Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, London


My first Ramsay. It has been a long time in waiting, but for one reason or another, I have never eaten at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. One obstacle was the fear factor; sceptical that Gordon would live up to his name and worried that London’s sole three star would not wow. Subconsciously, it was an exercise in expectation management; I knew that if I did not administer my anticipations in advance, the meal would not stand a fair chance.

I had quite forgotten about the man and his many restaurants when I got a call from Ulterior Epicure. As a gypsy gastronome in London this Christmas he obviously wanted to test the Capital’s best and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road is questionably that.

Gordon Ramsay, Scottish born, but Stratford raised, had dreamt of keeping goal for Glasgow Rangers. He probably would have too had it not been for a series of injuries. However, instead of signing with a lesser team, 19 year-old Gordon enrolled in a nearby college to study hotel management and catering. He then worked his way through local restaurants and hotel dining rooms before his relations with the owner of the Wickham Arms made his position there untenable and motivated a move to London. Here he spent his first three years at Harveys under Marco Pierre White, but tiring of ‘the rages and the bullying and violence’, he went to Le Gavroche. After a year there, Albert Roux invited him to Hotel Diva in the Alps as his second. Though Paris soon proved too powerful a pull and, in 1989, he joined Guy Savoy as ‘his blue-eyed boy’ and learned that flavour should be a dish’s focus. But Gordon found Guy’s management manner to strict and joined Joël Robuchon’s Jamin. This was no better – one story has him breaking down in tears in an alley after his first day; another has Robuchon tipping hot ravioli on his head. Three years of mental and physical stress in Paris, working under demanding chefs and seven days a week (he had a part-time job serving coffee at a café, Le Bastille), ‘formed [his] character’ and was where he ‘found [his] soul’. However, he needed a break, so spent the next year on a private yacht, the Idlewild, based in Bermuda. In 1993, he returned to London as head chef at Koffmann’s La Tante Claire, prior to renewing his relationship with MPW at Rossmore (later Aubergine) as head chef and partner. In just over a year he had his first star and in 1997, his second. A dispute with fellow owners, A-Z Restaurants, however led to his departure and the following year, he launched the independent Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, financed by his father-in-law, Chris Hutchinson.

This set the restaurant ball rolling: as RHR won three stars (2001), Amaryllis (Glasgow), GR at Claridge’s and Verre (Dubai) were opened. Petrus and Menu at the Connaught (2002); the Savoy Grill and Boxwood Café (2003); Maze and GR at the Conrad, Tokyo (2005); GR at the London (NYC) and La Noisette (2006); Cielo at Boca Raton (Florida), Ritz Carlton Powerscourt (Ireland) and Maze, Prague (2007); and Foxtrot Oscar, Trianon Palace & Spa (Paris), Plane Food (Heathrow Terminal V), Maze Grill, GR at the London (LA), Murano and York & Albany (2008 ) ALL followed. Deep breath. There has also been three London pubs (ten more in the pipeline); the announcement of Maze, Melbourne; half a dozen TV programmes in the UK and US; a scholarship award; an OBE; ten cookbooks; two autobiographies; and a cookery school. Second deep breath.

It has generally, bar a few bumps to the big Scot’s pride (Amaryllis ended in failure and closure; and he ‘did a Ducasse’ in NY, with GR at the London criticised as being too boring and unambitious), been success upon more success. Ramsay is arguably the world’s most recognised chef with a dozen Michelin stars at restaurants spread across the world employing over one thousand people; and he is a TV darling.

Ramsay is chef-patron, whilst Mark Askew is RHR’s executive chef. He is a Yorkshire man who relocated down south in 1989 to the Savoy Grill as a commis under Edelmann. Prior to joining Ramsay’s kitchen at Aubergine in 1992, he also spent time at La Tante Claire, Michel Bourdin at The Connaught and at Nico’s. In 1996 he went to France, to Maison de Bricourt and Michel Bras, before returning to Aubergine as head chef. He was also at Ramsay’s right hand when he opened RHR, becoming executive head chef of Gordon Ramsay Holdings (i.e. Ramsay’s restaurant collection) in 2001.

