Entries in Gordon Ramsay (6)


Gordon Ramsay's Maze at the London

Soothsayers have been predicting the demise of Gordon Ramsay at the London, but for now it is alive and well. We visited Maze, the casual front room, on Friday night, and it was reasonably close to full. The main dining room appeared to be better than half full—not bad for a summer weekend.

None of this changes the fact that Gordon Ramsay is completely off the radar in New York. The restaurant took a critical drubbing when it opened 2½ years ago, and I suspect it is surviving on visitor traffic alone. I cannot remember the last local review, blog entry or message board post. It probably wasn’t within the last year.

We’ve visited the main dining room twice (here, here), finding it on both occasions better than the critics did. The Michelin inspectors agreed too, awarding two stars. Like many upscale restaurants, Gordon Ramsay has an informal front room, here dubbed “Maze,” which is meant to offer slightly less formal cuisine a more accessible à la carte price point.

Maze is a somewhat ill-defined concept. There are about a dozen small plates priced from $13–20, plus four “market specials” (essentially entrées) $20–38. The server advised that three of the small plates would make a suitable meal, but they come in widely varying sizes, and it’s tough to tell what you’re getting. We decided to share two of those and two entrées.

The atmosphere is tough to decipher. There are no tablecloths, tables are close together, and the restaurant shares space with the bar, where cocktails are $17. Yet, service is rather formal, with a flotilla of sauces and broths applied tableside, and a wine list where you’ll struggle to find much below $60. At least the wine comes properly chilled.

If dinner had ended with the appetizers, I might have been tempted to award three stars. A terrine of tête de veau (above left) with caramelized sweetbreads and green bean salad was superb. So was a silken filet of fluke (above right), in a portion that could very well have been an entrée.

But duck breast (above left) was rubbery and a pork chop (above right) was over-cooked. Both dishes were fine in their conception, but the same heavy hand at the meat station had ruined them.

We got plenty of attention when we sat down, and the food came out reasonably promptly, but after the restaurant filled up we felt a bit neglected. The space is pleasant, and if the rest of the food were as good as our appetizers we would feel more confident about returning.

Maze at the London Hotel (151 W. 54th St. between Sixth & Seventh Avenues)

Food: *½
Service: *½
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½


The Master Class at Gordon Ramsay


Note: The master class was offered under chef Josh Emett, who has since left the restaurant. Ramsay sold his interest, and is now affiliated in only a consulting role. The current chef is Markus Glocker.


A year ago, Gordon Ramsay at the London opened to outsized expectations. The city’s major critics quickly pronounced it a dud, with both Adam Platt and Frank Bruni awarding just two stars to a restaurant that was vying for four. I was more impressed than they were, awarding three stars, though I agreed with Platt and Bruni that the restaurant didn’t quite live up to the hype.

Ramsay fired chef de cuisine Neil Ferguson, replacing him with Josh Emett, who had cooked for Ramsay at the Savoy Grill. Neither Platt nor Bruni has been back since the change, which is understandable, given their hostility to upscale European (non-Italian) cuisines, even when it is executed well. But Ramsay was redeemed when the restaurant earned two stars in the 2008 Michelin Guide, making Gordon Ramsay at the London one of the top ten restaurants in town, in at least one informed opinion. It also earned the top rating of four stars in the annual Forbes survey.

I received an e-mail promotion for a Master Class at Gordon Ramsay, offered weekdays for parties of four to eight guests. Chef Emett demonstrates the day’s menu, and then you have a multi-course lunch at the Chef’s Table. My girlfriend and I thought it would make a great Christmas present for our parents. We made it a surprise, so they knew only that we were going to the London Hotel, with no idea what was to come.

The day went far beyond our expectations. We arrived at 10:30 a.m. After coffee and continental breakfast, Chef Emett spent ninety minutes demonstrating three complex recipes and explaining how the kitchen worked. We then sat down to a luxurious six-course lunch with wine pairings, finishing at around 2:30 p.m. All of that was only $195 per person for our party of five. This is a bargain when you bear in mind that it included what amounted to a private cooking lesson with a Michelin-starred chef and four bottles of wine.

