Getting dressed for a dinner date when you have no idea where you’re going can be a little tricky, am I right, ladies? I hate being overdressed or underdressed, but will err on the side of over if necessary. I like to consider my shoe options depending on the distance we will need to travel on foot, and my bag options depending on how long I’ll need to carry it for. I don’t really care for putting slap on my face, but I do put some effort into what I wear, even if it’s often done in haste.
So with twenty minutes to spare, the novelty of surprise wore off, the suspense was killing me, and I finally asked a certain someone for a hint as to where we were dining that night. Next thing I knew, Fred Astaire was belting out ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’ from our front room and I just had to double check I had got the right end of the stick. Mistakingly thinking you’re being swept off to The Ritz when you’re actually going… well, anywhere else… is a disappointment I wouldn’t even wish upon my most treasured arch nemesis. But I wasn’t mistaken; it was a dress and heels kinda night…
The Ritz is every bit the grand old dame I imagined, but there’s something even more beautiful about her at this time of the year. The lobby was engulfed by the most elaborate Christmas tree and there were festive decorations all down the hallway leading to the restaurant; it was hard not to feel special in there. The dining room itself is quite a sight, almost like stepping into another era; ostentatious, old fashioned glitz and glamour comes immediately to mind. As we sipped our glasses of champagne, we mulled over what deals might have been done or whose hearts might have been won within those four walls.
We quickly settled on the Menu Surprise, their six course tasting menu of seasonal dishes and let the Sommelier select a wine for us… Though the wine pairing was tempting, we sensibly decided it was a tad much for a Thursday night. Even for The Ritz. We might have changed our minds had we not been distracted by the first dish; an artichoke mousse with autumn vegetables, black walnut and the most delicate crisp. I thought it was an elegant opening from Chef John Williams and in hindsight, really set the tone for the whole menu: classics with a twist.
A luxurious goose liver terrine perfectly balanced with elements of mango, gingerbread and tonka bean followed. I initially suspected the mango to be an imposter, but the sweetness and freshness it brought defiantly cut through the richness of terrine. I had barely got over how good that was when the next cloche was uncovered to reveal two plump langoustine with cauliflower and pickled onion, which were finished at the table with a creamy bisque. When cooked simply and perfectly, as they were here, I think langoustines are irresistible. This was my favourite dish of the night!
The glistening veal sweetbreads with parsnip and truffle were also met with approval. Having attempted to prepare them at home ourselves, we can honestly appreciate the effort it takes to turn them into something truly polished. Our waiter hinted at the next dish before it arrived: ‘King of the sea’, he said. ‘Must be turbot’, we said. I think he was equal parts disappointed and impressed, but then again he wasn’t to know how many episodes of Masterchef have been watched in our house. The turbot dish looked sparse but less is more when you’ve got a great piece of fish, Oscietra caviar and a champagne sauce. I basically died and went to seafood heaven…
But then fell back down to earth when I tasted the fillet of lamb with courgette, artichoke and romero pepper. I avoid ordering lamb in restaurants as I usually find it too rich, and more so when it’s part of a tasting menu. Not even The Ritz couldn’t convince me otherwise. But that aside, I thought this whole dish was an odd inclusion. Up to this point, the dishes were elegant and cohesive but this felt like someone had their heart set on lamb but couldn’t decide on the sides so went with a slap dash mezze.
The surprise of the ballroom dancers sashaying across the dance floor helped me get over that disappointment, and the tropical palate cleanser of fruit and coconut foam was gratefully received. I was back on cloud nine when a gorgeous Mont Blanc topped with gold leaf arrived. It came complete with a shot of rum cleverly disguised as ice cream! But seriously, I imagine there’s a lot of precision to getting enough booze into the ice cream for the flavour but still ensuring it sets, so top marks to the pastry section.
We ended as we always do when we treat ourselves (or when a certain someone treats me) to an opulent feast: with petit fours, a glass of port and whiskey, and big cheesy grins. It’s taken The Ritz over 100 years to gain its first Michelin star this year, and while it’s not the best of the lot we’ve tried, it’s definitely deserving of the accolade. However, star or no star, people will always come to dine and dance and go goo-goo eyed over the surroundings at The Ritz because it’s an experience.
No one does glitz, quite like The Ritz.
Have you ever dined at The Ritz?
I’m building my London Bucket List as we’re heading off soon – what other iconic experiences should I pop on the list?