Hold on, there is one more…So Ramsay is chef-patron, whilst Mark Askew is RHR’s executive chef, but chef de cuisine is Clare Smyth. She is only RHR’s fourth head chef to date and though Ramsay has been quoted as saying that women ‘couldn’t cook to save their lives’, he thinks very highly of her, telling the Observer’s Elizabeth Day: ‘I would say that a talent like Clare Smyth comes through the kitchen maybe once every ten years. The last time was with Angela Hartnett in Aubergine and that was back in 1995.’ However, do not let her hear that: ‘I’m not the next Angela Hartnett…I really hate it when people compare me to her because, in all honesty, Angela is a one star Michelin chef and I’m a three star one’. Well, it’s clear what Ramsay sees in her; she is a feisty one and fiercely ambitious too. Leaving her home in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, at sixteen, she did an NVQ in food preparation and cooking before spells at Grayshott Hall, Gidleigh Park and the Fat Duck (two day try-out) prior to a permanent place at Bibendum. St Enodoc Hotel, Cornwall (where she won Young Cornish Fish Chef of Year) came before joining RHR in 2002. She was soon singled out as a talent and sent to the French Laundry to learn more. She then wanted to spend time in France so Ramsay arranged for her to work three months as a private chef and then eighteen months with one of his heroes, Ducasse, at Louis XV (here her cooking was apparently well-liked by Lewis Hamilton). She returned to RHR to take over from Simone Zanoni, who moved to Trianon. Smyth takes after Ramsay; once service starts, ‘it’s eff this, eff that’ and she is a strict task-master – unable to tolerate those who make mistakes, she sends them home straightway. And she sacks someone once a week.

Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road La Table

68 Royal Hospital Road is an understated Georgian townhouse in Chelsea; the only clue that this is the cornerstone and global HQ of Gordon’s empire is the small dark slate stencilled Ramsay by the door; however, the top hatted doorman may also give something away. Immediately upon passing through the black front door, there is a second inner glass one; be careful, the first must be pushed, the second pulled and the space betwixt is tiny, so one can become wedged without difficulty. Next is a narrow corridor – mirrored and marbled with slits in the wall that afford a view of the main dining area – that leads to a small bar.

Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road 2 Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road 3

A 2006 £1.5 million refurbishment by designer David Collins created what Ramsay describes as the ‘culinary equivalent of a Chanel handbag’. Collins toned down his standard showiness with shades of creamy beige for the panelled walls with intermingling mirrors and lacquered black for the moulding and furnishings; the carpet is light grey. The room is square with little more than a dozen tables. A mirrored mast supporting a serving station is the room’s focal point. Comfortable, upholstered chairs sit around double-clothed tables that are set with silver vases holding white roses, silver gilded cover plates and heavy cutlery.

La Carte White Truffles from Alba

Serveurs are ample in number with a supposed one-to-one ratio of staff to customers, though I have read that this equation includes those in the kitchen. The FOH is led by Jean-Claude Breton, who Ramsay first met at Le Gavroche and has had at hand since Aubergine opened (1993).

Amuse Bouche - Crispy potato tuile

Amuse Bouche 1: Crispy potato tuile. A couple of crunchy game chips, mozzarella and pistou sandwiched in between, were served in a silver toast rack. There was a nice smokiness to the potato, but the pistou – a Provençal sauce of garlic, basil and olive oil (basically pesto minus the pine nuts) – went rather unnoticed as did the soft, mild mozzarella; more of both would have improved taste and texture.

Les Pain -White; brown; brown with olive; potato & rosemary; and jacket potato & honey

Les Pains: White; brown; brown with olive; potato & rosemary; and jacket potato & honey. The bread selection was decent, but was neither served warm nor baked by the restaurant. The first fact I do not mind, but the second, considering that even unstarred establishments make the effort to make their own, is a little letdown. Slices of white, brown, olive and a couple of kinds of potato bread were offered. All had nice soft, open crumb and firm crust, but the potato and rosemary along with the jacket potato and honey were my favourites. The latter especially, a type of tortano – a variety of Easter bread-cake from Campania cooked with larded dough, filled with cheese and salami (neither found here though) and twisted into a roll – had light, but substantial middle, delicate sweetness and rock-hard shell. Deftly detailed mini mounds of salted and unsalted Bordier butter accompanied.

Amuse Bouche - Cornetto avocado mousse

Amuse Bouche 2: Cornetto avocado mousse. Dainty pastry feuille held a heavy load of confit tomato, lobster Caesar salad, smoked salmon and avocado mousse. The salpicon, dominated by the subtle sweetness of the seafood and tomato, was bound with creamy avocado – the single most distinct flavour – and Caesar dressing (parmesan, lemon, olive oil and egg). The finely diced filling worked well with the crisp consistency of the casing and smoothness of the mousse.

Amuse Bouche - Raviolo of cream cheese and black truffle

Amuse Bouche 3: Raviolo of cream cheese and black truffle. A single cream cheese and truffle tortelloni sat on a small salad of winter root vegetables that was submerged beneath vibrant pumpkin velouté. The pasta was good and its cheese centre, mild and creamy, but without a trace of truffle. The carrot, celeriac, celery combination that carried the raviolo added crunch and subtly supplemented the sweetness of the pumpkin. Popularly, tortelloni are packed with pumpkin pulp paste, so I imagine having here the gourd outside rather than inside the pasta to be a petite play on this.