The Master Class photos are in the previous post.

After the master class, we sat down to lunch at the Chef’s Table, which is in a nook facing the kitchen. We began with a bottle of champagne.

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First we were served two canapés: a crispy cod fish with salmon roe, and a fried mushroom (above left). Then came the amuse-bouche, a light butternut squash soup (above right).

Another bottle of wine came out, as we watched the ravioli plated at the pass: 

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Above: Ravioli of Tiger Prawn with Fennel Cream,
Shellfish Vinaigrette and Chervil Velouté

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the ravioli were plump and generously filled; two of them would have been excessive, especially given how rich they were. This was a four-star dish, easily the best ravioli I’ve had in a long time. It’s a popular dish, too: we saw many plates of it leaving the kitchen.

Another bottle of wine arrived. We watched the complex operation of plating of the Beef Wellington, and Chef Emett came by to check on us:


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And the pièce de resistance:


Above: Short Rib of Kobe Beef; Fillet of Beef Wellington with Madeira Jus

The Beef Wellington entrée was outstanding, and puts to shame every other preparation of this dish that I’ve ever had. There were something like a dozen separate ingredients on the plate. The Kobe beef short rib practically melted at the touch. The beef was beautiful,  perfectly aged and tender, the crisp puff pastry shell offering a gorgeous contrast.

By the way, the Beef Wellington is not currently on the regular menu, although Emett told us it has been offered in the past.

It was time for dessert:


The palate cleanser was a passion fruit crème with coconut foam and mint granata (above left). I must admit that I had doubts about whther the rice pudding (above right) could live up to the culinary fireworks of the rest of the meal, but there was far more to it than I expected, with a raspberry jam, mascarpone ice cream and pecans. It came with a dessert wine, followed by petits-fours that we could barely touch.


This was among the best meals we have had in New York. It is difficult to rate a meal like this, bearing in mind that most guests won’t experience the restaurant under these conditions. But recent reviews seem to confirm our impression that Gordon Ramsay is now one of the top handful of restaurants in the city.

Gordon Ramsay at the London (151 W. 54th Street between Sixth & Seventh Avenues, West Midtown)


The Master Class at Gordon Ramsay (Photos)

Note: The background of our visit and the meal itself are in the next post.

We all donned aprons and joined chef de cuisine Josh Emett in the kitchen, where he demonstrated the Ravioli of Tiger Prawn, Beef Wellington, and Rice Pudding. Besides being a master chef, he was a patient teacher and a true gentleman, spending close to ninety minutes with us.

I was encouraged to take photos liberally, which I did: He said, “We’re very laid back about that, contrary to popular belief.” He also said that he speaks to Ramsay almost every day, but that he has complete freedom to design the menu.

We began with…

Ravioli of Tiger Prawn with Fennel Cream, Shellfish Vinaigrette and Chervil Velouté

First, Emett makes the pasta by hand:



There’s enough leftover for a heavenly linguini, which was not actually part of the planned menu. We ate right out of the skillet it was prepared in:


The ravioli are filled with a shrimp and tiger prawn mousse, then assembled and trimmed into a circle. They are extremely delicate and prone to puncture, in which case the whole operation must be repeated:



Now it was onto… 

Fillet of Beef Wellington with Madeira Jus

The beef had been seasoned and pre-seared in a hot pan. A chicken, mushroom and shallot mousse was spread onto a light crêpe:


Then the fillet was wrapped inside, and the edges sealed:


Then, a flat puff pastry was brushed with an egg wash, and the crêpe containing the fillet rolled inside:



Rice Pudding with Raspberry Jam & Mascarpone Pecan Ice Cream

I’ve not much to say about the rice pudding, which was the most straightforward part of the demonstration, so I just offer the photos:


And some scenes from the kitchen:


Left: A line cook prepares venison loin for the dinner service; Center: There are two massive French stoves, which cost $750,000 apiece; Right: Emett is proud of an Apple Tarte Tatin, which is offered as a dessert for two.

