Gordon Ramsay at Claridges: A Gourmet Experience for £30
March 31, 2011 6 Comments
On every trip, I think it’s perfectly alright to splurge on something special. For our trip to London, my mom and I splurged on lunch at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants and tickets to the multi-Laurence Olivier award-winning West End production of Legally Blonde: The Musical. Now, for some people, Legally Blonde: The Musical may not be the best choice of all the shows along the Strand, but having seen it, I can tell you that it was just perfect. While smiling from the first song to the last, itching to dance on stage with every upbeat number, and laughing at all the classic lines re-imagined from the film, we completely didn’t realize that a good two hours had elapsed.
Similarly, Ramsay’s intimate little restaurant inside a luxury hotel may not be the Mamma Mia of his restaurant empire, but we were treated to a relaxing, tasteful, and altogether delightful lunch. At first I was worried that three courses would not be enough for each person, seeing that we had American appetites and were already unused to the smaller “large” coffees, for example, but I didn’t need to worry. It was all just right.
Gordon Ramsay at Claridges offers a “modern European menu using the finest seasonal ingredients.” Their tasting menu, which is offered every day, has a three course option (which is what we went with) or a five course option (for £10 more, if I remember correctly). On their website, they say that the dress code is “smart,” meaning no sneakers, shorts, or athletic clothing. I wasn’t sure if my mom and I were dressed appropriately because when we travel, we are always moving around the city so much that we wear what is comfortable. Fortunately, the hostess put us at ease and we were promptly seated (wearing fleecy North Face jackets and Ugg boots).
After a bottle of Evian was poured, we were given these royal purple menus with silver letterpressed print. As we read, and only recognized every third word or so, we were served a selection of bread.
Most of it was very very crusty and a little tough for my taste, though the silverware was nice. We paired the bread with two kinds of butter, a normal salted butter and a butter with some peppercorn. The difference was largely indiscernible to me, but I’m always willing to munch on carbs and animal fat! So, we ate our bread, discussed some of the foreign terms on the menu, and looked around the restaurant some more.
The ambiance is elegant and quiet. At times, I felt a little hesitant about taking pictures, but I suppose they were used to a touristy clientele. After ordering, our server delivered us our amuse-bouche, which was a tiny bowl of delicious green soup. I wish I caught what our server had mumbled to us in his English accent, but all I remember him saying was “onion.”
I know it doesn’t look like much, but it was so good. Oniony, garlicky, and buttery, with minute, chewy nuggets of something that reminded me of the little clam pieces you find in clam chowder. I’m sure peas were involved, as you can tell by the color, but beyond that, I don’t know. I probably could have eaten a whole tureen of the soup. Though I understood that the point is to tantalize the palate early in the meal, the less refined part of me wished my spoon was bigger so that I could get more of the soup into my mouth at once. The spoon was probably 2/3 the size of a teaspoon. Teeny.
We finished our soups, probably more quickly than is appropriate, and our appetizers came. I ordered “Warm pressed chicken and truffle mosaic, truffle mayonnaise,and a la greque vegetables.” Do you know what a la greque vegetables are? If you do, e-mail me, because I definitely don’t.
Perhaps a la greque means some kind of… deconstructed Parthenon-style arrangement on the plate? I don’t know. But everything was so tasty. I don’t know how their kitchen got kitchen to be cut with such perfect 90 degree edges, but it was still moist and flavorful. The truffle mayonnaise paired really well with the chicken and each vegetable had an interesting, hmm, why does this taste different from what I remember? flavor. I don’t know what that orangey sauce around the plate is either, but I paired it with the truffle mayonnaise and my tongue definitely rejoiced.
Speaking of rejoicing, my mom ordered “Mackerel tartare, Burford Brown egg yolk, crème fraîche, and dill ice cream.” The mackerel was subtle, smooth, and not fishy at all. It paired nicely with the egg yolk and the dill flavors. I remember watching Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network and someone mentioned an egg yolk carpaccio that is served somewhere. I think this dish might be something close to that. And for another tangentially related television anecdote, for those of you that watch The Next Iron Chef: Remember Chef Canora making fun of Chef Tsai for using frosted glass and telling him to go back to the 90s or something? Well, though this isn’t frosted glass, I really liked the presentation. For once a plate of food looks more yannic than phallic. Always an achievement.
