such a fantastic meal we had at this tiny slip of a restaurant just around sloane square. this blog seems to play almost embarrassing tributes to the gordon ramsay establishments (such as my still-favourite meal at petrus) but I have had such a lovely time at both restaurants – I went with high expectations and came away satisfied, and you don’t often get to say that about many places.
this was a celebration lunch for graduation, and also one of the first times I’ve brought my parents to a fine-dining restaurant, as such. we eat very well and rather widely, but my family has a dislike for fussy food – which usually refers to the over-decorated western establishments with more emphasis on aesthetics than substance – which was why even though I had been to this restaurant two years ago and had a fantastic time, I had more than a little trepidation on making reservations here.
I needn’t have worried. service was flawless, intimate and friendly without being intrusive – and they knew how to keep away or pause when we were conversing. just as in petrus, we were made to feel at home. and of course, the food was brilliant.
after placing our orders, we had a selection from their extensive bread tray – I think there were five or six distinct types there – and both salted and unsalted butters on the table. I had booked our table online, requesting a quiet corner because it was a family celebration lunch, and the lovely people here hadn’t just given us the corner table, they also served us a complimentary truffle-tasting velouté drizzled over some mushrooms, served with a pretty cracker topped with micro-leaves. this was a tiny dish full of flavour and colour, and a welcome surprise to the start of the meal.
isn’t it just lovely how they pour those sauces and soups on at the table? it’s such a small step, and one emulated by many other restaurants, but at the gordon ramsay restaurants I’ve never grown tired of it. I freely admit that I might be biased. in any case, our real starters were next; there was a (descriptions taken from the menu) smoked potato and poached hen’s egg ravioli with pak choi, roast chicken jus and leek velouté, as well as a salad of szechuan pork, tiger prawn, chargrilled, pickled and marinated vegetables, asian herbs and daikon dressing
my ravioli looked pretty unassuming, like a giant chinese wanton sitting on an empty plate before they drizzled the velouté and jus over it. it certainly didn’t look like anything special, until I cut straight through it and liquid gold flowed out. that flowing yolk certainly added interest, as well as richness to the dish. it was remarkably rich and light at the same time, and incredibly savoury. really a piece of work.
the rest of my family had the salad, and it was came very prettily arranged. the tiger prawns were meaty and generous, and though this looks like one of those bimbo plates of nothing-food, it really was satisfying, with some tang from the vegetables and sweetness from the prawns.
this was followed by our mains of cornish pollock fillet with chorizo couscous, baby squid, artichoke and spiced tomato jus; a roulade of rabbit loin with bayonne ham, spinach, coco bean cassoulet and pickled mustard seeds, and free range devon duck with swiss chard, beetroot and grilled onions.
these were all competently executed – although I have to say the rabbit stood out for its balance of flavours. rabbit can be very gamey, and we were worried that it might be a little excessive with the ham, but it all turned out very well. the fish was flakey and fresh, but you’d expect that, and the duck turned out pink as we had ordered it. there were two preparations of duck on that plate: the top seemed to be a pan-seared piece of duck breast and the bottom seemed a little more like duck confit. the jus was also very good – and was eventually sopped up a bit of bread.
by this time, we were really satisfied and quite full. but dessert was to come! I have lost the actual descriptions of the dishes, but I had a peanut butter-chocolate dessert that came with sheets of tempered chocolate, caramelised banana slices, a peanut mousse and ice cream. on the other side of the table was caramelized grilled pineapple, served with a lime (or coconut) sorbet and cute little friands. everything was too good – I’ve run out of descriptions now.
oh, and there were silky-soft turkish delights and cubes of ganache set on tiny crockery to finish – very precious and a really nice touch. I don’t often like turkish delight, put off commercially-produced boxes of perfume-in-your-mouth squares given as souvenirs by well-meaning relatives, but these were lovely. and of course, you can’t go far wrong with chocolate.
if you skip my lengthy tribute to the expertise of the kitchen, then just know that the meal was fantastic, familiar and yet so innovative that it became an experience. the service was fantastic - and while I can’t tell you whether I prefer petrus or this restaurant, you really ought to try both. they are great examples of old-school fine-dining in london, and though the place-to-be now are hipster diners and tapas bars, there is something to be said for dressing up and sitting down for a few hours to a great meal in an institution as such.
if you’ve never been to any gordon ramsay restaurants, then this or petrus would be good choices. maze used to be pretty good, until they recently changed their menu to only have what they term to be light bites, and which don’t hold any interest for me. I also know some people would recommend claridges, but I personally don’t. when I visited a year or so ago, it made me feel like I was eating glorified and properly plated pub food – I’m not even sure I can say it tasted better than my local pub.