Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
- When: November 2016
- Michelin Stars: 3
- Male DINK Rating: 12/15
- Female DINK Rating: 12/15
- Total Cost: $770; Food Cost: $465
When in London, right? We were very excited to be able to book a table at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay for dinner – on Thanksgiving, to boot! Of course, Gordon Ramsay is famous the world over as a TV personality for shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Masterchef. But, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, many would say, is where his career began, as it was his first solo establishment. Without delving too much into the history of the restaurant, it opened in 1998 at its current location (although it was refreshed in 2013), and Ramsay earned three Michelin stars in 2001. Although Ramsay himself gave up the reins long ago, the restaurant has maintained its three star rating. Of note, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is one of only two three-starred restaurants in London, with the other being Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.
The restaurant is very small and not incredibly well-marked on the outside. There’s a black door and a plaque beside it that bears Ramsay’s signature so you know you’re in the right place. Upon entering, we walked down a short hallway, arriving at the hostess station and open lounge area where several nice bottles of cognac and other liquors are on display. Even though we were a bit early, we were seated immediately in the small dining room. Per the website, there is seating for approximately 45 people. We counted around 35 people, and this seemed like it was the limit, as the tables felt a little cramped.
We were given the menus, consisting of an a la carte menu and two tasting menus (Signature Dishes and Seasonal). A wine list was also provided. Even though we were informed by the waiter that we did not have to order the same tasting menu (always a plus), we both opted for the Seasonal menu, despite it being more expensive, because it had white truffle (in season) on several dishes.
The wine menu explained the wine pairing options. Female DINK opted for the “full” wine tasting (five glasses), and Male DINK chose the reduced tasting of only three glasses. Upon ordering the reduced wine tasting, I was asked whether I would prefer (i) two whites and a red or (ii) one white, one red, and one dessert, and I chose the latter.
Very shortly after ordering, canapés arrived, consisting of three pairs of small bites. One was jamon on a crispy toast, one was a truffle steamed bun, and the last was like a squishy sushi roll. All were very good – Female DINK liked the jamon and Male DINK liked the sushi-like bite.
Another snack – amuse bouche – arrived shortly thereafter. This creamy snack – served in an egg shell – was a mixture of potato, cheese, and truffle topped with tiny bacon and chive bits. The flavors were great, warm, and calming. We both really enjoyed this snack; however, as I approached the bottom of the egg, I felt like the cheese became overpowering. Maybe I should have stirred it a bit more.
The “poached langoustine” arrived at a good pace and was accompanied by celery, borage, and caviar. Coating the bottom of the dish was a shellfish/langoustine jelly. The caviar was served atop the celery, and the portion size of the caviar was generous. The langoustine had good flavor and was served cold (Female DINK thought it would have been better warm). The caviar and celery was good. However, neither of us liked the jelly – at all. We thought it detracted from the other flavors of the dish and was too bitter.
Next, the “buckwheat gnocchi” arrived plated with mushrooms and crispy sweetbreads. The waiter poured the warm parmesan sauce into the dish tableside (which he left on the table in case we wanted any additional), and he then proceeded to shave a generous portion of white truffle on top. Simply put, this dish worked. It was warm and gooey and delicious. The gnocchi was very tender, and we felt like it was cooked perfectly – not too hard and not too mushy. The sweetbreads were an odd addition, to us, but they tasted good and seemed to pair nicely. Finally, the truffle and parmesan sauce was like a marriage – amazing. Great dish.
The “dover sole” was presented with fennel, sea vegetable minestrone (beans and pasta), shellfish, lovage, and a mussel on top. Again, the broth was poured into the dish tableside. We both liked this dish, but we don’t really know why. There wasn’t really a standout ingredient or flavor, but everything seemed to go together very well. It was an easy course to simply eat and enjoy without thinking too much about it. The fish was cooked well, and the broth was great. This was a different and inventive combination.
Again with a great pace, the “roast venison” arrived. The venison was served with jerusalem artichoke crisps, elderberry dots, and onion. The broth containing smoked bone marrow bits was also poured tableside. Venison was in season, and if you read any of our other reviews from this trip to England, you’ll see we had it a few times. This venison, however, was not only the best of the trip – but the best we’ve had. It was actually quite tender and easy to cut (although, we were also provided with a “real” steak knife, whereas many other restaurants provided only an ordinary knife). Female DINK really enjoyed the bone marrow bits with the venison, and I liked the addition of the artichoke crisps. This was a great combination and a great main dish.
Next course was the “baked vacherin” cheese course. This was almost a fondue consistency and was served with pickled onions, mustard seeds, and small toasted pieces. White truffle was again shaved on top of the dish table side. We both enjoyed the change of pace from the “traditional” cheese cart, as it’s nice to simply have the chef choose (and prepare) a cheese for you once in a while. The dish itself was delicious. The cheese was buttery smooth and warm, and the supporting flavors were spot on, providing a nice balance to the cheese. Of course, the truffle was a most welcome addition.
The intermezzo – “sorbet” – was served with pieces of pear on the bottom, meringue slices, and dried bits of honey. The sorbet itself was a yoghurt consistency; more creamy than icy. This was a good and refreshing transition, but didn’t really wow either of us.
The final course – “clementine parfait” – was a large ball of clementine parfait surrounded by lemon thyme, mint, and clementine slices. A frozen concoction was spooned onto the dish tableside (seeing a theme?). This dish was very clementine-ey, for lack of a better word, and was very light and refreshing. Female DINK liked the addition of olive oil. The clementine slices seemed to be soaked in simple syrup, as they were very sweet and soft.
As a finishing touch, we were brought a few petit fours, consisting of a gelatin-like square (neither of us can remember the flavor), white chocolate balls served with dry ice, and chocolate bark with toffee and macadamia nuts served atop coffee beans (not to eat). The gelatin was forgettable, but the other two were very good. The balls were cold white chocolate goodness, but the real star was the chocolate bark. After these were taken away, no one stopped by our table for quite a while. Sitting there, we weren’t sure whether we should wait for another small dessert or ask for the bill. After about ten minutes, we decided they weren’t going to bring anything else, and we asked for the bill and a taxi. Unlike many other three-star restaurants, we were not sent home with a copy of the menu or a small box of treats.
Overall, I believe we were a little underwhelmed by Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Having dined at several Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the week (The Hinds Head, Lords of the Manor, 5 North Street, The Dining Room at Whatley Manor, and The Wild Rabbit), we were expecting the one three-star restaurant to distance itself from the others. Some may be quick to say that due to the star power and name recognition we simply had our expectations set too high. That’s probably at least partially true. However, when we compare the restaurant to our favorite three-star meals such as Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, and Martin Berasategui, it still falls a little short. At each of the foregoing restaurants, there was at least one dish that truly wowed us, and that was just not the case at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. That’s not to say, however, that the food was not very good – because it was. This is certainly a good restaurant and probably worthy of its three Michelin stars. It’s just not at the top of our list.
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