Enjoyed Recommended

Some Thoughts on Gordon Ramsay at The London

I will readily admit that when it comes to fine dining, I am often out of touch. If you take all the places I’ve eaten since moving to the city over three years ago, and compare that list to the Michelin Guide NYC 2006, I have all of one star of dining experience. Granted, I did eat there twice – but it’s still the same star. I tend towards cheaper fare, but my eye drifts from time to time. Problem: I don’t like to fight for tables.

When the opportunity arose to eat at the new NYC restaurant of a [familiar chef]( who has eight Michelin stars under his belt, I thought, “Maybe it’s time to give this a shot.”

So two months ago to the day, I called up and made reservations for [Gordon Ramsay at The London]( for tonight, Katie’s 27th birthday. The restaurant, as of our visit, is just about 4 weeks old.

As I sit here, I realize it’s hard to do the meal justice without sounding like I’m gloating. I don’t want to gloat, and it’s certainly not my intent here – I want everyone to be able to experience food like this at one point or another in their lives. Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life – so many of my favorite memories revolve around eating and drinking with friends. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity, should it arise, to have a truly great meal.

My dinner consisted of:

* A glass of 1985 Veuve Clicquot Rose (quite refreshing, lovely color, nice rounded taste that wasn’t easily classified)
* Amuse Bouche: Gordon’s signature white bean cappuccino, flavored with mushrooms and black truffle (I broke my “no mushrooms” rule for this one, and it was worth it.)
* Lobster ravioli, poached in its own bouillon with celery root cream, shellfish vinaigrette and chervil velout̩ (The velout̩ was actually what made this dish Рit added just the right balance to the lobster.)
* A bottle of 2004 Schaetzel Gewurztraminer. (Yes, I drink Gewurztraminer with just about anything, and this is probably the best bottle I’ve ever had. Lovely gold color, just the right level of sweet, good viscosity – drank more than I probably should have.)
* Roast cannon of lamb with confit shoulder, candied onions, Imam Bayildi and marjoram jus (I was not crazy about the Imam Bayildi. I was extremely crazy about the rest, particularly the confit shoulder.)
* Palette cleanser: Roasted pineapple with vanilla yogurt and crystallized cilantro (was hoping to have this, and if there’s any complaint, it’s that I finished it too quickly.)
* Valrhona chocolate fondant with milk ice cream (to be honest, this was the most disappointing course – it wasn’t bad, but everything before it was excellent, so since this only came in at “good”.)
* Treats off the bon bon cart (at this point, my stomach was swearing at me, even after sedating it with a lime-vanilla marshmallow).
Katie’s dinner replaced the ravioli with a “mosaic of fruit de mer”, the lamb with a pigeon and foie gras dish, and the added bonus of a birthday scoop of strawberry-pomegranate sorbet.

I wasn’t surprised the food was excellent – the real test was going to be the service. As a frequent Eater reader, I had seen all the reports coming in – things about two hour seating time limits, inconsistencies, photo bans, and so on. I regularly have to deal with less than stellar service, so I lowered my expectations a smidge.

Turns out, that wasn’t necessary. All of the wait staff was attentive, pleasant, and polite; pretty much everything I want out of wait staff. When a small photo crew showed up to take some press shots, our server gently asked us if it was okay. (As a quasi-photoblogger, who am I to object?) My only complaint was that one of the wait staff had such a thick french accent, I often had a hard time understanding him.

The strange highlight of the evening was hinted at early on, when our first server mentioned casually in conversation that tours of the kitchen were available. (I can’t imagine this is the case on busier nights, but this was a Monday.) After dessert, Katie asked if it would be possible, and a few minutes later, we were back in the kitchen. The kitchen is fairly massive, as one that supports two restaurants + room service should be. We got to meet Neil Ferguson, the Chef de Cuisine, as well as Gordon himself (who I should note, for the sake of those who have only seen Hell’s Kitchen, was both polite and very sweet). There’s also a nice large private table where they serve a nine-course chef’s choice menu for six to eight.

Quick word about the decor – the restaurant has around twelve tables, and the space is balanced nicely between too intimate (read: crowded) and too sparse. The look is suitably modern yet tasteful.

Given how fickle the NYC dining scene is, I have no idea how Gordon will do here in the city – but as far as my unrefined palette goes, I was extremely happy, and plan on making a trip back sometime next year.

P.S. Long time readers may remember that when I used to do restaurant recommendation lists, I [referred to Aureole]( (the source of my single Michelin star above) as crossing the “costs more than the top of the line iPod” line. Taking into account Apple’s current pricing levels and the amount of wine at the meal, this meal also crossed that line – but I can safely say that a meal at Gordon Ramsay doesn’t necessarily have to break that threshold.