Nothing Gordon Ramsay does is ever simple, straightforward, or lacking in drama, and the opening of his new restaurant earlier this month continued that tradition.
The new restaurant, called Petrus, is a few minutes’ walk from the Berkeley Hotel, site of the former incarnation of Petrus, until an acrimonious split in 2008 between the celebrity chef and his former friend and protégé Marcus Wareing, who now runs an acclaimed restaurant there under his own name.
Ramsay took away the name and the wine cellar (which included a collection of multiple vintages of Chateau Petrus), and recently declared himself delighted to be resuming the fray in the same neighbourhood.
Petrus isn’t large: it seats just over 40, with tables arranged in a semi-circle around an air-conditioned, floor-to-ceiling glass tower that houses a wine cellar of 1,500 bottles, arrayed on their sides in clear plastic racks.
It’s the most striking feature in a coolly discreet room done – or perhaps underdone – in shades of beige and silver, with one wall panel in textured purple tones intended as a symbolic link to the restaurant’s namesake wine.
The food is in keeping with the look – modestly elegant and restrained, in a generic, ‘modern European’ haute-cuisine style, as in foie gras terrine thinly layered with confit and smoked duck, caviar over yellowfin tuna tartare, roasted pigeon breast with its confited leg, for example.
Savoury and crispy veal sweetbreads rest on a thin layer of choucroute whose tartness is accentuated by a sherry vinegar sauce. Pork fillet, ham, and black pudding form a rosette over a paltry bed of creamed cabbage, a pretty presentation lacking gusto.
Lobster tail on a slice of pork belly is an arrangement, rather than a marriage, of flavours or textures. Garnishes are meagre, merely decorative, and vegetable side dishes ordinary—broccoli with almonds, and dauphinoise potatoes (each dish gets its own distinctive sauce, however).
The cost is £55 for three courses. The menu is credited to Head Chef Sean Burbidge and Mark Askew, Executive Chef of Gordon Ramsay Holdings.
The wine list is long and bulky, physically and aesthetically, an all-star lineup, with prices to match. Entries are global, but its heart is firmly in the top vineyards of France. There are six vintages of Chateau Latour, from 1899 (£12,500) to 1959 (£5,990) to 1985 (£1,250).
Lafite is here in similar fettle, as is Romanee-Conti, and other usual prime suspects. Chateau Petrus has pride of place, with 33 vintages, from 1924 to 2003. The 1961 tops the scale at £49,500.
Petrus, 1 Kinnerton St., London SW1X 8EA Tel: +44 (0)20 7592 1609; www.gordonramsay.com/petrus. Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday.
Written by Brian St Pierre