Yesterday was Mary's birthday and we were able to get a table at the original Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road. They only open the booking for each day exactly two months in advance. That Sunday the phone was constantly engaged all day or out of order. When I got though on the Monday morning the only table for four they had left was lunch at 12 noon. So we both booked the day off and Mary booked a hairdressing appointment with Fiona at Hebe's in William IV Street.
Having watch various episodes of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and The F-Word and read the restaurant's rave reviews I was greatly anticipating this meal and it did not disappoint.
We went with usual suspects Pete&Amanda. I was the first to arrive to discover that we were the very first table of the day and the Maitre D' was still doing the team huddle. Ear-wigging I was impressed by the level of knowledge of each party's special dietary requirements and that the waiters were expected to know and remember when the time came. But then that is what you expect of world class service. Little things like they know which person in which seat ordered what when they bring them out, no need to ask "who's having the lamb?"
When we were seated our waiter asked who was the host and, owning it was I, gave me the priced menu so as as to not constrain the others' choice. As it happens we all went for the "Menu Prestige" - seven course which allows the chef to show (off) what he can do. They then volunteered substitutes so we could taste even more by stealing off each other's plates (which permission of course, a fork in the back of the hand hurts). The menu went like this; simplified as each dish seemed to have a minimum of five or six name-worthy ingredients so imagine they all read "X with A, B, C and a veloute of D".
Amuse Bouche - tortelli with saffron and ginger sauce
Foie Gras with Sauternes Jelly OR Chicken Terrine
Scallops OR Lobster ravioli
Halibut OR Turbot
Fillet of Beef OR Lamb
Cheese OR Pre-Desert
Coffee and Truffles
Every dish was small but perfectly formed - immaculately presented - a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Doubtless all from the freshest and finest ingredients. And of course wine with each course: R de Ruinart NV; St Peray (a white Rhone), a half of Condrieu, a Ribero Del Duro (spanish red) and a sweet French desert wine.
I chose the pre-desert, and when Mary didn't want one of her deserts had two Second Deserts. As it was Mary's birthday they brought us an extra souffle to share in lieu of a cake and right at the end a scoop of Mango Sorbet with a single candle for Mary but she declined the offer of a quick chorus of "Happy Birthday" sung sotto voce.
An interesting comparison to eat in two different Michelin Three Star restaurants within such a short time window [Daffodil Dining Club at Le Gavroche (2006)]. The service here was just as silkily smooth and efficient and, we agreed, more friendly. Our waiter(s) seemed less formal than La Gavroche and ready to chat about the food, the cheese and react to our banter with a smile. Plus they all managed that, so hard to do, balancing act between hovering intrusively and not being there when needed.
The entire leisurely meal lasted four and a half hours but the table was ours for the session and we never felt rushed. They actually managed to get two sets of covers on the next table but that was the only one. I do not think Mary's would allow me to mention the final bill (US: check) but it was an obscene amount of money half of which was on the wine. However if you want to celebrate a birthday in style in one of the best restaurants in the world this is the place.
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