As most of you know already I went to the UK in March for a week on holiday with my girlfriend Gloria. I decided to book a lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s first restaurant, the “Ramsay” in South Kensington. It’s a 3 Michelin star restaurant and neither me nor Gloria have ever been to any kind of upper class restaurant like this one.
This will be a precise tale of what went on that day and I hope to remember everything that happened.
We arrived 20 minutes early so we decided to have a walk near the Thames. We were both well dressed for the occasion. Maybe too much even. We saw people at the restaurant that looked like pimps with open shirts and chest hair poking out but that was an exception.
As the booking comes closer and closer my stomach starts to clench up with tension… I know it’s weird right… but having never been to anything so “upper class” you start asking yourself some questions like, which fork do I use first, how should I sit or how do I ask where the toilet is.
We enter the restaurant. It’s pretty small, probably 8-9 tables. A woman greets us and asks us our reservation name. I hear “reservation number” so I fumble for an answer and tell her I didn’t have a number only to realize a second later that she asked for my name. Well that started out well.
She takes my coat and my bag. She takes Gloria’s coat but not the bag. Never take a woman’s bag 😀 !
She walks us to the table. It’s a pretty small round table and I make Gloria sit and the waitress makes me sit. I was now in a psychedelic trance of stress mixed with what the f. and revising in my head what I would say to the sommelier (I didn’t want to buy wine because it would’ve raped my pockets).
So in walks the sommelier. You can tell they’re sommeliers because they have a golden brooch depicting grapes on their jackets. He asks us if we would like to see the wine list. I decline saying we won’t have any wine. He asks us if it’s a problem with alcohol used in the menu but I confirm that it’s not a problem and that we just didn’t want wine today. He then asks us if we would like a special kind of non-alcoholic grape juice to give us that “wine aftertaste” without the alcohol. I ask Gloria and she says no. He then proceeds to explain (everything off by heart) about 50 different fruit juices they had. There were juices that ranged from exotic to home made. We ordered 2 home-made orange juices to start off with and a bottle of fizzy water. The orange juice he brings is actually really tasty and you can really taste the freshness.
Another waiter arrives and asks us “Who is hosting the table?”. I answer “I am”. He jokes about who is in command between me and Gloria so I joke back that usually she is but today she’s letting me be in control. I receive the menu with the prices and she gets a clean menu with no prices. There’s a Prestige Menu (£120 minimum per person), the A la Carte Menu (£90 minimum per head) and the Lunch Menu (£45 per head). He starts explaining all the three menus completely, what the specials are and some dish that has been on the menu since day 1.
We already know what menu we’ll be ordering from.
Here is what I ordered:
Starter: Salad of Szechuan pork, tiger prawn, chargrilled, pickled and marinated vegetables, Asian herbs, daikon dressing
Main Course: Shin of Angus beef braised in red wine served ‘en croûte’ with confit potatoes and mushrooms à la crème, parmesan emulsion
Dessert: Pear tarte Tatin with walnut ice cream and shaved Colston Bassett
And Gloria ordered:
Starter: Quail and wild mushroom Pithivier with endive, celeriac and toasted walnuts salad
Main Course: Roasted fillet of halibut sustainably farmed in the Shetland islands with pommes boulangère and bourguignon garnish
Dessert: Banana parfait, peanut butter mousse and bitter chocolate sandwich with caramelized bananas
The sommelier brings us the bottle of fizzy water and I notice that while he serves it to Gloria he turns the bottle so that she can see the label. He then serves me and turns the label again towards me. It’s obviously something that he would do with the wine but it was a nice touch.
I decide I need the loo. I sit up and a waiter shows me the way without me even asking. There were about 20 little properly rolled hand towels all lined up on top of the sink with soap and moisturizer. The toilet was very clean and the toilet paper had its last square sticking out and folded into an arrow shape. I soon realized every time someone went into the toilet and used the toilet paper someone came in and had to re-fold the toilet paper into an arrow shape. Made me chuckle.
I wash my hands and then dry them with the towel. I had to throw it into a bin. Something quite unnatural but I would’ve hoped they would come in and put it somewhere else later and so they did… I checked.
I go back to the table and the waitress sits me down. I found it pretty ridiculous that a woman waitress would help me sit down but that’s how it is.
I tell Gloria I’d show her the way to the toilet but a waiter interrupts me and shows her the way.
