After a tumultuous year that often resembled a TV soap opera rather than a multi-Michelin-starred restaurant empire in full swing, Gordon Ramsay encountered a surprisingly calm reception when his newest enterprise, the considerably refurbished Savoy Grill, re-opened in late December.
The opulent restaurant, a London icon since 1889, had been closed for three years as part of a £220-million renovation of the Savoy Hotel.
The redesign includes crystal chandeliers, red tortoise-shell paneling, gilt-edged mirrors, and deep, dark-brown carpeting, evoking the look of an elegant luxury restaurant a century ago. The menu follows suit, as if none of the trends of the last 50 years, from nouvelle cuisine to molecular gastronomy, had ever occurred.
Two dishes feature lobster (thermidor and bisque), and another two smoked salmon; there are snails, foie gras, and caviar; Dover sole is offered grilled or meuniere; roasts are available from a trolley, carved at tableside. Omelette Arnold Bennet, a combination of flaked smoked haddock and cheese in two rich sauces, was invented here in the 1920s, and endures (the current version is perfectly cooked, stylishly served in a small copper pan).
Mainly though, Grill it says, and grill it does. There are six cuts of well-aged steak on offer, as well as mutton, venison, pork, veal, and liver, accompanied by a choice of sauces.
There are few garnishes: a traditional meat-and-two-veg meal requires extra side dishes, at between £3.50 and £4.50, and prepared simply and carelessly, as if they were an unimportant afterthought.
Braised dishes show more flair. Smoked bacon sauce adds a pleasant pungency to butter-poached and roasted partridge, and a ‘pie’ of chopped mutton, carrots, and turnips comes with a topping of mashed potato, all set in a pool of homemade Worcester sauce whose bite contrasts nicely with the light sweetness of the dish. Retrospection, it seems, isn’t all bad.
The wine list is contemporary, about 200 choices from around the world, organised by style, at unrelenting mark-ups.
Although the selections are well-chosen, there is little of note under £40, and many of the red wines are from recent vintages are young for current consumption.
On the whole, what’s remarkable is that it is simple and, except for the setting, mostly unremarkable.
The only place Gordon Ramsay’s name appears is on the bill, which may best sum up the enterprise.
The Savoy Grill, Strand, London WC2R 0EU. Tel: +44 (0)20 7592 1600; www.gordonramsay.com/thesavoygrill. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Written by Brian St Pierre