Roasted Loire Valley foie gras with braised carrots and almond foam

Entrée 1: Roasted Loire Valley foie gras with braised carrots and almond foam. Sautéed tenné-tinged lobe of Loire foie gras, balanced atop a brace of braised baby carrots and protected beneath a carefully crafted tuile of potato, was partnered with carrot purée, a swirl of Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar and almond foam. The sizeable slice of foie was cooked a little longer than I would have chosen and had not been deveined, but had good flavour. Al dente carrots were sugary; tater tuile, agreeably brittle; but nut froth, mild. The choicest component was the red wine vinegar; fruity, intense and complex, it was a very fine foil to the fatty foie.

Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon with tomato chutney and vinaigrette

Entrée 2: Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon with tomato chutney and vinaigrette. A second, wrinkly raviolo, stuffed with scampi, salmon and lobster, seasoned with coriander and basil and resting upon concentric rings of lobster vinaigrette, was adorned with dried basil leaf and tomato chutney that bled nicely over the warm pod. The pasta, as though vacuum-packed in appearance, was soft and again well-made, the casing capitulating without much compulsion to reveal a dense wadding of diced shellfish, salmon mousse, herbs and puréed tomato. This is a signature RHR dish and has been on the menu since the restaurant first opened. Regretfully, it was utterly forgettable. The raviolo, poached in light bisque, had no depth of flavour: the salmon had little richness; langoustine and lobster no briny-sweetness; or the tomato atop, sugary-tang. A satisfactory structure was there, but the satisfying savours were elsewhere. Also – not that it was markedly dry – more moisture might not have gone amiss.

Fillet of turbot with braised baby gem lettuce and cep sauce

Plat Principal 1: Fillet of turbot with braised baby gem lettuce and cep sauce. Golden gamboge, pan-fried fillet of turbot was matched with mixed mushrooms wrapped in braised baby gem lettuce leaves, whole trompettes de la mort and a sliver of cèpe, all soused in a tableside serving of cèpe and langoustine velouté. The turbot was cooked nicely and complemented by the smoky-sweet sauce. The mushrooms were juicy and gave good continuity between the different elements. Baby gem, stuffed like vine leaves are to make Turkish dolma, was interesting in design, but quite dull in delivery; its fungi filling – chopped up cèpes, shiitake, trompettes de la mort and Paris mushrooms – simply lacked strength. However, the presence of the shiitakes, though strangely enough an unusual sight was not unwelcome one.

Roasted pigeon from Bresse with grilled polenta and date sauce Roasted pigeon from Bresse with grilled polenta and date sauce 2

Plat Principal 2: Roasted pigeon from Bresse with grilled polenta, smoked pork belly and date sauce. Half a roasted and deboned pigeon de Bresse, its leg confit, was brought with a block of grilled polenta capped with chestnut and Californian date; a second couple of baby carrots (fellow diners had only one; I was gifted another in place of the smoked pork belly I had to forgo) came with these as did Madeira and date jus. The glistening bird had beautiful, full-bodied aroma; its crispy skin covering actually rather mild meat. The flesh, no longer deep and dark in colour, was maybe a little overcooked. Californian dates are jumbo, fleshy and honey-like, but this one was dry and bland; polenta, did not add much to the dish; and the sauce was unremarkable. What did stand out was the delicious, warm, crumbly chestnut. My description probably paints a rather ugly picture, but the dish was not that bad. I am a big fan of both dates and pigeons (especially those from Bresse as these birds are best and noted for their unique texture and flavour), so this plate promised much. What I received was disappointing, all too easy to forget and not nourishing enough for a meat main. To quote a friend, it did not gratify my inner carnivore. And before I finish, smoked pork belly swapped for a carrot baby carrot: an inadequate exchange on so many levels.

Les Fromages

Pre-dessert: Crème brûlée and apple juice; or Cheeses. There was now a choice of cheese or pre-dessert; one of our party opted for the former, the rest for the latter. I shamefully failed to note which cheeses were sampled, but they were all rather good and came with walnut bread, black Muscat grapes and a big silver boat of assorted Miller’s Damsel crackers – the only immoderate moment of the meal.

Pre-dessert - Crème brûlée and apple juice

Pre-dessert consisted of a small shot of Granny Smith apple juice and baby Armagnac crème brûlée. The fresh squeezed shot was composed of two separate solutions; the larger, lower layer being the clear juice of the apple core, whilst the light green, top one being the stronger skin. The crème brûlée was sweet and smooth with a sugary, crunchy covering and concealed cache of punchy Armagnac and prune compote.

Mango and passion fruit soup with lychee and coconut

Dessert 1: Mango and passion fruit soup with lychee and coconut. An elongated cooler came next with dense mango and passion fruit juice rounded off with lychee and coconut foam. The first taste was of thick, sugary-tartness and then a secret ‘surprise’. Space dust. This sent obligatory tingles through our taste buds, but failed to seriously excite us. The soup finished with lighter, acidy-sweet clean coconut and lychee foam, conspicuously, but unavoidably slurped through the glass straw.