While Gloria was in the toilet the waiter brings in a pre-starter. It is a normal plate with a minute battered ball of something in the middle… NOTHING else on it. He then proceeds to fill the rest of the plate with some kind of soup from a gravy bowl. I’m sorry if I don’t know what it was but he explained everything off by heart and I truly can’t remember all the stuff he said to me. He then put one of those “chef-plate-covers” you know the ones they use to keep the food warm, on Gloria’s battered mini-ball and told me he’d keep the soup in the kitchen to keep it warm why we waited for the “Madame”.
I patiently waited for Gloria and as soon as she came out of the toilet I could hear the waiters whispering “LA MADAME, LA MADAME” and running off to get the soup. She sat down and served her soup with the mini-ball. It was obviously quite divine.
This is when we realize the waiter might actually be Italian. We noticed because while he was explaining the mini-ball dish he said RICOTTA in a very Italian accent. We didn’t say anything.
Another waiter comes to the table with a silver tray of different types of bread for us to choose. There was potato bread, sesame bread, wholemeal bread and many other types. We heard the table next to us ask if they made the bread at the restaurant. They said they have a bakery that bakes it for the restaurant with a specific recipe. Every time our bread plate was empty he would run up to the table to see if we wanted more. The same happened when our glass was nearly empty. The sommelier would run to our table to fill the glasses full again.
In the end, the only thing we touched was our cutlery and our glass. Everything else was taken care of.
After each course the waiter would clean the table from breadcrumbs with a special kind of knife. He’d scrape them off onto his little cleaning plate.
It was interesting to see how the food would come up to the table. Me and Gloria ordered different things but they always came at the same exact time. A waiter would come out of the kitchen with the plates on a silver tray. He would wait at the entrance of the dining hall for the table waiter. He would then proceed to finish the plates with the last touches and say “Let’s go!”. They would both then proceed to the table and serve us the food.
The Schuezan pork with the prawns was really good. It was a cold salad kind of plate where you could mix and match pork and prawns with some vegetable to give you a different type of taste each time. Gloria’s Quail was excellent too. Presentation was amazing. There was a small quail leg on a potato puré all really well decorated. Mine was simple enough.
The main course was excellent too. My angus shin came and I didn’t know what to do with it. It was a plate with a cylindrical column made of french pastry with a wafer sitting on top. The wafer had the Ramsay restaurant logo on it. I realized that the only way to eat this would be to destroy it. I broke into it. It was laid out in layers all topped with daikon dressing (not that I know what that is). There was a layer with potato, then minced angus shin then potato, then angus shin and then spinach. It was really something amazing. Never had anything so well designed and tasty at the same time.
Gloria had the halibut. I had a taste of it and it was really nice. It was topped with a wonderful sauce made with tomatoes and bacon too which sounds weird but she says the combination was really good.
Time for desserts. I had the pear tarte tatin. I’ve always been a fan of Apple tarte tatins so I knew what I was getting. It was very good. It was served warm with some vanilla ice-cream. Gloria had the banana dessert but she said it was nothing exceptional.
We then met the Maitre D Jean-Claude Breton. I knew him already from his appearances on various Gordon Ramsay’s TV shows so it was pretty nice to see that he’s really down to earth. He chatted with us to see how everything was going, where we were from, what we’d be visiting. He also complimented us for having beaten the French rugby team in the six nations the week before. Here’s Jean-Claude:
After our desserts he brought us some chocolate balls stuck on a metal frame that looked like a small tree. The chocolate was pinned to the tree branches. We ordered 2 Espresso’s to end our lunch.
While drinking the coffee (excellent, which is rare in England), we see a waiter coming towards us with a fuming container. It was sending out smoke like it was on fire. It reminded me of those incense diffusers used in churches. He set it on the table and the Maitre D’ explained to us that it had balls of strawberry ice-cream inside with liquid ice that made the smoke come out but that it was totally safe to pick up with our fingers.
The lunch ended with the cheque and with €155 less in my pocket. N.B. The coffee came to £5 each. The orange juice came to £5 each.
All in all we loved it. We came out of the restaurant happy and full. We thought we would get out of the restaurant and go to McDonalds or something to fill our stomachs but it was really surprising how much we ate (not to mention how WELL we ate).
Definetly something I would recommend doing if you want to experience something different.