Some evenings live in your memory forever. Such an evening was dining at The Ritz. We love it when a restaurant lives up to expectations and the staff goes to large lengths to give their guests a wonderful time, and they did.
On their website are rules for dress code in most areas, including the bars and restaurants. Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are frowned upon, and the people wearing them are either prohibited from entering or provided with more suitable clothing. We love that. It is simple, really: When a hotel and restaurant have high standards, and the staff is expected to provide the uppermost services, at least you can honour their efforts with a minimum of class. Otherwise, it becomes a freak show where the staff is on display for their fanciness for hobos in tracksuits.
So, dressed appropriately, we were ready for the seven-course tasting menu with complimentary wines.
Liver pâté and goat cheese
Blancs de Blancs champagne
We ordered the house champagne, and it was excellent with the flavourful amuse bouches, a canape with liver pâté and cherries, and a goat cheese with basil. It was easy to distinguish the ingredients, and everything had a purpose. Besides, we got a delicious sour dough bread.
Tomato and Basil
Marco de Bartoli, Marsala Vigna la Miccia 2016, Sicily, Italy
Green tomatoes, a clear tomato and basil gel with fresh flavours was a perfect starter. Served on a small bread pillow with salt, it both looked and tasted amazing.
For this, the marsala wine was a brave choice. You should think that the dark, caramel-like wine would clash with the acidity of the vegetables, but it truly complimented them.
Tartlet of Duck Liver with cherry and pistachio
Château St Michelle & Dr Loosen, Eroica, Riesling 2019, USA
Nobody is allowed to say foie gras anymore. However, we love it, and we eat it. Naturally, you can produce it in a more animal friendly way, these days, and The Ritz is one of the restaurants which does so. It was a wonderful dish, rich and sweet, and the warmth of the cherries supplemented the liver, while the crunchy pistachio added bite to the dish and the wonderful brioche accompanying it. Here, it made sense with a top of gold flake – if not for the taste, then for the sight of it.
A less brave sommelier would have switched the wine and the food between the first two courses, using this Riesling for the tomato, and the Marsala for the foie gras. Luckily, our Italian sommelier took chances, and the Riesling was perfect for this dish. It was sweet and acidy with a hint of petroleum, and it added a fine resistance to the fat liver pâté.
Dover Sole Veronique
Yves Cuilleron, La Petite Côte, Condrieu, Rhône 2019, France
This was sea meats forest and wine fields. You rarely get mushrooms with fish, somehow the two elements seem incompatible. The sole was made as a ballotine – a brave choice – with sliced mushrooms and shelled and halved green grapes on top. It was genuinely surprising, and this complexity worked perfectly.
The white wine was peachy with a hint of yoghurt and acid. On its own, you have to wait for the flavour, but with Dover sole and mushrooms, it opens and adds freshness.
Veal Sweetbread with parmesan and truffle
David Duband, Bourgogne, 2018, France
For the sweetbread we got two sauces: one with parmesan, one with truffle. Not mixed together but working together enhancing the consistency and flavour of the sweetbread. Three salt flakes were all you needed to complete it – but when that is your only complaint on such an occasion, there really is nothing to put a finger on.
The wine was perfect for the sweetbread, it gave a distinctive and clear counterreaction to the meat.
Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Costasera, Veneto 2016, Italy
This was a showstopper. The table next to us had already had their pigeon, and we revelled in the magnificent duck press (or rather, pigeon press) being brought to the table. The waiter cut the pigeon breast for the plate, and the rest was put into the press, using the juices for a flambéed sauce with cognac.
The pigeon was accompanied by white asparagus, poivre verte and potato crisps. It was a fabulous dish, simply stunningly executed. The red wine was deep and flavourful and complemented everything beautifully.
Tunworth, pear and truffle
Villa Mattielli, Rocioto di Soave, Ambra, Veneto 2015, Italy
This was cheese, pear, truffle, and the famous rooftop honey from The Ritz – with a sealed (of course) envelope containing the history of the bee farm.
The wine complemented the dish, which again was meticulously executed. There had been no mishaps the entire evening.
Wild strawberry and white chocolate
Salted peanut with praline and milk ice cream
Villa Mattielli, Rocioto di Soave, Ambra, Veneto 2015, Italy
This dessert truly celebrated strawberry ice cream. Not the industrial ones from your childhood, but the succulent, sweet, rich strawberry from a summer’s day. The tuille added crunch, and the chocolate ganache had its own part to play without overpowering the sorbet.
The salted peanut and caramel were sweet and flavourful – again, we felt pampered with taste explosions.
The wine was an encore, which also worked perfectly with the two sweet desserts. Now, the wine turned a bit acid, which suited it. The sommelier knows his wines, and he was attentive and inventive in his descriptions.
The tasting menu is called The Epicurean Journey, referring to spoiling and challenging the senses, and we got what we came for. The overwhelmingly beautiful room added to the experience, and we will definitely be back.
It became obvious during the evening that some guests are there to enjoy their own company, while we were there to enjoy the atmosphere, the food, the people, and the whole experience. Even though we were putting on The Ritz, the staff embraced us with marvellous flavours, an exquisite cuisine, and their attentive knowledge – if we let them, and we did. They took care in not imposing on those guests who were there to spend time alone, and they were aware of those who wanted to dive into everything.
This restaurant is easily on the top three of all the restaurants we have ever been to. As to attentiveness, the waiters had heard us talking about passing 40 restaurant visits on a Michelin level, and for a last surprise they brought us a delicious raspberry cake to bring home. This is not our last time at The Ritz. We will be back. Properly dressed, of course.