GRH: The Ultimate Dining Machine?
Outside, turn left, and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is discreet, discernible only by a signed slate. Inside, all is star-bright, glamorous and fresh. Along the corridor, full-length mirrors echo apertures into the square dining room. This culminates in a modestly sized lounge: textured leather sofas, gold leaf recesses, strokeable walls, and spiky chandeliers. It feels like the waiting room to a private dentist. The same Champagne served down the road puts on four pounds here, albeit served in crystal with blanched almonds that are neatly in harmony with the overall colour scheme. The picture-less dining room is pretty: a collage of various shades of ivory, with plain, comfortable chairs parked upon deep, fuselage grey carpet. Cream roses rise from sheer vases. Tables are double-clothed. It only just avoids resembling a wedding breakfast.
An amuse bouche, arranged ‘especially for us’ featured chilled scallop tartare with tiny black pearls of explosively far-reaching caviar. This was flooded at table with tepid essence of broccoli which transcended the original brassica. Rosemary flecked potato bread was cottony, uplifting and absorbent. Butter was almost tear-salted. I liberated the last bottle of Clos Poggiale ’05, a vibrant Vermentino from Corsica. It was incisor sharp: granite in a glass with warm garrigue herbs gusting from within.
Pressed, almost Genoese banded Foie Gras with smoked duck came aboard a petrified Madeira consommé. This was overly conceited in my opinion. And the actual foie was slightly underwhelming, especially when compared to another culinary sanctuary like Le Gavroche (or even Le Caprice). Colourful, slender pickles included a curled tongue of carrot. A port reduction looked as if it had been applied with a ruler. The compilation tasted (and looked) symmetrical. In fact a feature of the meal, from attention to portion size and timing was well-judged balance.
A raviolo choc-full of fleshy lobster, tangy langoustine and supple, velvety salmon was crested with tomato chutney formed into a membrillo like paste. This was jabbed by a dried basil leaf. Moisture removed, the flavour of the leaf was made more poignant.
A fillet of bright tasting Turbot was finely flavoured with a joyously luxuriously, supple texture. Tracing paper of black truffle nudged a soft spun linguine bale bathing within a musky, cep velouté. The Maitre’d reeled off a little history lesson – this dish has been aboard the menu since Ramsay left Aubergine in ‘98. Its indefatigability is not simply attributable to nostalgia, however. As Martial said ‘however great the dish that holds the turbot, the turbot is still greater than the dish…’
The cheese cart pulled up next, wheeled in by the deputised mouse with nouse. The fact it constituted a supplementary charge left a slightly disagreeable aftertaste. My father asked whether anyone had ever requested a little of every morsel (there must be no fewer than 57 varieties hectically packed aboard). She said that a gent did once, although he backed down when she informed him that he would have to eat every last wedge. My favourite was a Corsican goat’s, which is apparently very high in protein. It was quiet on the nose, moistly textured, but firm and powerful in its brackish flavours. Bread baked specifically for cheese and a gallion of crackers marshalled, along with crisply skinned Muscat grapes.
The dessert (minor) was a witty prank: a mango and passion fruit soup, with lychee and coconut, drawn through a clear straw. Little eruptions ensued: ‘Fizz-wizz’ popping candy had been layered into the cocktail...
My father suggested that the dessert (major) should be framed. A cylinder infilled with softness: cooling, cleansing ginger mousse, very cold milk ice cream and lagoons of blackcurrant cut into – intentionally or otherwise – the shape of a cockerel.
Cutlery replaced for the final time, we were invited on a guided tour of the tight, hectic - but ordered - kitchen, where a minimum of 18 chefs cook at Michelin’s zenith. A catwalk of recessed blue lights line the floor. A little natural light percolates too. Our guide opened a wine fridge and asked which bin we would like as a souvenir (and then reneged rapidly).
On our return, we were elegantly moved to the lounge for coffee so they could freshen the dining room (we were, as usual, the final diners). Creases were steamed out of tablecloths, silver cutlery and charger plates were polished. Roses were spruced and sprayed with a little mist, beautified for the evening performance. A silver tree bore an unconventional fruit of silvered truffles. Dry ice dramatically overspilled a drum of strawberry truffles.
At only 30, Head Chef, Clare Smyth had steered us through a balanced and entertaining procession of plates. At times they were wry. It may sound sexist, but I could detect an alluring femininity in her dishes. When I eventually returned home I was told (without irony) that I looked like I had lost weight. This unequivocally serves to prove that lunching at linen is by far the best exercise...
As former bankers replace silver forks for long handled shovels – to deal with a prolonged period of gardening leave – I wholeheartedly recommend mere mortals try their luck securing a table at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Perhaps in time they will consider doing a higher purchase lunch? -And only then can I return...
'Gordon Ramsay' - Royal Hospital Rd., London. SW3 4HP. T. 020 7352 4441
Nearest Tube: Sloane Square