And now for the main course…
I ordered “Pan-fried sea trout, saffron, squid and cockle risotto.” I loved the crispiness of the skin on this dish in particular. I’m usually so ambivalent about skin on the fish and for it to be a highlight for me is extraordinary. The combination of saffron and oceanic flavors melded realyl nicely and nothing about the dish had that overt seafood smell/taste. I don’t know if my risotto “spread” like Tom Colicchio says it should, but I liked the chewy and fluffy texture of the rice. The only drawback was when I got a bit of sand in my mouth at the end, but it was just one bite.
For my mom, they brought out the “Chargrilled rump of beef, beetroot fricasse, horseradish potato purée.” (I wonder why purée has an accent but fricasse does not??)
I’m told that rump of beef is usually very hard to cook because it can be so tough and sinewy. The rump of beef today was thinly sliced and perfectly cooked, just as how I usually like my filet mignon cooked. The beetroot fricasse was such a pleasant surprise as well. I’ve never been a fan of beets or beetroot for that matter, but each tiny cube disappeared like sugar cubes in my mouth. Delicious. The gentle sweetness complemented the the more lively horseradish flavor in the potatoes, which were smooth and pillowy. I’ve always liked a bit of horseradish on my baked potato, but who knew to put into some mashed potatoes? Brilliant.
And finally, dessert. Perhaps the best part. But really, each course was remarkable. I got the “Grapefruit parfait, apple sorbet, Brittany cake.” The Brittany cake was quite good, though I’ve had better pastry elsewhere. However, the rest of the dessert was sensational. The “parfait” had lovely grapefruit flavor and I loved the flavor comparison with the tiny cubes of grapefruit that had a salty edge to them. The apple sorbet was light, refreshing, and not too sweet. If only my local Ralph’s carried this sorbet… I’m writing this in LA and could definitely go for some right now.
My mom got the “Steamed banana and passion fruit pudding, rum and raisin ice cream,” though she probably would have liked mine better. While this was delicious, banana, rum, and raisins usually aren’t my thing either. The rum and raisin ice cream had a lot of rum in it, so I’m glad they only give a teeny bite-sized scoop of it. The cake itself was moist and had a good texture, but it wasn’t something I had never had before.
As we finally relaxed in our chairs after three epic courses–I, for one, was glad I wore black leggings because I needed some extra stretch–we were pained to see that our server brought us a tempting selection of chocolates and marshmallows. Torture.
You know how caramel-filled chocolates can sometimes be so sweet they make your teeth or your head ache? You know how marshmallows can sometimes leave you wondering, as you chew repetitively, what exactly am I eating? Neither of the pictured above were like that. The chocolates were bittersweet enough to offset the caramel, which was ooey and gooey without spreading into the recesses of sugar-addled gums. The marshmallows–did I tell you they were mandarin marshmallows?–were fruity and memory foamy before melting into my tongue like cotton candy. I’ve never had non-store-bought marshmallows. I think I might try making my own at some point, though supposedly it’s ridiculously messy.
By the end of the meal, we could only eat one of each, but our server kindly threw the rest into a sweets bag for us to take home. Embellished with a purple sticker and confident silver writing declaring “Gordon Ramsay at Claridges,” it was a nice reminder of my wonderful experience at the restaurant for the next day, when I battled more tourist crowds, Tube commuters, and 7+ hours of walking. Chocolate is a wonderful sort of time machine.
At only £30 per person, with extra if you ordered mineral water, I would definitely encourage people to go. Lunch menus are usually more casual and accessible to the average epicurean. Gordon Ramsay at Claridges boasts not just phenomenal fare, but also excellent service, a peaceful atmosphere, and wonderful food memories. Gourmet and reasonable.
This is part 2 of a series about some dining experiences I had while in London. You can read part 1 about Jamie’s Italian here.