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|Address:||68 Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HP|
|Tel:||020 3589 1683|
|Price: £127.00||Wine: £28.00||Champagne: £56.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Fri 12N-2.30pm 6.30-11pm|
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We've been eating at these premises since Pierre Koffman had his smallest version of Tante Claire, and over 15 years Gordon Ramsay's restaurant has proved a worthy successor. It has long been our “favourite” – at worst first amongst equals -and has been reserved for birthdays or anniversaries, for the two of us, and sometimes our family or friends.
But in the past year or so, things have changed a bit in London, and this sort of fairly formal modern European cooking and presentation may not be everyone's first choice in the face of less structured , less fussy? approaches to good food. In a year when we've enjoyed eating at Dabbous, Roganic (pity its gone) Lima and The Corner Room we wondered whether we'd like Royal Hospital Road quite as much as we did. The competition now isn't just Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton et al, who largely serve similar food , but a small raft of new places bringing fresh approaches, new flavours and in general, informality. Its not a “top half dozen” any more but a top dozen. We were curious about how the restaurant may have reacted to this and indeed how we may react after a year away.
The restaurant was full, and the meal we had today was hugely enjoyable. It was for me, as good as any meal I've eaten in 2013 ( though my wife thought her salmon tart starter rather dull) There were signs in the amuse-bouche and the starters that a slight change in the direction of the “new wave”. But nothing that's going to disturb those who turn up with expectations firmly fixed. The basic trademarks of fabulous ingredient quality, perfectly timed cooking, considerable intensity and the ability to pick out individually each of the ingredients in a dish are all still there, and I don't know anywhere that delivers these things better or more smoothly. But do they still deliver the best restaurant experience in London? And are they worth the £187 that two set lunches, a bottle of wine from close to the bottom of the list, two coffees and service cost?
For us probably yes, but its close. And today at lunch half the tables and two thirds of the customers were people who were plainly tourists from Japan, China or parts nearby. Several middle-aged couples. No young people at all and no obvious business lunches. Of course tonight and tomorrow might be very different, but I'd hate to think of this restaurant as a tourist attraction whilst the aspirational UK young stand in the rain outside the appropriately named Pitt -Cue.