It was time to sit down to lunch…


Gordon Ramsay at The London

Note: Gordon Ramsay at The London closed in October 2014. Local professional reviews were uniformly terrible, but the restaurant had two Michelin stars for most of its run, losing them only in its final year. The New York media paid practically no attention after the opening period, but somehow it remained open for eight years, outlasting many other imports, including two Alain Ducasse fine-dining restaurants, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House and Adour, both of which had far more critical acclaim than Ramsay.

The visit described below was from the restaurant’s early days, with founding chef Neil Ferguson, who was quickly fired after bad reviews. We paid a later visit in 2007, where we had a “Master Class” meal prepared by Ferguson’s replacement, Josh Emett. Later on, Markus Glocker took over; he later moved to Bâtard, where he earned a Michelin star.



Gordon Ramsay at The London Hotel is the latest New York restaurant vying for four stars from the Times and three from Michelin. The loudmouth chef already operates what is arguably the best restaurant in London (the three-star Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road), along with a bunch of others, including The Savoy Grill, which I visited last summer.

The pathway to hell is littered with chefs that opened New York restaurants with four-star aspirations, only to fall short. We’ll have to wait till late 2007 for the Michelin Guide, but Frank Bruni in the Times and Adam Platt in New York both delivered withering two-star smackdowns to Gordon Ramsay.

Meanwhile, plenty of people are making reservations to find out for themselves. It isn’t quite the hot ticket that Per Se was (and still is), but prime times nevertheless fill up quickly. I booked my date at Ramsay exactly two full months in advance, and a 6:15 p.m. reservation was the best I could get.

Ramsay offers two seven-course tasting menus at $110 or a three-course prix fixe at $80. While no one would call it inexpensive, it a bargain compared to other top-echelon New York restaurants. Had the major reviews been favorable, I suspect these prices would have gone up promptly. Now, perhaps they’ll be stable for a while.

I was keen to order the tasting menu, which Ramsay calls the “Menu Prestige.” My friend chose the vegetarian tasting menu, and we tried a few bites of each other’s plates, so I got a pretty good idea of what Ramsay’s cuisine is about. There aren’t any “Wow!” dishes, but there are no duds either. It is very classical and correct cooking, all executed to a high standard.

The bread service came in two flights. First, there were slices of crisp bread with two spreads: cream cheese and foie gras. I could do with plenty more of that foie gras spread. There was also a choice of sourdough or multi-grain bread with unsalted butter.

This was the tasting menu:

  1. Amuse bouche: White bean and mushroom soup with black truffle. Served in an capuccino cup with the soup whipped in a foam, in fact resembling capuccino.

  2. Pressed foie gras and game with port sauce and pickled mushrooms. A rather unmemorable terrine.

  3. Lobster ravioli with celery root cream and shellfish vinaigrette. An excellent dish, and I would have liked more of it.

  4. Striped bass fillet with pak choi and caviar velouté. Probably the highlight of the meal.

  5. Roast cannon of lamb with candied onions, confit tomatoes and marjoram jus. A peculiarly named dish, and for no good reason. There were several slices of rack of lamb, off the bone, and 8-hour braised lamb shoulder. My friend, who usually does not touch lamb, enthused about the braised shoulder, saying it was “the kind of lamb I could eat.”

  6. Cheese cart. Not as impressive as at several other high-end restaurants (e.g. Chanterelle, Picholine), but certainly very respectable, and I thoroughly enjoyed all that I had.

  7. Apriocot soufflé with Amaretto ice cream. A can’t-miss dessert.

The vegetable tasting menu had the following:

  1. Amuse bouche: Vegetable soup
  2. Marinated beetroot with ricotta and pine nut dressing
  3. Sweet onion gratin with Parmigiano Reggiano
  4. Cep risotto with shaved truffles
  5. Chef’s Preparation, seasonal vegetables
  6. Chocolate mousse [substitution]
  7. Apricot soufflé with Amaretto ice cream

My friend’s two favorites were the amuse bouche (which, like mine, came in a small coffee cup) and the chef’s preparation of seasonal vegetables. You wouldn’t think a plate of sautéed vegetables could stand up as an entree, but Ramsay made it work, and my friend couldn’t stop singing its praises. The kitchen was also happy to accommodate my friend’s request for a substitution, as neither of the standard choices for the sixth course (grilled pineapple or the cheese cart) appealed to her.

