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|Address:||The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR|
|Tel:||020 3641 0451|
|Price: £98.00||Wine: £49.00||Champagne: £91.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 7-10.30am (Sun 8am- ) 12.30-2pm 5.30-10pm (Sun 7pm- )|
3 of 6 people found this review helpful.
There’s no questioning the sense of elegance at The Ritz. Staff waltz through the room with balletic grace, and I found myself sitting up considerably straighter. I visited with family for a three-course lunch (£40, with a flute of bubbly). Pink-cheeked gents wriggled in their ties and jackets, sheepish and unsure as to whether they could shed their layers given the dress code.
But when I checked whether an aperatif was on the house, and my Mum unceremoniously pelted the table with salmon mousse following a canape-related incident, the waiters were faultless. Each was a veritable posterboy for decorum, making peculiar and formal surroundings a touch less unnerving. Granted, there was always an upsell – a second bottle, a brandy for the road – but with the shower of complementary treats we enjoyed (a bottomless bread basket, and many tiers of petits fours), I didn’t really mind.
I bargained on there being at least one affordable wine, but more the fool me – I’m clearly not textbook Ritz material, as entry level is dangerously close to the £50 mark. The house Chablis – albeit nice – set me back a whopping £52. (We nipped to the wine bar in the bowels of Fortnum’s for seconds, which was a considerably more savvy option).
I remember taking in the scene having expected both the food and décor to be far more traditional. Instead it’s like dining at Versailles, with Liberace there as artistic director to spruce things up a bit. It’s bling, to a monstrous extent. Locating doorways can be problematic such is the visual assault, but it’s all very nice if you like that sort of thing. The area where afternoon tea is served looks marginally more reserved than the main restaurant, but you cannot fail to be knocked out by the sheer, bullish audacity of the scheme.
The cuisine was a genuine surprise; it’s the last place I expected to find egg yolk cooked sous vide, or torte masquerading as a plump, glossy cherry. There must be an arsenal of pipettes and artfully-poised set squares behind the scenes in the kitchen because the meal was aspirational and rich in every sense. I’m not convinced that the chef actually loves to eat though, which is always disappointing. Dishes look phenomenal and precise to the point of wonder, but the generosity of offerings like unbilled black truffle doesn’t necessarily extend to general seasoning and flavour.
As a case in point, the puds divided the table: a souffle was executed with aplomb, but its accompanying ice cream was an abomination; like eating a Yankee candle from the branches of a pine tree. But my cherry clafoutis – which seemed so humble and straightforward on the menu- was a heavenly pleasure, dressed fittingly with a smattering of gold leaf.
Frankly, it’s all a bit odd. Memorable and delightful without a doubt, but also a bizarre window to a whole new world of ‘posh’. You’re unlikely to find somewhere so grand and iconic to wow loved ones and I can readily understand why tourists clamber to witness the spectacle, but you’ll easily find better food in the capital at a fraction of the price.