One of us cannot eat mango so, as a less than creative replacement, was given lemon and raspberry sorbet (literally a dollop of lemon and another of raspberry; oh, forgive me, I almost forgot the pineapple and star fruit tuiles).

Bitter chocolate and hazelnut cylinder with ginger mousse and blackcurrant granité

Dessert 2: Bitter chocolate and hazelnut cylinder with ginger mousse and blackcurrant granité. The second sweet course occasioned the prettiest plate of the night to be presented. A chocolate tuile column, bedded with hazelnuts, brimming with ginger mousse and bejewelled with blackcurrant granité, arrived alongside milk ice cream atop choc sponge circle and supporting a skinny coco pencil; stencilled around these two little towers, were ruby red lips of blackcurrant coulis.  Bitter, woody Valrhona 66% Caribe had natural nutty-fruitiness that complemented the sweetly sharp blackcurrant and warm ginger. The milk ice cream provided a cooling counterpoint.

The space dust went straight to my head and I never photographed this dessert, so I am obliged to Ulterior Epicure for the above shot; thankfully, he still had his wits about him.

Petit Fours - Chocolate truffles Petit Fours - Strawberry ice cream in white chocolate

Petit Fours - Mince Pies Petit Fours - Turkish delight

Petit Fours: Chocolate truffles; strawberry ice cream in white chocolate; mince pies; Turkish delight and eggnog. First of the friandises was a small shimmering tree of silver bearing similarly shiny fruit; these satellite swellings turned out to be sterling-sprinkled chocolate truffles. Then a tin drum, wrapped in white napkin, was set down. As its lid was lifted, dry ice drifted out and over the table uncovering spheres of strawberry ice cream enclosed within white chocolate. In pursuit was a plate of seasonal mince pies, tray of rose water Turkish delight and cups of eggnog. The strawberry ice creams were unmemorable though the mince pies pleasing. Toasty eggnog, gently spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, was rather nice, whilst the faintly flowery Turkish treats were unexpectedly yet refreshingly cold and tasty.

Straightaway let me say, this was not a poor meal nor a bad experience – there was nothing really wrong with any of it. Actually, I had a great time. I spent three fine hours in the charming company of three fellow food-lovers. We ate, we drank, we spoke. Speak we did indeed. Of restaurants we had been to or wanted to go to, of food we had liked and not liked, of chefs…basically we talked all dinner long. It was, I think over petit fours, that I finally felt obliged to approach the pink baby elephant asleep on the table and ask how we felt about the food right there in front of us. This little detail told me volumes.

I contrast it to my meal only days ago at the Sportsman. There were five of us that time and it was an equally chatty crowd, but with each new plate, silence. Head down, fork/spoon/knife in hand, we ate. We chewed our food and we chewed over our thoughts, selfishly. At Ramsay’s, I cannot recall the food interrupting us once.

That said, the cooking was fairly flawless, the presentation was good and the dishes left a pleasant taste on the tongue. There were a few moments that the tuck tried tugging at my attention too – the cornetto amuse, the roasted chestnut, the icy, clear Turkish delight – but these were too few, too far apart and too featherweight. I found it all simply superficial. There was the dish description on the menu; that was what I was served. The plate provided the provender; each element was cooked well, each arranged nicely. There was nothing more. What more do you want? Well, I believe at this level it should be more than just cooking the ingredients as they should be and making them look pretty – the components ought to unify, magnify and glorify each other. The dish should be more than a sum of its parts.

The cuisine at Ramsay’s restaurants has often been branded boring and formulaic; head chefs are supposedly under strict orders and strictly ordered to obey. Could it be that too many chefs have bored the broth? There is nothing wrong with classic cooking or tried-and-tested flavour combinations. However, a lack of creativity does exist. This is most apparent when the kitchen is at its most audacious and it is almost cringe-worthy. With desserts, the decorum is dropped, a tad: pre-desserts are delivered with secreted space dust; chocolate truffles are given a space-age twist; and the strawberry ice cream balls are submerged in smoke. At the table, these may educe a chuckle, but really they are just doing what has already been done (and made famous) already, namely by Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck (possibly picked up by Smyth during her two day stint there). With the fruity cocktails, for example, it was my second sampling of space dust in two days. It was Ulterior Epicure’s third. As a side note, those noisy glass straws, a departure from plastic and also politesse, need rethinking. A last note on the limited invention was with my pigeon; the smoked pork belly was replaced with another baby carrot. This is a pet peeve of mine. I am always disappointed when a pork element is simply removed and the dish served like that; that missing morsel must have been there for a reason, it must have added something unique and necessarily to the complexion of the dish. How is a baby carrot – in taste, size, value, etc – any sort of suitable substitute?

