As one of only two restaurants in London to reach the pinnacle of three stars, Mr. Ramsay’s chef Clare Smyth has very high expectations to live-up to. After eight years at Royal Hospital Road, Smyth is no stranger to cooking for those who demand the best. Before returning to her native UK, she trained under Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monaco; she clearly thrives on both demanding bosses and clients.
A warm welcome from the team, busily about their work is sincere, and a great start. Front of house side, the Maitre’d has that kind of natural talent that most could only dream of; he quickly builds a rapport with you. Stopping after your aperitifAn aperitif (also spelled apéritif) is usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. arrives, he will run you through the various menus, telling you about the chef’s thoughts behind the dishes, which creates an intimate feeling and an expectation of something special to come.
Food wise, a delightful, velvety pea mousse, decorated with deep rocket oil, turned cucumber, radish and pretty pansy flowers is a refreshing start. The generous salt-cod purée on top of a tartine, covered with Mediterranean gems maintains standards for the starter course. On to mains, and the delicately spiced Szechuan duck breast, perfectly cooked to rosé is tender and delicious with the duck stock reduction. Though best of all are the mini pickled shallots, which are held in place by sweet roasted garlic purée; a perfectly balanced meal, with acidity, deepness and texture.
Smyth continues a faultless service with dainty morsels of spiced, roasted pineapple, served alongside freshly cooked coriander financiersA financier is a small French cake, often mistaken for a pastry. The financier is a light, moist teacake, similar to sponge cake, and usually contains almond flour, crushed or ground almonds, or almond flavoring. The basis of the cake itself is beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, powdered sugar and flour. for desert. While the flavour from the seeds is delicate, the accompanying micro-herb really heighten the taste, which is rounded-off by a luxurious coconut cream sorbet. Mignardise of rose water and lemon jelly, and the highest quality chocolate ganache are served with coffee. The little truffles are particularly special with their little silver trowels stabbed in the side to save you from picking them up in your fingers.
Ramsay and Smyth have obviously taken great care to ensure that the Royal Hospital Road experience is truly faultless. Sometimes you leave a restaurant feeling that something was lacking, here you will not. Together with the front of house, this team know how to please at the highest level – bravo.