Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Hospital Road

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is one of those stable features on the fine dining scene and how lucky we were when the brother & sister-in-law gave Husband an incredibly generous voucher for lunch at this 3 Michelin star favourite! I had to be extra nice to the husband to merit being his Plus 1, let me tell you! The restaurant is perplexingly shut on the weekends but open on a Bank Holiday Monday, so a reservation duly secured.

The lovely sister-in-law raved about it and so we went in with high expectations.  I have an expectation of a certain layer of stuffiness when it comes to French restaurants of a certain calibre but once seated, nothing of the sort could be said.  A bewildering assortment of staff introduced themselves (in truth, a little too many) but their warmth shone through even though I couldn’t remember who did what!

The exterior is pretty unassuming, rather like the Fat Duck, a discreet sign is the only thing suggesting you’re coming close to foodie royalty.  Inside, it’s similarly subtly furnished, tables set aside at reasonable distances to each other, low tables to rest handbags on (I love that touch!) and interesting iron-wrought ceiling fixtures.

We opt for Champagne to kick off, we are celebrating Husband’s birthday after all, and I’m highly bemused when 3 glasses make their way to our table – is he joining us I whisper? No, he’s merely tasting it to make sure it’s all right and fruity and bubbly or whatever it is the sommelier is tasting for (Yep, I know, Philistine much?) and pronouncing it in good form, he leaves us to enjoy.  What a great job that must be, sipping away a tiny bit of everyone’s yummy fizz and wines.

But enough of all this sniffing & swirling, onto the main event.  The waiter offers up his recommendations, but we’re both in a contrary sort of mood and not in the mood for anything very heavy, so we go off-recommendation! I’ve opted for the Globe Artichoke with Pork Belly to start and Husband’s gone for Roast Quail!

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But not on menu, we are served a little amuse bouche of white sausage of chicken with tarragon broth to start – it’s very light but flavourful and a great taste of what’s to come!

My Globe artichoke is almost too beautiful to eat and I love how tender and how subtly it’s flavoured, however one complaint is that the richness of the Pork Belly threatens to overshadow the delicacy of the Artichoke.  Husband however has so no such issues with his Roast Quail and I barely get a chance to have a bite, he’s polished it all up so quickly.

They’re not stingy on the bread here but we’ve been warned not to overfill on the bread and it takes almost superhuman effort to refuse, but we persevere and we’re on to the proper main event.  Husband’s opted for the Pork Belly and I’ve gone for the Skate.

Now this is going to sound awfully churlish because the food was really very very good.  There were three cuts of pork, Pork cheek, Belly and one wrapped in Black pudding.  All were tender, beautifully cooked and flavoured.  The skate was also perfectly cooked and all accompaniments worked together seamlessly.  It just wasn’t any greater than I would have expected.  Chapter One in Kent does as good a job on the food, as does the Dairy in Clapham (Even without a Michelin star).  It was all top notch food, just not food that I dream about months later.  Whereas about 2 years later, I still think fondly about that Jugged Hare from Chapter One and my previous arch-enemy, the Onion Soup from the Dairy.

For dessert, husband has opted for the Vanilla Parfait with Poached Rhubarb and I, spotting the biggest stinkiest cheese trolley, have opted for the cheese.  Husband rolls his eyes at me saying Trust you to order the dish with a supplement and that’s when we realise – his menu has prices, mine does not? A little bit of sexism at play, clearly he, husband, man (grunt grunt) is in charge of the bill and my delicate ladylike self cannot possibly see what this costs.  What on earth do they do if a mixed crowd comes in?  But I digress really, this isn’t the time or place for a sexist rant.

The poached rhubarb and vanilla parfait comes pretty in pink, but I, liking neither rhubarb nor vanilla, have my eyes firmly on the cheese trolley.  Lovely lovely woman that she is, doesn’t bat an eyelid at my greed as instead of choosing a small selection, I carry on saying things like Ooh what about a little of this one, and soon enough I have enough cheese to conquer France.  But I am up to the challenge and shamefully quickly, all that wonderful cheese has gone and in plentiful quantity for both of us to share!

We’re invited in for a sneaky peak to the kitchen and I think I may have set my hopes a bit high when I imagined Gordon himself to be swearing at someone in there, but it’s interesting to see what a professional kitchen looks like and I can imagine I’m on a set of some kind of Masterchef.  And when we return, lo and behold, it’s petit four time.  My favourite sort of time.

The most delicate rosewater jellies accompany rich chocolate truffles and that intriguing bowl you see in the middle is white chocolate shells with strawberry ice cream in the middle.  Very delicate, like eating little mini white chocolate magnums.  But obviously better.

Somehow we’ve managed to while away quite a few hours here.   Yes it’s true that I don’t dream about the food we had there, but I do remember idyllic hours swept away in a haze of good food, divine bubbly stuff and jollied by excellent service.  And that is why Restaurant Gordon Ramsay commands the stars that it does – time slips away as you leave your cares at the door.

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