I requested a wine pairing, and the sommelier did an excellent job for $60 each. We hadn’t discussed price, and I actually expected him to come in considerably higher than he did.

Service was friendly and generally excellent, with only minor flaws that at a less-expensive restaurant one wouldn’t even bother to notice. Our meal took a bit more than two hours, which seemed just a tad rushed. It’s difficult to pace a tasting menu, and this one needed a bit more leisure. At one point I asked a server to slow down, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.

The room is comfortable and elegant, with tables widely spaced, and heavily padded armchairs to sit in. Our table would have been large enough for a party of four at many restaurants. 

After dinner, we were offered a tour of the kitchen. It is a huge space, as the same kitchen is responsible for the main dining room, the adjoining London Bar (a casual “tapas” restaurant), and I believe the hotel’s room service operation as well. Everything is immaculate, and you can easily see why they are proud to show it off. We walked by the chef’s table that blogger Augieland raved about. I’m sure the guests there are fed like kings, but with servers and touring diners constantly walking by, it’s no place for privacy.

Ramsay did not earn the coveted four-star ranking from Frank Bruni. The Times critic has been on the job for 2½ years, and has yet to award four stars to a restaurant that opened on his watch. (For the record, Bruni was the first to rate Per Se and Masa, but they were already open before he landed the job. His other four-star write-ups have been re-reviews.) Surely he is itching to pull the trigger. But Bruni has made it clear that he has little interest in traditional formality. Bruni also has the modern critical bias (shared with many others) against restaurants that do classic things well without generating a lot of excitement.

I have only one meal to go on, but if I were reviewing for the Times, I would have awarded three stars. In its elegance and polish, Gordon Ramsay is in some respects better than many of the three-star restaurants I’ve visited, but it doesn’t have the “Wow!” factor that the best restaurants deliver.

Gordon Ramsay at The London (151 W. 54th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, West Midtown)

Food: ★★★
Service: ★★★
Ambiance: ★★★½
Overall: ★★★


Will that be Mr. and Mrs?

Gordon Ramsay at the London doesn’t open for another 17 days, so the only thing we can talk about is the reservations line. Over at eGullet, every comment by Ramsay’s reservationists is being thoroughly dissected. For instance, one caller was told, “No trainers are allowed in the dining room.” (Trainers are the British word for athletic shoes.)

This morning, I called for a December 30th reservation. The person who answered spoke American English, and explained the dress code as “jacket & tie for the gentlemen, smart dresses for the ladies.” But there was one quirk. When I requested a table for two, she asked, “Will that be Mr. and Mrs?

I have no secrets about whom I’m dining with. Nevertheless, there are probably some diners for whom that’s an awkward question. In New York, married couples are outnumbered by gay couples, dating heterosexual couples, unmarried partners living together, married people cheating on their spouses, business associates, and friends who are simply having a social night out. Does the restaurant really need to know the relationship of its customers?

Ramsay’s New York restaurant will be the latest serious contender for four New York Times stars and three Michelin stars (see press release). Opening night is November 16th. Introductory pricing will be $45 prix fixe for three courses at lunch, $85 prix fixe for three courses at dinner, or $117 for the tasting menu. I do not expect those prices to last.

Ramsay already holds three Michelin stars for Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, and he also operates several one-star restaurants. I dined at Ramsay’s one-star Savoy Grill over the summer (report here). Another of Ramsay’s one-star restaurants, Maze, is the inspiration for a companion restaurant called The London Bar, which will serve small plates and bar food—also at The London Hotel.

