February 9, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:47 pm

Firstly, I apologise for the lack of pictures. I regret it now, but I wasn’t sure how formal the restaurant would be and so I didn’t take my camera with me. To be honest, it’s so old and rubbish that it couldn’t have really done the beautiful food justice anyway. The pictures on the restaurant website look very similar to what we were served and give an accurate impression of what the presentation is like.

Claridges hotel really is spectacular. We got in through the small side entrance on Dawes street and I was blown away by the grandeur. I found myself at the top of a long, stylishly decorated, corridor leading into a large reception area with a huge roaring fire. I was so busy gawping at the magnificence of it all that I didn’t notice the small set of steps in front of me and so , very elegantly, went tumbling face first onto the black and white  art-deco flooring.

Fortunately no-one apart from Goon saw me do this and, once he had picked me up off the floor, we spent a good ten minutes trying to locate the restaurant.

Eventually we found it and were seated. At first I found the situation a little intimidating. The restaurant  seemed to be filled with immaculately dressed, beautiful, rich people and, while I had tried to make some effort, I felt a bit outdone. But, with the very attentive staffThis feeling soon evaporated and the sounds of relaxed chatter and jazz piano from the lounge next door helped us to relax. 

The decor in there was interesting. I liked the art-deco styling although I wasn’t convinced by the orange-brown colour scheme at first. Oddly enough, it did grow on me after a while. There is something very ’20s’ about everything here, including the staff uniforms.

Before I start raving about the food, I should mention how good the restaurant staff are. I have never experienced service quite like this before. It was perfectly efficient without being at all intimidating. They obviously go to a lot of effort to make the experience of eating at Claridges so special.

To start the evening and to help us relax a bit, we ordered two bellinis. These were perfect, if a bit pricey at £12.50 each. A selection of canapés were presented to us including some smoked chicken pastry cigars, parmesan flatbreads and tiny pastry discs topped with crab.

Whilst nibbling one the crab, I tried to  decide between the A La Carte and the Prestige menu. They both looked utterly amazing and it took me a very long time to choose. In the end we both went a la carte. After a bit of debate, Goon and I decided on a bunch of things we both wanted to try. I spent ages changing my mind from wanting monkfish and chervil parpadelle to the canon of lamb with roasted sweetbreads, and back again. I eventually settled on the latter preceded by the smoked haddock vichysoisse topped with a poached duck egg. Goon went for the assiette of blue fin tuna two ways followed by pork cheeks cooked in honey and cloves with dauphinoise potatoes.

Once we had chosen food we turned to the wine list. We didn’t get very far. It was an enormous book including around 1000 wines. Fortunately, the two sommeliers that evening were superb. The first we spoke to made an absolutely brilliant choice of a French white, ‘Trelan Chebanon,’ that suited our meals perfectly.

With food and wine ordered, along came the amuse-bouche. This was a beautiful, delicate pumpkin soup with parmesan and, I think, white truffle oil. There was nothing to find fault with here -  the soup was light and creamy and very subtley flavoured by the parmesan and truffle. But, with the amuse bouche came my first small gripe. I was asked twice if I had finished, when I hadn’t. I didn’t really feel hurried but I did get a bit embarrased and stopped talking to finish up my soup.

Not long afterwards, the starters arrived. My vichysoisse was done in a very classic Ramsay style. Chunks of smoked haddock were piled in a small bowl and the poached egg sat on top. The soup was poured into the bowl at the table so the green liquid covered the fish but the duck egg was left visible on top. The soup was gorgeous… creamy and fishy with a really good flavour from the leeks. The poached egg, however, turned out to be the only major gripe I had with the meal.   

Surely there is NO NEED for a restaurant this good to be using a poaching tool for poached eggs? Proper poached eggs are so much better. Poaching tools are rubbish! :-(

Goon’s assiette of tuna was amazing. The dish was made of a tuna carpaccio with pickled white horseradish and topped with slices of marinated seared tuna. There was nothing to complain about at all. The seared tuna was done perfectly and the carpaccio was gorgeous. You can tell they use the best ingredients here.

Then along came the mains. When I was told that the lamb was going to be served medium rare a little voice in the back of my head shouted “NO! DO IT BLUE!”  It was good that I managed toshut up the little voice because the lamb arrived exactly how I wanted it. Again, you could tell that they had used the best quality produce. The lamb really was unlike any I’d had before, with a much richer, almost gamey, flavour. Everything else on my plate was lovely too but the lamb stood out miles, even compared to the gorgeous herby sweetbreads.

