It is often said that London is the best city in the world for dining, a claim which I may have to agree with, following a recent dining experience in Mayfair. To celebrate LDNISTA’s two year ‘blogoversary’, Richard and I had dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Claridges, my all-time favourite hotel in London.
Our table was set up in my preferred manner, ‘TV camera ready’ as I call it, when the seats are almost side by side, occupying only half of a circular table. I think it’s something to do with Feng Shui, but it takes the focus away from the dynamics of the diners, and moves it outward to the restaurant space and the food. It’s also great for people watching as you can see your neighbours receive their ‘Baked Alaska Flambés’ without having to crane your neck.
As soon as you take your seat in the dining room (a former ballroom) you quickly become aware that you are somewhere very special. The staff are ultra-attentive, impeccably dressed and groomed, and the process of ordering flows naturally at a comfortable pace.
We began with 2 glasses of Kir Royale to celebrate, and perused the wine menu (on an iPad). The dining options were between a 3 course a la carte option or a 5 course tasting menu. The decision was a tough one, as almost every dish was appealing, and combined so many interesting ingredients that whichever option was chosen, there would be an opportunity to enjoy a full range of flavours.
We both opted for the a la carte menu, and making a decision of which items to order became more a case of selecting a top 3 dishes and whittling them down. I opted for the Cornish crab and soft herb salad with chilled asparagus velouté and violet flowers to begin – which was less a leafy salad, than crab meat served on a green herb puree, with crunchy asparagus on the side. The delicious meat did outshine the green base in my opinion, but it was remarkably fresh tasting, and as Richard said, probably contained a week’s worth of vegetables.
He went for the Sautéed Scottish scallops with cauliflower, Champagne and Sevruga caviar, which at the time, I felt that I slightly preferred to my selection of starter as it was more substantial in flavour, but on reflection it actually complimented the crab salad perfectly, and provided a pleasant contrast.
Our main courses were certainly more substantial in flavour, and we each opted for red meat – in my case the Vanilla-marinated Cumbrian veal sweetbreads (‘from the neck glands’ the waiter helpfully explained and pointed to, on his own neck), served with roasted rump with citrus glazed baby endive, lemon and caper sauce. While not entirely scientific, I rate the quality of meat by the absence of gristle, and was impressed to find not one iota. Incredibly tender, and served in an ideal quantity – this was a dish I was content not to share.
Sweetbreads, on the other hand, have always sat slightly uneasily with me – perhaps this is due to a childhood memory of my mother incorrectly translating them from a French menu as testicles, but the creamy texture, coupled with my recent knowledge of what they actually were, led to me chewing cautiously and offering Richard the remainder. His red deer venison (seared and served medium rare) with roasted beetroot, wild garlic and English asparagus was a delight, and provided a meaty intense flavour that transported me to a Highland country estate.
The dessert menu, again, was so appealing that a process of elimination was the only way to make a decision. Veering away from the tempting showmanship of the flambé, I had a custard tart with Champagne rhubarb ice cream, and Richard went for the dark chocolate honeycomb sphere (also known as the ‘chocolate bomb’ according to our waiter), which was a ball of frozen chocolate which imploded when hot chocolate was poured over it.
The waiting staff went above and beyond at each stage of the evening. There was certainly no standing around, and yet when required, staff were on hand in an unobtrusive and helpful manner. As we ordered our verbena and fresh mint tea (served by the grand piano) the assistant manager offered us a tour of the kitchen, where we met the head chef and his busy team, as well as seeing the ‘top table’ private dining area where high level tastings occur.
As we enjoyed our tea and chocolates, Richard and I reflected on the 2 years LDNISTA has been in existence and how much we were looking forward to the next anniversary or special occasion to have an experience such as this again. This is a place to come once in a while however – not simply for reasons of price, but rather because if you became too used to service like this, you would never enjoy dining out anywhere else again!
Total for 2 people, including 3 courses, Kir Royales, tea and tip, £202.50
Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, Brook Street, W1K 4HR
T: 020 7499 0099