The Ritz

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  • Visit Date: 25th August 2022
  • Restaurant: The Ritz Restaurant
  • Address:  150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9BR

Holy moly. It takes a lot to blow me away. As you all know by now, if I absolutely love something, I say so; in fact, I’ll rave about it and champion that chef even more. And if I don’t, I will either say nothing at all (and you won’t even see it on my Instagram grid), or I have something to say because it needs to be said, i.e. if it’s just not good or it’s disappointing, as I would never disillusion anyone about going somewhere if I didn’t truly stand by it. 

The Ritz. It has long been on my list to come and review, and recently Andy Hayler’s own visits keep popping up on my Facebook so often it has spurred me to get here sooner, so here we are and oh my goodness, was it worth the visit. What an exceptional place. 

Firstly, the dining room is utterly beautiful, and the whole vibe is far from the stuffy and pretentious one I had the misconception that it might well be, and which had delayed my coming to visit any sooner. It couldn’t be further from the case. The vibe in this full dining room for lunch service was uber relaxed and just a gorgeous hubbub and atmosphere created. It’s elegant and beautiful. I know many men (chefs, actually) who have grumbled about coming because of having to wear a tie and jacket to visit. But after speaking with John Williams at the end, as he said, why would you want to come in casual wear to such a beautiful place, and it’s so true, I wore my best frock and it’s nice to be able to dress up and see everyone else the same. It adds to the experience. 

Let’s dive right in, the food was excellent. I loved it all. Every single dish. 

I didn’t get a menu ahead, they just fed me, the food just kept on coming and it was all just incredible, really blew me away. On top of this, the front of house team all had such lovely personalities and a really good sense of humour, reminding me almost of my recent visit to Le Clarence, which further quashed any type of stuffy air at all. They were all so lovely and did their jobs perfectly and to the letter, seriously exceptional service. 

In order:

Two bites to start, Goat’s Cheese Mousse, basil emulsion on parmesan sablé ; Duck Liver Parfait glazed in sour cherry.

Tartare of Beef, Oscietra Caviar in a crisp light tartlet, they use Kings caviar here, it was beautiful, a very tasty snack.

Oyster, with oyster cream, Champagne, Dill oil, and a touch of sea fennel, just excellent, fresh, clean and perfect.

The bread, a warm rye sourdough with salted French butter, was glorious.

Native Lobster, Tomato and a Basil emulsion, a tomato elixir poured on top, and on the side a crispy pillow, filled with sauce Marie and finger lime on top.. gorgeous, a clean, fresh dish, it was so beautiful visually too.

Ballotine of Duck Liver, Cherry and Pistachio, so beautiful and a real showstopper – duck liver from France, marinated with Armagnac, spiced port gel around, cherry gel and pistachio yoghurt, to the side a bakewell tart, made from pistachio opposed to the classic almond, natural yoghurt and cherry gel to top, and then accompanied by their outstanding brioche too.

Slightly too rich for my own palate but I managed half, fully aware I that had a great many more courses ahead.

Langoustine à la Nage and Bronze Fennel, oh wow, WOW even, this was incredible, John has been perfecting and tweaking it for the last thirty years, so no surprise this is a true signature dish that tastes as good as it does. Holy moly, I could have licked the plate here.. just superb. Scottish langoustine poached in butter, served with cauliflower puree, fine herbs and vegetables, Nage sauce of langoustine stock with cream, wine, herbs and seaweed.

Cornish Turbot, Cucumber and Vermouth, very good, line caught from an 8-10 kilo fish, the bigger the fish the better the taste, curry on the turbot which was good, potato with leek, herb emulsion, vermouth sauce infused with dill oil, and caviar.

Anjou Pigeon à la Presse, what a surprise, I did not expect this at all, and to say I had the whole restaurant watch my table is an understatement. 

The pigeon had been already caramelised in butter, garlic and thyme, and then glazed with chicken consommé at the end, out came the three trolleys with one to carve the bird, one to press the carcass and one to make the sauce. Seriously impressive. 

The pigeon had the legs removed, and then the breasts, giving the carcass to the next person to press and squeeze all the juices out with some port, which helps the jus to be released from the carcass, and then this is passed to the third chap, and added to the sauce, being a peppercorn sauce made also in front of me… John later explained more about all of this as it was my first time seeing it. 

Hailing from France, Auguste Escoffier brought this dish to The Savoy Hotel in London and the whole pressing concept. It was typical to see in Paris, usually with duck (Canard à la Presse). They used to do it here with duck, now moving to pigeon, and wow it was spectacular, in fact someone approached my table after to say what a treat it was to see themselves too. John explained that traditionally with the duck, the legs would be carved off and taken to the kitchen to continue cooking as they would still be raw, and then be a second serving, and the breasts would be served tableside with the pressing of the carcass and jus and so on.

Then finally plated and served with kohlrabi and a lovage emulsion. It was delicious, a serving of Pomme soufflés on the side too was the cherry on top.

Crêpe Suzette next and more theatre and the wow factor for sure, and so good, by now I was feeling pretty full but it was so good I made a decent dent into the second crêpe even, served with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Finally a Banana and Caramel Parfait, Fudge and Dulcey Chocolate Cage, so very good and very beautiful too. 

A few petit fours to finish, hazelnut and almond praline, vanilla macaron, a raspberry tart, and a very happy and very full me. I loved it all. I had a lovely chat with both Spencer and John, and it all totally blew me away. I will be back again, perhaps not quite as often as Andy, but it is now one of my top ten London favourites for sure.

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