Goon’s pork cheeks were excellent. I’d been apprehensive about trying them after reading about how many people hate them, but I needn’t have worried. While they still wouldn’t be my first menu choice, they were very, very tasty. The flavour of cloves had really permeated the pork and it had been cooked to perfection. The meat literally melted in the mouth.

By this stage I was in fits of giggles due to my sheer disbelief of how good everything was. This got even worse as our ‘pre-dessert,’ which I really wasn’t expecting, arrived.

It was a rhubarb soup topped a ‘milk foam.’  This, again, was delicious and a sensible colour, unlike anything I do with rhubarb. Somehow they’s manage to eliminate all sourness and we were just left with a subtle, sweet flavour of rhubarb.

After perusing the dessert menu we went for the recommended options: a cinnamon creme brulée and a Valrhona chocolate fondant tart. Time to enlist the help of sommelier number 2, who chose a totally luscious dessert wine (off menu unfortunately, so I didn’t see what it was,) to go with my creme brulée. Goon decided to have a glass of port with his chocolate fondant.

The chocolate fondant tart was probably the sexiest thing I have ever tasted. Shame it was Goon’s and not mine so I only got a spoonful. As the spoon broke it, it oozed gooey valrhona chocolate all over the plate. 

The creme brulee didn’t disappoint at all, even if it seemed more like a creme caramel than the brulées I’ve had before. The little apple doughnuts it came with were delicious!

So finally, we finished with petit fours. I have had better chocolates but these were still very good and I was very impressed how two of them had been filled with ice-cream. 

So we wandered back to Hammersmith discussing the merits of our bellinis, very, very happy indeed. This was the most expensive meal I’ve had, but it is undoubtably the best by a LONG way. If you can, save up for a trip here. It is astoundingly good!  

6 Comments »

  1. Ros, the meal sounds wonderful! I’m glad you chose the lamb and sweetbreads and Goon went for the pig cheeks, the choices seem to suit your palate (unusual meats and all). The chocolate fondant sounds soooo good! Perhaps Paul and I will go there for our tenth anniversary!!

    Comment by Freya — February 9, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  2. You shouldn’t be surprised at how good it was. When you pay that much and have a chef doing each element of your dish it really should be perfect. I’m surprised they rushed you at all. And I agree about the poached egg - it’s very easy to make without any tools (at least the second, third, etc. in a row are easy, it’s the first one that goes wrong!). The real question is “was it worth the money?” Sounds like your answer was “yes”. I must admit that when I went to Midsummer House and we spent the same sort of money (heading towards a 4-figure sum) the answer was “probably no”. But you only live once and should experience everything.

    Comment by Trig — February 9, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

  3. Freya: I reckon it would be a gret place for a big anniversary dinner!

    Trig: They didn’t really rush me - I think I genuinely looked like I’d finished because I was gibbering so excitedly to Goon. Seeing as it cost about £250 for ‘the works’ I think it is good value for money. I’ve been to enough places which cost around £50 but you get mediocre food and mediocre service and no nice extras like amuse bouche or canapes… nor a fab sommelier (or in fact ANY sommelier) and no dessert wine. I think that there have been a few occasions, where I should have just saved my money for the purposes of making a visit to a place like Claridges, but you never know that until it is too late.

    Comment by ros — February 10, 2007 @ 8:27 pm

  4. I agree with you on the value for money. Yes, GR @ Claridges is expensive but it is such a worthwhile experience. You really feel pampered and cossetted for your entire visit, not to mention the gorgeous art deco room, those beautiful charger plates, and the super-attentive staff. On my last visit I took my brother for lunch when he was visiting from South Africa. It was a real eye-opener for him in terms of just how good fine dining and service can get! And aren’t the ice cream petit fours fab fab fab? Next time, have the cheese trolley - it is one of my greatest pleasures in life.

    Comment by Jeanne — February 13, 2007 @ 5:23 pm

  5. Hey, i posted a review on BBC’s ‘what’s cooking for valentines!?’ thread (page 5) about GR’s Maze, if you’d like a point of comparison. I’ve never seen pork cheeks on a menu (or indeed anywhere) before - are you going to attempt it at home?! :-)

    Comment by Schmoofaloof — February 15, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  6. yep agreed food at Claridges is rather good.. have u tried Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant near the Royal Brompton Hospital? i’ve always wanted to check it out after trying Claridges, Menu at the Connaught and Maze.. but there seems to be a month long wait list for reservations??

    anyone been to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Bray? another place i’m dying to check out..

    Comment by savi3 — February 23, 2007 @ 12:21 am

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