Gordon Ramsay at The London (151 W. 54th St. between Sixth & Seventh Avenues, West Midtown)


The Savoy Grill

Despite my keen interest in Gilbert and Sullivan, I’ve never dined at the Savoy Hotel (though I had high tea there once, many years ago). I had wanted to dine at three-star Gordon Ramsay, but that restaurant is closed this summer for refurbishing. I chose the Savoy Grill instead, which turned out to be another restaurant in Ramsay’s large empire, though I didn’t realize this when I booked.

The Savoy Grill is more formal than its name would suggest, with fussy French-style service and tuxedo-clad waiters reminding me a bit of Alain Ducasse in New York. It is a much larger restaurant than Ducasse, and only one star, rather than three, so they are not quite as attentive, but many of the ideas are similar. The previous evening, I had a lovely window seat facing the Tower of London. At the Savoy Grill, I was seated next to a large column with a view of the hotel driveway.

After I sat down, a server wheeled over a cart with several champagnes, from which I was invited to choose. In this type of restaurant, I’m always wary of getting stuck with something that costs $20 a sip, so I asked him for a printed list. He was apparently confused about this, and asked if I’d like bottled water. I said that tap water would be fine. With barely concealed disgust, he slid my water glass to the edge of the table (apparently a signal to his colleagues that this chump doesn’t want the bottled variety) and moved on.

When a server arrived, I explained that I did want champagne. He apologized and sent the champagne guy back over. He remained quite irritated that I wanted to see a list of the choices, but he managed to point out where they were on the wine list, and I chose one. For all that trouble, it was worth it—a glass of sparkling rosé that was surprisingly sweet and smooth.

The regular menu is a £55 prix fixe, but on weekends there is a £30 alternative, which they call the “grill menu,” with six appetizers and six main courses to choose from. Several of these looked compelling, so I decided to save myself £25. Smoked salmon (£4 supplement) was unimpressive. It came without sauces or any other accompaniments, and the taste was no better than average. Particularly for a dish that carries a supplement, I expected a better performance.

Wiltshire pork belly was a tour de force. (After I ordered it, the server mentioned that it was a particular favorite of his.) It was cut in a long strip, in the shape of two thick cigars placed end-to-end. It was tender, fatty, and flavorful. As the server had proved he and I had similar tastes, I accepted his recommendation of the white chocolate cake for dessert, and this was most enjoyable.

There was, again, a reasonable selection of half-bottles available. Remembering my happy experience with Chablis at Le Pont de la Tour, I chose Chablis again (£25), but this was a more pedestrian bottle that reminded me why I don’t usually order Chablis.

After the champagne fiasco, the server went out of his way to ensure I was taken care of. If anything, the service was a bit too rushed, and I was out of there in about an hour. When I’m paying this kind of money, I’d prefer that the meal unwind a bit more slowly. However, to their credit the champagne was comped. (At least, I think it was—nothing was said, but it wasn’t on the bill). In total, dinner came to £59 before tip.

When I told the server that I’m from New York, he introduced me to the house manager, who will be transferring to New York later this year to manage Gordon Ramsay’s first American restaurant, which will be gunning for three Michelin and four New York Times stars. We had a pleasant chat and exchanged business cards. Obviously my Savoy Grill experience is not indicative of Ramsay’s three-star cuisine, but I’d advise him to focus hard on the kind of service glitches that the Times’s current reviewer tends to penalize.

One wonders how much time Ramsay will be able to spend in New York. The house manager said that Ramsay will be there for “the first few months,” and then occasionally thereafter. Ramsay has something like nine restaurants in London alone. Coincidentally, during my stay I saw him on a TV show called “The f word,” which features Ramsay swearing at everybody in sight. In the show’s main vignette, four amateur cooks do a service in the kitchen with Ramsay, in which he hurls expletives at them on the slightest provcation. The guests don’t seem to mind, as they all seem to know about Ramsey’s famous temper. Being told to shut the fuck up is obviously part of the game.

The Savoy Grill (Savoy Hotel, Strand, London, WC2R 0EU)

Food: **½
Service: *½
Ambiance: **
Overall: **