The service was surprisingly efficient. Courses came in swift succession, but it was neither too fast nor too slow. The staff were polite, but humourful too and very accommodating with alterations to the menu. They were also very smiley. although, I found them also a little superficial; as soon as I started to ask some staff questions about the food, those smiles turned upside down – either they did not know the details or they did not want to divulge them. There was also a touch of grace left wanting; we were never hurried, but I personally felt a faint discomfiture between myself and the staff. Basically, I have had smoother, slicker service elsewhere (without three stars).

I know many foodies who do not like Gordon Ramsay or his restaurants full stop, but I am certainly no Ramsay reviler. I like the man’s Kitchen Nightmares programme and respect him as a businessman, but personally, I just do not consider him as ‘Ramsay the chef’; to me he is ‘Rambo the celebrity restaurateur’.

In a sad sort of way, I was not too disappointed with RHR. I did not expect – though I really, really wanted – to be wowed; and I was not. What did let me down was the thought that as the lone three-star in London, this is arguably its top restaurant – that thought depressed me.

But perhaps the blame lies with me – I expect too much. For me, three stars still mean magic, still mean wow. Or I think it should. Then again, I am a naïve, fairly-fresh foodie. Maybe I must grow up….

As for Ramsay’s restaurant, it lived up to my expectations. Unfortunately.

68 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, SW3 4HP
tel: 020 7352 4441
nearest tube: Sloan Street

Gordon Ramsay on Urbanspoon


46 Responses to “Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, London”

  1. 1 kent paul January 12, 2009 at 12:29 am

    I personally think that Gordon Ramsay’s food at RHS is good but dated a bit like the Waterside Inn in Bray and he should not have 3* because he is never there, exept for when the tv camera’s show up, but i very much doubt the the michelin guide will dock him a star in a couple of weeks time even though i think they should, P.S the food might not be as technical as RHS but the only Gordon Ramsay restaurant i like eating at is MAZE because it is alot more fun, and i would like to see what Jason Atherton could do if he was given the same kind of set up that Marcus Wareing had under Gordon Ramsay at Petrus, because i think he could be an even better chef if given the same opportunity Marcus Wareing had that is if he wants it of coarse IMO.

  2. 2 Egremont Barraclough January 12, 2009 at 2:10 am

    This is a disappointing restaurant. However, I really regret that you feel that you have the right to comment in detail on a subject of which you clearly have no understanding

  3. 3 Food Snob January 12, 2009 at 6:49 am

    KP: Maze is the only Ramsay restaurant I have actaully desired to try, however, I was put off somewhat by all the hype surrounding Atherton after GBM last year. But reports are always glowing.

    EB: Dear Egremont, I am sorry to hear that. I think that having gone to RHR and paid with my own money to eat there, that gives me the right to voice my own opinion.

  4. 4 Jon Tseng January 12, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Goodness. You have your own pet troll. That show’s you really have arrived! 😉

  5. 5 gen.u.ine.ness January 12, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Went to maze on saturday (see I have a good telephatic understanding with you) and I thought that the food was good in parts but there were some dishes which were downright shockers. Also desserts there seem to be more of an afterthought.

    As for GR itself, I have never been tempted to go here. I honestly believe the food here is overpriced, overhyped and ultimately boring. It seems by your description the food here is always at a consistently good level, but never ever exceeds that. There is no dish which you would go ‘Wow, this is the best … I have ever eaten’. And not making their own bread is plain shameful for a restaurant which bears 3*s. Ultimately, it begs the question – would GR @ RHR have merited 3*s if it bore the name of a lesser known chef? I think we both know the answer to that one…

  6. 6 Food Snob January 12, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Thanks for reading, Jon.

    What can I say…everyone’s a critic.

  7. 7 Food Snob January 12, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Hi G,
    thought you would be interested in this post.
    Indeed, ‘the force is strong with’ you.
    Did you try the BLT?-..that has probably been one amazing cashcow for them.

  8. 8 gen.u.ine.ness January 12, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Of course I did… J had been harping on and on about it. The BLT was nice in a humurous kind of way but the croque monsieur was well… a ham and cheese toastie after all.

  9. 9 Neil Jackson January 12, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Another very entertaining and interesting review, FS, although I was mildly surprised to see the subject matter was RHR! I had you pegged as having a pride thing about visiting Ramsay places! The conclusion you reached probably sums up the reason why I will never go back here – that in the many years since I visited it has been overtaken and GR is simply not involved to any significant extent. He was involved when I went – looking knackered and arguing with someone (albeit quietly) on the phone near the bar. Also in the kitchen at that time were Marcus Wareing and Mark Sargeant. I’m sure Claire Smythe is a great chef though. Good luck to her. Jean-Claude was an absolute star that day, I recall. I’ve personally never seen better than J-C B since, although I believe the man at Le Gavroche was very good (until he retired recently).

  10. 10 Chris January 12, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I think someone at Michelin needs to bite the bullet and finally strip one or two stars from this place. It’s not as good as the Square, and hasn’t been for a long long time.

