However, on our last visit there was a feeling that the restaurant was at a point were it could start to get a bit stagnant and dated. The menu was not changing often and the food was at a point of starting to lose touch just a bit. At the start of last year, maybe fearing the same, Ramsay handed over more control of the restaurant to head chef Clare Smyth and she stepped up to become chef patron. The dining room got a new look and quickly you could see the menu starting to change.
Our recent visit last month was our best meal yet in Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay has had some of the best chefs in Britain through his kitchens. Many have gone on to their own success, but Clare Smyth, who became head chef in 2008 at the age of just 29, has stayed to lead the kitchen in Royal Hospital Road. With Ramsay stepping back from the restaurant to pursue television work, keeping Smyth was key to the sustained success of this restaurant as she is one of the finest chefs cooking anywhere at the moment.
Smyth's cooking style, like Ramsays, is very light, not relying on heavy use of butter or fats, but still packed with flavour. The starters on our lunch menu were perfect examples of this. Salt baked beetroot with smoked mackerel, horseradish and pink grapefruit was delicate, light, fragrant. A serving of 'potato salad' with a vacherin suace was quite simply superb - a subtle yet intense earthy flavour, perfectly textured. A main dish of quail with foie gras with Jerusalem artichoke and a game consomme was executed perfectly, but the best main dish was a serving of rabbit loin, Bayonne ham, lentils and pickled mustard seeds. It had flavours of a sort of light cassoulet and the skill in the dish was balancing the subtle rabbit with the pungent mustard seeds. A dessert of custard tart with blood orange, lemon balm and mascarpone sorbet may sound simple, but it is far from it. The thinnest pastry encasing an airy, light and delicate custard complimented perfectly with the blood orange and the sorbet.
The common theme through Smyth's food is perfectly executed, beautifully presented, food with a lightness of touch that few other chefs posses. She has managed to modernise and update the food, but still keeping an essence and identify of Royal Hospital Road.
We have eaten in several of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants and the service is always excellent. If anyone wants to learn about the art of service they should just visit Royal Hospital Road. The service during our meal had class, formality, knowledge, approachability, hospitality and warmth and this was without the brilliant Maître d' Jean-Claude Breton who was not working on this lunch service.
The lunch menu in Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is excellent value for the standard of food being served. Unlike other restaurants who put less thought into their lunch menus, this is not the case here. A meal here will make you want to come back. When we plan our future restaurant visits to London it is very hard for us to leave out another trip to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.