Elldrew try out the newly awarded Michelin Starred restaurant at The Ritz. Verdict: Hit and Miss. Read more below.
There’s something magical about the The Ritz Hotel, London. Currently in her 110th year she has been sung about, talked about, appeared in countless films, hosted everyone from politicians, socialites, writers, actors, royalty to modern day millennial millionaires, and is still one of the world’s most prestigious and best known hotels. Her latest accolade came in October 2016 when The Ritz Restaurant was awarded a Michelin Star under Executive Chef, John Williams MBE. Intrigued, and not usually a fan of hotel restaurants, Elldrew set a date with friends to see how she fared.
A stunning building, the opulence of the interior engulfs you from the moment you step inside. Impeccable uniformed staff greet you and effortlessly glide you through the hotel as you try to not trip over the hoard of tourists and others out for a special occasion, who have flocked to experience the famous “Tea at the Ritz”, served in the spectacular Palm Court at the heart of the hotel. It’s even hard for a Londoner to not stop ever so briefly and marvel at the glittering chandeliers. Dashing past The Rivoli Bar designed to resemble the art deco bar on the Orient-Express, Elldrew paused to reminisce on our amazing train journey a few years back.
In keeping with the ostentatious surroundings, the Ritz maintains a dress code that gentlemen wear a jacket and tie for afternoon tea and lunch or dinner in The Ritz Restaurant (other areas of the hotel are smart casual attire), and with Elldrew suited and booted accordingly we stopped at the entrance of the restaurant to deposit our coats and take in the breath-taking detail of the room. This is elegant dining personified.
Comfortably seated after a quick broken chair change, we perused the menu with the table deciding on the 3-course £55 set menu option. With a choice of three dishes per course the menu offered a balanced selection for a January-friendly budget. Whilst the a la carte menu had many more choices it also had a much higher price tag and we briefly salivated over the Beef Wellington with Perigord Truffle (and Elldrew do love truffle), but at £85 for two it was virtually the price of the whole set menu.
On the table were silver bowls of Melba toast, whilst enthusiastic white-gloved waiters arrived and presented bread from a silver basket that included Parmesan crisps (yum), followed by an Amuse Bouche tray of savoury delights tantalising the eyes and taste buds. This teaser set the bar high for the rest of the meal. As we sat back taking in the room décor we watched the surrounding tables food arrive, hidden under individual porcelain cloches, the staff lifting them with precision to reveal beautifully presented dishes.
Our starters arrived under their own cloches, the waiters lifting them with the same flourish we had now seen across the restaurant. The star dish was the beef & mushroom ravioli (the ‘best ravioli ever’ was mentioned at the table) with the hen’s egg, charred leek, comté and flowers being equally delicious. What a great start we thought…but did we jinx it?
Unfortunately the large number of staff required to deliver A-class service in a full restaurant (and the cloche lifting!) were wandering around looking to busy themselves as, on a mid January lunchtime, the restaurant was only half full. This meant that our wine glasses were topped too quickly, our table was constantly interrupted to ask if everything was fine and it all started to feel a little fussy and rushed. Mains followed, too quickly. The dishes were hit and mix. Beautifully presented with the cloche removal fan-fare (again), the duck was praised for its balanced flavours, being perfectly cooked. The pork however lacked something, with three of us commenting that there wasn’t enough jus, it needed extra seasoning and that the meat, which looked cooked to perfection, was in fact tough and chewy. This dish just didn’t deliver which was a real shame.
As a table of four we had read through the menu, enjoyed a selection from the breadbasket, the Amuse Bouche, two courses and had had two bottles of wine emptied into our glasses in just under an hour. We contemplated on asking the staff to slow everything down, but as we were onto the dessert we left it. The restaurant had got slightly busier with some larger tables arriving so that did help regulate the food flow from the kitchen.
Desserts, again, were hit and miss. The white chocolate mousse with lime and mint was sublime, the cheese trolley offered a lovely selection of British cheeses however the soufflé, which looked impressive, was dense and tasted like a warm egg custard. Very disappointing. Thankfully a selection of petit fours served with coffee put a smile on our faces before we asked for the bill and left.
Are we glad we went? Most definitely. The Ritz is a fabulous setting for lunch or dinner. At times the fancy place setting, fussy service and slightly old fashioned (aka “traditional”) menu reminded us of Oslo Court, but that is doing the Ritz a disjustice. We gave the food a 3 out of 5 and the experience a 5. We mentioned at the beginning of this article that we have never found hotel restaurants amazing…and this latest outing did nothing to dispel this; the atmosphere was one of tourists splashing out rather than foodies savouring a gastronomic experience, and there was more than one male patron sporting a mismatched tie and jacket because they “had to” with no thought for this fine establishment. That said, it is a beautiful restaurant that harks back to a prior era.
Elldrew’s final thought would be that, above all, it was a nice change to dress up in our weekend finery and do something that felt a little special. Wallets definitely lighter, we sympathised with the lyrics from another classic “…and see them spend their last two bits, Puttin’ on the Ritz!”.
The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London. W1J 9BR