  11. 11 Food Snob January 12, 2009 at 11:18 am

    G: But did it taste good? lol

    NJ: Thank you. Well, I knew it would be interesting subject matter. I have nothing against the man or his resaurants, I just do not expect a great meal at one.
    I have no pride.

    C: Agree the Square is better. Why does Michelin love Ramsay? He’s not even French! (Although the Scots and French have always been rather chummy).

  12. 12 Loving Annie January 12, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    I found it a beautiful restaurant with flawless service, and yet it was as you described… Service was excellent, presentation was good, some dishes were lovely, but overall most failed to be as fabulous in taste as say The Square was…
    I’m going to go back for lunch, but only because, well, I loved the good things.

  13. 13 Chris January 12, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Actually, and to be fair to RHR, the desserts were exquisite. The Tarte Tatin was unbelievably good and they’ve also served me the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten anywhere in the world.

    Re: Why the Michelin love Ramsay, I think it’s probably more the other way round. Ramsay, in that very clever, corporate, calculating way of his has managed to perfect a style of cooking that is ticking exactly the boxes that Michelin is looking to tick, at the minimum effort to himself. He’s basically developed a “Michelin machine” which he can then farm out all over the world.

  14. 14 Oliver Thring January 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Terrific and thorough review, FS, as ever.

    To ask a direct question – do you think that the Sportsman deserves more stars than RHR?

  15. 15 Food Snob January 12, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    LA: If you enjoyed it, then indeed return. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from experiencing it. Unfortunately, I must already admit to never trying MPW’s, Ladenis’ or Koffman’s cooking (throw in Jamin), I do not ever want to say I never tried ‘Ramsay’s cooking’.

    C: I have heard things about that tarte tatin…
    You are most probably 100% right, which is terribly sad. To think that there is a correct formula (which certainly there is) to good cooking, or award-winnnig cooking, is depressing.
    But, fair play to Rambo.

    OT: Horrible question!
    I love the Sportsman…everything about it and everything it stands for, but, regrettably, because of the a.m. ‘formula’, it cannot, I think rise above 1*. Just simply for informality.
    Does it deserve more? Well, since stars are given out for decor, service, etc…then no.
    If you are asking is the food better? Yes
    Is the technique just as accomplished? I think so.
    Does it have more soul? (no need to answer)
    Which one would I return to? The Sportsman everytime.

  16. 16 kent paul January 12, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Even though some of the dishes are of 2* quality i dont think i would want to eat at the Sportsman if it got more stars because i like it’s relaxed atmosphere, and that is what makes the Sportsman Gastro pub the best of it’s kind is because it is underplayed and not forced on you, and the food does the talking instead of the giant ego of the chef.

  17. 17 gen.u.ine.ness January 12, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Chris is absolutely spot-on about checking all the boxes. I’ve heard many reports (from people I trust) that Ramsay’s @ claridges, the former Angela hartnett @ the connaught all do not deserve their michelin star. Btw, Joel Robuchon is another one of Michelin’s b*tches. How on earth that canteen merits a star is beyond me.

    the BLT tasted well.. as it is described. Like a BLT. Is it good? Perhaps. The BLT alone scores 7.5.

    But I have to say the dish on a whole is vastly overrated I cannot fathom why the annoying Prue Leith was creaming over it. Michel Roux Jr. hit the nail right on the head by saying the dish feels incomplete. Indeed, I think this dish feels dissociated, feels confused by the addition of the Croque Monsieur. I think Jason himself recognized this in the GBM and added truffles to try to pep it up.

    IMHO the dish is more suited to be an amuse bouche rather than a starter and should drop the croque monsieur. But why give something away for free when you can charge £9 for it?

  18. 18 Douglas January 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Interesting. You had a similar menu to me (http://douglas-wine.blogspot.com/2008/11/grh-ultimate-dining-machine.html) I admired the kitchen’s control and the overall feminity of the dishes. There is however absolute control coming from above, which is probably why (according to my friend) The Trianon has such a similar menu. I wonder what you would have thought if you had gone alone. What did you drink?

    How are your culinary forays being affected by the credit crunch, by the way? You seem to be the most extravagant food blogger.

  19. 19 Food Snob January 12, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    KP: I may even rate some of those sauces Stephen fashions higher than that. But fair point. The Sportsman is great the way it is.
    My thinking that he deserves more stars is that he deserves to be rewarded for what he is doing and Michelin macs are the most coveted award there is.

    G: If you can get away with it…

    D: Of course, I have already read your review ( 😉 ). We drank Domaine Sylvain Cathiard Bourgogne 2005.
    Of course, dining alone is completely different. I may have given the dishes more attention and been able to detect more of the subtleties that may have been there. Or I may have wallowed in my disappointment and had a terrible evening. Either way, to be fair, there were three very experienced palates at that table (and I was there too) and we were pretty unanimous in what we thought.

