The 2017 Michelin guide saw London institution The Ritz pick up a Michelin star. For how famed and iconic it was, I’d always assumed it had one. I was quite surprised when I moved to London and realised it didn’t. I’d visited before for the classic afternoon tea and, though it was lovely, it didn’t blow my mind so I wasn’t sure what to expect from dinner at The Ritz.
I knew exactly what to expect from the restaurant itself though. The Ritz is unmistakably elegant, everything runs seamlessly and most of all everything is very traditional. Dinner jackets are a dress requirement for men and can’t be removed at any point – even, it turns out, if you’re baking hot in the middle of Summer. Paul barely had one arm out before he was swiftly asked to put it back on.
The dining room is beautiful and grand and at dinner, mainly lit by candles and softly glowing chandeliers. Which makes for a wonderful atmosphere but shockingly bad lighting for photos, so apologies in advance!
Whilst enjoying our canapes which included a cheese biscuit and a chicken samosa, we chose from the set menu. The flowers and candle on each table were a nice touch.
We were celebrating putting the reservation down on our new house in Norfolk so it was only fitting that we both chose the Norfolk Quail as our first course. The tartness of the Verjus contrasted with the quail and we both really enjoyed it.
The extra £10 supplement course was langoustine with broad bean and lemon verbena. This was a particular highlight and no amount of disapproving glances from staff were going to stop us mopping up the incredibly rich sauce with the bread…! It was one of my favourite courses so I’m glad we did choose it. The langoustines were astoundingly sweet and delicate, especially with the hint of lemon.
Our main course duck was tender and the foie-gras filled apricot was a nice addition to the fennel and walnuts. However the real star of the show was, again, the sauce. This was the theme that ran throughout our meal – The Ritz really know how to make a good sauce. Every plate we finished looked like we licked it clean and to be honest, had the service not have been so attentive there’s a good chance we might actually have licked them. It was so good.
Dessert was where we went our separate ways. The poached rhubarb with yoghurt mousse, ginger and cardamom was a bit tarter than my usual choice of dessert and came as a bit of a shock to the system after so many rich savoury dishes. It was very refreshing and not heavy at all.
We both preferred Paul’s banana souffle with rum and raisin ice cream. The ice cream wasn’t memorable but the rise on the souffle was impressive and it was lighter than any souffle I’ve had. The soft banana combined with the dark chocolate sat atop which melted with the warmth of the souffle – it was a brilliant dessert.
The staff assiduously attended to every last detail, casting their watchful eyes over the restaurant waiting for anyone daring to use flash on their camera or wriggle out of their suit jacket. Even the most accidental of glances in the wrong direction could summon an impeccably dressed waiter within seconds. The live band were talented but not imposing enough that you had to watch them continuously.
The meal surpassed my expectations and I’m still dreaming about their sauces – every single one was wonderful. Is the traditionality of it all bordering on stuffy? Possibly. There’s no doubt that it is a quintessentially British experience and it does attract tourists but the food shouldn’t be written off as tourist trap fodder. It’s unlikely to become your go-to restaurant but we loved our meal and I could happily eat it all again.
For me, it’s one of those experiences that you do, love and probably wouldn’t do again because you’ve done it. (But I’m glad I did it!)
Price: £££ – Our voucher was a gift from family but I believe they’re around £200-250. This is plus your drinks and service (our bottle of wine was about £60). It’s not badly priced but you shouldn’t rush there for the great value either.
Nearest tube: Green Park