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Image 1: Tuxedo waiters, polished silverwares, splendid chandeliers, where no gentleman is allowed without a jacket and tie, yes, there isn't any other place in London that suits such description more than the iconic hotel of the capital, The Ritz London.
Image 2: Located on the ground floor at the end of this glamorous corridor was the most impressive dining room in London.
Image 3: Next to the restaurant's entrance was The Palm Court, an elegant salon for the famed Afternoon Tea where a weekend slot is often booked up six months ahead.
Image 4: Haute cuisine at a grand dining area established by the legendary chef Auguste Escoffier. This is what I sometimes like to indulge myself in.
Image 5: Similar to my last visit with Alan the Cumbriafoodie, without turning over the first page of the menu, I decided to leave myself in the hands of the Executive Chef John Williams and the Head Pastry Chef Lewis Wilson. However, I requested a shorter menu this time as I wasn't up for another episode of "man vs food" without teaming up with Alan.
Image 6: From the rapid speed of how each member of the service team walked, it was clear that they have a sizable dining room to cover even for a large team they have. My glass of champagne arrived promptly with a little tray of amuse bouche.
Image 7: The meal began with gougères encasing a warm melting centre, squid ink cracker topped with prawn and lobster sauce, and smoked salmon cream sandwiched in a lemon macaron. A nice finish with a perfect balance of fruity-sweetness on my tongue!
Image 8: A selection of bread - sourdough, walnut, olive, and onion & bacon brioche. And knowing that I was hungry, the first course arrived with just a short wait.
Image 9: Crab rolled in thin Granny Smith. The crab flavour was very clean on the palate and merged very well with the refreshing apple and the creamy avocado along with a couple of circular pink pickled radish. In the middle was a cute stack of melon and cucumber terrine. I wasn't keen on this combination as the beautiful sweetness from the melon was quickly washed away by the cucumber.
Image 10: Second course was already one of the highlights of the meal. Neatly arranged on a strip of red wine reduction were pear gel, caramelised hazelnut, pear ball poached in red wine, and a tiny hazelnut almond cake.
Image 11: The main character of this dish was the pressed foie gras with a thin white port jello, served with a warm brioche on the side. Heavenly richness of the creamy foie melting on the buttery toasted brioche with a touch of acidity from the pear and a contrasting texture from the nut. Sinful to say but I can eat this everyday!
Image 12: More good food - Langoustine water-bathed in its shell before removing the shell and serving on a bed of cauliflower purée. Traffic timing on the langoustines where the centre was just cooked. Loved every component of this dish, particularly the intense sauce made from the shell which was packed with flavours. I had to soak up every drop with my bread!
Image 13: The meat course was plated on a sheet of pressed celeriac - celeriac purée, caramelised celery, truffle cream, deep fried quail egg, actual shavings of black truffle, and tiny pieces of spongy morel.
Image 14: Hidden behind all those lovely goodies was a piece of salted beef brisket. The meat wasn't overly salty but just enough seasoning to be eaten on its own. The beef jus had such outstanding flavours that I again consumed it all with my last piece of bread which was a mistake because...
Image 15: ... I didn't realise the main course was yet to come - a table side serving of a huge Côte de Boeuf in a layer of black truffle flakes!
Image 16: And served with a big bowl of truffled mash which was left mostly untouched not only because I wanted to save room for dessert but I found the mash rather rough and dried.
Image 17: The service team was in full swing as most tables were already occupied at that time. Our server had to quickly finish pouring the sauce onto my plate as there were dishes on the side waiting for him to serve for the table next to us. This veal chop was cooked with the bone attached. Tender but way too lean a cut.
Image 18: However, I quickly realised why there were cubes of bacon in the sauce and better yet, imagine it with a ragout of sweetbread, truffle, and baby onions all reduced in a red wine sauce. My mouth was saturated with delicious classic flavours!
Image 19: Now it was the chance for the pastry chef to show off his creations starting with a rhubarb pre-dessert. On the left was rhubarb poached in apple juice, champagne, ginger, vanilla, and finished in the oven for a slight caramelised surface retaining a bit of tartness. On the right was a rhubarb sorbet on biscuit crumbs which had a hint of ginger too!
Image 20: Look at this masterpiece! Guarded by the triplet of long reclining caramel-dipped hazelnut sticks was apple parfait rested inside an almond nougatine tube, accompanied by Calvados ice cream, compressed apple, and white chocolate crémeux. A very enjoyable and light dessert where I could taste the apple flavour without its sharpness. But... it caused me grief when I had to destroy this skillful artwork with my spoon!
Image 21: They really saved the best for the last. From the delicate chocolate coil enfolding a sugar tube of pear william ice cream, I knew that this was not an ordinary Monte Blanc with just chestnut purée and cream.
Image 22: Once I broke open the meringue "snow cap", it had small cubes of caramelized pear underneath followed by layers of marron glacé, chestnut chantilly, chestnut parfait, and a disk of shortbread biscuit at the bottom! I liked the fact that it wasn't an overly sweet dessert and had a complex and surprising mix of texture. A very sophisticated finish to the meal!
Image 23: For petits-fours, Amedei chocolate infused with mint, warm madeleines, and homemade donuts. In terms of the chocolate choice at the Ritz, for shaping work, they continue to use Valrhona, but for ganache, they are slowly moving towards Amedei.
Image 24: Greedy me, I requested the Ritz classic petit-four, a couple of raspberry tartlet, to complete my meal.
Image 25: The menu was reasonably priced for such a magnificent ambience, but the heavy markup in the wine list can easily crank up the bill. The service was smooth but felt chaotic at times which was understandable as the team had a large dining area to cover. The quality of the food was up there with delicious classic flavours and excellently presented. I will definitely be back when I need to pamper myself next time.