    Credit crunch? Credit munch more appropiate. I guess it is me being contrary, but I seem to be eating out more now than ever. You’ll see what I mean in due course…

  20. 20 Chris January 13, 2009 at 9:36 am

    gen.u.ine.ness: Just to be awkward, I really like Claridges and Maze 🙂 Claridges mainly for the surroundings and service (and the fabulous bar, which he has nothing to do with) though admittedly. Maze is a really ambitious restaurant – those ‘posh tapas’ take an age to prepare and the amount of work that goes into that BLT is astounding, even if you don’t think much of the end product. I admire their energy.

  21. 21 david goodfellow January 13, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Wow FS what a response.Trust GR to provoke such a debate.When you look at his pedigree he should be a foodie god,however this is clearly not the case.One thing that is very clear however is that he appears to be a very successful business man.You can then understand how impossible it should be to gain 3 stars never mind run the rest of his empire
    I for one have not been drawn to dine at RHR although I have been to the site before when Pierre Koffman held his 2 stars at Tante Claire.
    I’m really giving my age away now,lol.
    You make reference to Marco and Nico Ladenis above .I have eaten at Harveys and Chez Nico and because it was so long ago, even if I visited RHR now it would be impossible to make a comparison.
    Of the three meals mentioned Chez Nico was not as good as Marco or Koffman.

  22. 22 gen.u.ine.ness January 13, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Chris: the BLT was good – just not that orgasmically amazing judging by the way Oliver, Prue and Matthew literally creamed themselves on TV. hehe. I think Maze just about merits its star but I wonder what Atherton himself can do if he wasn’t restricted by Ramsay.

  23. 23 Food Snob January 13, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    DG: Well..cannot say I am surprised. Ramsay is arguably the world’s most famous chef.
    Those days certainly seem like they were London’s ‘Golden Age’.

    Re. Atherton, I have always thought highly of him. He seems like a passionate person who loves to cook. It already seems that he has a lot more autonomy than most Ramsay chefs. I mean both Maze and Maze Grill do not really fit the Ramsay model.

  24. 24 felixhirsch January 13, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    You seem to have had the same kind of meal that I’ve had there: same expectations, same let-down. It’s said that there is no restaurant in London that can wow you, really impress you with its food. Although Sketch seems to come close to that if I read your review…

  25. 25 Food Snob January 13, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Bienvenue Felix.

    At Sketch, Gagnaire was on form; I ordered right (following your advice to go ALC helped 😉 ); and I got lucky. Everything just fell into place very nicely.

    There are certainly restaurants I really like and enjoy the food at in London too (Ambassade, Gavroche, River Cafe, Square come immediately to mind), but whether I am blown away is another matter.

    Re. Wow? Well, of course I still want to be wowed, but I am finding that the wows are getting smaller and smaller – a sauce here; an ingredient there; if I am lucky, a whole dish maybe. But a whole meal wowing me? I am expecting that to be very unlikely. Too many pieces are required to solve such a complicated puzzle.

    Not to mention, my palate and I are probably a lot more harder to please now than when all this started.

    From last year, l’Arpege and the Sportsman were my two wows.

  26. 26 browners January 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Somebody recently copied dessert 2 with the lovely pink puree on Masterchef.

    Really sorry you didn’t feel the wow factor. But as you say, that normally comes when you’re least expecting it.

  27. 28 kent paul January 15, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Talking of Masterchef did anyone see that lamb dish last night Lol, P.S am i the only one who hates Greg Wallace because he really gets on my nevers.

  28. 30 Neil Jackson January 16, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Cooking doesn’t get tougher than this, apparently. I enjoyed the Masterchef “professionals” series they did. Torode was replaced by Michael Roux Jr who seemed to take it very seriously indeed. Actually, Wallace and Torode take it fairly seriously – which is quite endearing. I don’t mind them – in fact I find their mannerisms mostly amusing.

    • 31 Food Snob January 16, 2009 at 10:50 am

      I really like Roux Jr – it was always interesting listening to what he had to say.

      Re. their mannerisms, so do I. Wallace’s oow, umm, corr noises are difficult to replace, as is his habit of trying suck the metal off his fork.

  29. 32 kent paul January 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I just read about Alan Ducasse getting a rising 3* on Egullet surly this is a joke right because The Square is much better IMO, yet it still remains a 2*, P.S and still no star for Anthony Flinn i see which like have said before is yet another joke shame on Michelin.

  30. 33 Food Snob January 18, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Well, from my last meal at Ducasse, I could understand the two stars. I thought it worth one for the food myself; and I guess the second is for the service/room etc. As for the espoir…I have no idea where that came from.

    From my experience, Ambassade, Le Gavroche, Sketch and the Square were all better.

