s “spaghetti castle” in dinner are still among the most delicious dishes I’ve ever eaten in my life.

          If any of you is interested in the pictures of my meal at Gordon Ramsay, please visit:

          3 Replies
          1. re: Bu Pun Su

            Great review - thanks. We only have four 3* restaurants in the UK and none of them appear very often on this board. It's nice to read about one of the two I havnt visited - even if it didnt seem to hit the 3* level for you.

            1. re: Harters

              Thank you for reading Harters
              I assume you're not convinced or willing to 'gamble' to visit Ramsay RHR?

              1. re: Bu Pun Su

                No, not convinced.

                I have a major birthday celebration next year and think I'm settled on going to the 2* Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham, rather than Ramsay or Ducasse (We've eaten at the Fat Duck and Waterside for previous celegrations)

          2. I too had a very nice meal at Gordon Ramsay RHR restaurant. Plus it is one of the few restaurants I would really like to go again. (For example I too enjoyed Dinner by Heston, but going back? I m not that interested).

            I saw Clare Smyth in the kitchen, she cooks there every day lunch and dinner as we were told. The service is also top notch and Jean Claude awesome too.

            I had too the mutton, which was amazing as also a ravioli filled with potato and duck egg. There was also a white truffle spaghetti dish that I regret not taking as an extra plate, (it was 45 pounds, on top of the plate or as an extra dish, I cant remember). Next time I will go with the big set menu.

            My post,

            8 Replies
            1. re: Giannis

              Dinner was disappointing because The Fat Duck is just so incredible an experience. I think I went expecting too much.

              1. re: Foxeyblue

                Fat Duck is unique. I try not to compare other meals with our experience there - I find there's not really a common reference point. Fantastic as it was, I don't feel any need to go back. I know some dishes will be the same and they won't be "WOW" second time around. It is one of the issues I have with the fixed tasting menu type arrangement wherever it is.

                1. re: Harters

                  Likewise, I wouldn't go back for the same dishes as it would be like seeing the same theatre play (all singing all dancing musical is probably a better analogy) twice.

                  However if they were to change the billing I would be back for the new performance in a heartbeat.

                  1. re: Foxeyblue

                    It's the changing the billing for places like the Duck that's the difficulty. Dishes become iconic. Customers expect to be able to eat them. For example, I would have been well disappointed if snail porridge had not been on the menu.

                    1. re: Harters

                      It is moving to Australia for 6 months so it will be interesting to see what it is like when it returns.

                      1. re: Harters

                        Couldn't you just tell the restaurant (in this case - Fat Duck) that you want/don't want to repeat certain dishes should you make the return in the future?

                        For 3-star place in that caliber having 40 chefs cooking daily; wouldn't it be possible or still too much to ask?

                          1. re: Bu Pun Su

                            It's a journey and story through food, they are not changing the script to suit one person, they have 1000s of people still coming through the doors to experience it.