Gordon Ramsay At Claridge's, W1K 4HR
- 020 7499 0099
- Claridge's, 55 Brook Street, W1K 4HR
- noon-2:45pm, 5:45pm-11pm Mon-Fri; noon-3pm, 5:45pm-11pm Sat; noon-3pm, 6pm-10:30pm Sun
One of the key restaurants in celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay's extensive portfolio, this one based in the venerable hotel Claridge's in Mayfair.
Given the location and the setting, there is of course nothing seemingly casual about this place. However, dress code is relatively undemanding (the website only recommends jackets for men, but nobody presentable who wasn't wearing one was refused entry), and the room is a gloriously light temple to art-deco revivalism. Service is formal but friendly, the maitre-d' shows you to your table, and different waiters cater to all aspects of the dining experience, such that the customary 12.5% service charge seems like a bargain by the end of the meal.
Notably for a restaurant of this quality, a full vegetarian menu is available upon request (including a vegetarian tasting menu). As the maitre-d' explained after our meal, they had been creating separate dishes when requested but found that it was easier to just have this menu available all the time. They also ask after any allergies or special dietary requirements as a matter of course, so the commitment of the kitchen team is beyond reproach.
The set lunch menu includes three options for each of starter, main and dessert, and on our visit in July 2008 came to a very reasonable £30. Before the starters came, bread was offered with both salted and unsalted butter, followed by a relatively substantial and creamy amuse bouche the contents of which elude me (it involved poached egg, though) and was very tasty.
Ewan's starter was a tortellini of English peas and marjoram and parmesan veloute. Inside the tortellini, the peas were mashed, and around were scattered further garden peas, all of them cooked just right (I love peas, though). My friend's slow-baked sea trout was beautifully infused with pickled beetroot, and the sheep's ricotta on the side complemented it perfectly. Mains were equally good: mine being chargrilled vegetables, basil pesto and a creamed pearl barley with girolles served in a separate little brass pan. My friend's beef main was done medium rare, with a glowing red texture.
Being vegetarian in a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, one of the waiting staff tried to convince me of the error of my ways while my friend had adjourned to the ladies. It was all very friendly and well-meaning, certainly not confrontational, one of the highlights of the excellent service.
The summer berries dessert came with a small scoop of elderflower and mascarpone sorbet and a biscuit, and was certainly tasty, though my friend's cheese board selection (£4 supplementary charge) was by far the more impressive. A large selection of cheeses is wheeled to the table and diners may choose up to six of these. The waiter is happy to recommend them, and all were very fine, particularly a lovely camembert with what I believe was described as a cider-washed rind and encased in light breadcrumbs. Very lovely.
Afterwards, though we declined the coffee/tea option, we still received some complimentary petits fours (two of each: a decadent ginger and dark chocolate ball, and an exceptionally good cherry ice-cream with crispy shell). After quickly devouring these, the maitre-d' returned to offer us more (we were brought another three of each) and then he offered to show us the kitchen, where they have a special dining table (the "chef's table"), for which the diners can watch food being prepared. This final flourish was a lovely touch, and they sent us on our way with a monogrammed box of three more of the ginger chocolates, while apologising that they couldn't fit more in.
They have a number of wines by the glass, and the wine list comes to around 35 pages, leather-bound on heavy paper. Given the extensive and expensive range, it is as well that the first page recommends some more modest wines. Our Combray was perfectly good though (and at £30, one of the better value selections).
I can certainly recommend the dining experience here, which didn't have any hint of condescension and where the staff did that little bit extra to make us feel welcome. The only issue, though it is a minor one, is that the size of the dining room (they have 180 covers at full capacity) means that it can take a little time to complete one's meal, so budget in at least a couple of hours if not more for the full experience. The website contains all the menus, and a return visit to sample the tasting menu would certainly be worthwhile (if suitable expensive).
Accessibility: one of the diners on the lunchtime we visited was in a wheelchair, so clearly they are accommodating of people with disabilities. The toilets to which I was directed are downstairs (and are suitably luxurious, though thankfully the toilet attendant was not present on my visit), though presumably there is an accessible toilet on the same level.
Comment added by Srivvy: Ewan, I hate to tell you this, but your starter was not vegetarian. By EU regulation, Parmesan has to be made using calf rennet, which is an enzyme extracted from the stomachs of slaughtered calves. There are vegetarian substitutes, but these cannot legally be called Parmesan. No doubt this is another of Gordon Ramsay's 'jokes' at the expense of vegetarians.