  31. 34 Emily March 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I really enjoyed this review FS. I have just found this blog through Foodbuzz. I went to this restaurant at around the same time as you. I write a food blog too, but it’s amateur compared to this. I will add you to my blogroll!

  32. 36 Wannabe Foodie June 22, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Have just booked a table for August in RGR. Would love to be a regular diner at top restaurants, but the opportunity rarely presents itself. Would like to know though if it’s usual for such a restaurant to be closed on the weekends and only have half six or half nine sittings? Not to mention the exasperating policy of only allowing you to book exactly 2 months in advance.

    My previous best dining experience was in Don Alfonso 1890 a few years ago, which was a dream, pure magic. The service was exceptional and made me feel like the most important person alive, including when making the reservation, when the booker listened patiently to my broken italian, and even joked with me.

    Cue interruptions and corrections and altogether a manner of get-on-with-it-please-i-have-more-important-things-to-do when making the reservation at RGR. Hmmmm. Our vouchers are non-transferable unfortunately…

    – Lnr

  33. 37 Food Snob July 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Hello Lnr,
    On the Continent, it is indeed normal to be closed sat/sun; RHR has only those two times, I imagine, to turn tables. If you take the early sitting, I expect you will need to leave by about half nine, whereas if you take the late sitting, the table is yours for the night.
    It is not that you have to book two months in advance, it is that it becomes booked up immediately!

    To be honest, I do not know if you will be able to recreate the memories that somewhere like DA1890 can, especially given my dinner there.

    However, if your vouchers are non-transferable, you really cannot do much, but go determined to have a good time. Try to enjoy it and remember, at the least, it is an experience!

  34. 38 Toasted Special August 19, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Hi FoodSnob,

    I read this blog post with great interest before (and after) I made a reservation at RHR. I was really hoping I would disagree with your review, but I think you mostly hit the nail on the head.

    My meal here was superb, but it’s not the fireworks show a lot of people would expect, given the hype, the 3-star accolade and the celebrity status this place enjoys.

    God, are we that difficult to please?? 🙂

    My review is here if you’re interested, would love to hear your thoughts.

    Keep up the great work,

    • 39 Food Snob August 25, 2009 at 10:45 am

      Hi Special,
      Your comment is bittersweet – I love being right as much as the next man on the Clapham omnibus does, but it is a shame that London’s only three star can (no longer) wow the majority of diners.
      Thank you.

  35. 40 Geoffrey Morrow April 17, 2010 at 2:17 am

    I went to RHR about a year ago as a friend had booked. I do not watch food programs, know little about GR and was unaware of the star rating or what to expect. If I eat out, it is without a great deal of thought as to where, but rather because I’m hungry or too lazy to cook. I rarely pay more than £30 a head.

    Making adjustments for a few personal preferences for types of food, your entertaining review broadly reflected my experience. Where we diverge, the bread was only fair and I didn’t expect it to be cooked on the premises; I have tasted far better from local bakeries or even the odd pub. The pigeon seemed to rely upon its provenance but lacked something to lift it above blandness and the temperature was a little on the cool side. The butter poached Scottish lobster tail with chestnut lasagne, trompettes de la mort, baby spinach and black truffles was excellent. The taste of the Atlantic and sweetness you found missing in the seafood, were all there and in spades. The desserts/sweets were little works of art and the chocolate cylinder could have taken pride of place in any art gallery – I was impressed.

    Initially, I thought the décor quietly remarkable, although as the afternoon wore on, its magic wore off. The service was just a touch over done, yet J-C was tremendous. Even making an allowance for the fact that he bore a disturbing resemblance to a friend of mine, his part was played to perfection.

    So, if I subtract the price of the wine and then think what I feel I should have paid and divide that by what I did pay, I come to a figure of about 70%. This does not quite cut it for me to be too enthusiastic about the experience.

  36. 41 theskinnybib November 20, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Reading this just a week after my latest visit to RHR confirms my belief that the food there isn’t moving forward. There has never been a Wow factor at RHR since my first trip 5 years back but at times perfect cooking hits nicely, coupled with the brilliant service. But, recently, that doesn’t seem to be enough to make me return to any 3-Michelin-starred restaurant and I have just taken Ramsay off my must-eat list in London.

  1. 1 Le Pré Catelan, Paris « Food Snob Trackback on March 30, 2009 at 12:04 am
  2. 2 Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, London « Food Snob « Great Chefs Trackback on July 31, 2009 at 4:16 am
  3. 3 Ubuntu, Napa « Food Snob Trackback on August 3, 2009 at 11:16 pm
  4. 4 In de Wulf, Dranouter – ‘Identity Crisis – Service à Six Mains’ « Food Snob Trackback on October 13, 2009 at 7:30 am
  5. 5 l’Auberge de la Grenouillère, la Madelaine-sous-Montreuil « Food Snob Trackback on July 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm

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