I hate to admit it, but I’ve seen an entire season of Hell’s Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay’s reality show on Fox where cooks from across the US compete on teams (and eventually as individuals) to run dinner service at a restaurant. I love the way Gordon Ramsay is so tough on the cooks and he’s such a caricature on the show that it’s quite entertaining to watch (most of the contestants are actually line cooks, not chefs that have been through formal training). He’s also quite funny on Kitchen Nightmares, the show that features a restaurant in trouble because they don’t know how to clean up after themselves (that show is actually pretty disgusting because restaurant kitchens can be pretty disgusting). Well, I ended up visiting Gordon Ramsay at The London hotel with a reader, John, and waited until the end of the year to visit because there were rumors floating around that 1. the restaurant wouldn’t be able to keep their Michelin stars and 2. the restaurant was going to close because business wasn’t going well. Luckily for them, they kept their two stars AND the night I went they were fully booked.
I met up with John at the restaurant after work and we walked past the casual dining area, Maze, which was surprisingly packed for a Wednesday night (they are in a hotel and most of the people there were dressed in suits so I’m guessing the majority of them either work nearby or they’re staying in the hotel on business and have expense accounts for their meals). The first impression of the formal dining room: the perfume or air freshener of the room was way too strong and was beginning to give me a headache. There were fresh flowers all over the room which might have been the culprit because the only other possibility was someone spilling an entire bottle of perfume ALL OVER THE ENTIRE restaurant. I’m usually not a huge complainer when it comes to perfume, but this scent was really off-putting and made me want to sneeze all through dinner.
To start, a server brought over some mushroom onion soup as an amuse bouche:
As well as some crisps with creme fraiche and micro-basil:
The crisps were very buttery and were delicious with the creme fraiche but the mushroom soup was a little too oniony and heavy for an amuse bouche.
I started with three types of bread – the baguette, cranberry walnut, and the sourdough roll:
The baguette was much lighter and airy than French baguettes but still had a substantial chew factor to it. The cranberry walnut was also really delicious and fruity but the sourdough roll was a little too tough for me.
For another amuse bouche, a server brought by cured salmon:
For my first course, I ordered the Sautéed Hudson Valley Foie Gras cipollini onions, black olive caramel, balsamic toasted brioche:
And John ordered the Butter Poached Maine Lobster arugula, beurre rouge:
Foie gras is really difficult to saute because if you leave it on the pan too long, it turns into oil, however, the foie gras course was a little too soft for my liking. Also, the toasted brioche was tough and too savory AND they didn’t bring any more brioche after we had finished the brioche but not the foie gras (Chef Ramsay, maybe you should go through service at a three star restaurant to see what you should be doing).
The lobster was a bit better; poached in butter and not overcooked but it didn’t taste any more special than the poached lobster special I’ve had at Minetta Tavern.
For our main courses, I ordered the Roasted Colorado lamb, confit potatoes, fava bean tapenade, lamb vinaigrette:
And John ordered the venison with a side of roasted yellow beets:
The entrees were both well executed but both were a bit on the bland side; in the beginning of the year, I thought everything was overseasoned or too salty; now I feel that the last couple of restaurants I’ve visited have been on the plain side (maybe my taste buds have gotten used to over-salted foods).
For our palate cleanser, the server brought by some sorbet:
I’m not exactly sure how this dish tasted because I took one bite and saw that there was something in my micro-basil that was moving…specifically, a spider that wasn’t cleaned from the basil! I was sitting in my own Gordon Ramsay kitchen nightmare, except this time it was Gordon Ramsay’s fault for not teaching his sous chef’s to clean the vegetables and herbs better.
For dessert, we ordered the pistachio souffle with milk ice cream:
And the Concord grape tart:
Both desserts were very sweet but the pistachio souffle was sweet to the point that it was like eating spoonfuls of sugar. Strange, considering how sweet Concord grapes usually are; the milk ice cream and pistachio souffle combination was sickeningly sweet and I had to pass the dessert to John because I felt cavities forming with each additional bite.
At the end of the meal, a dessert cart was rolled by but we were both really stuffed and I also had to get back to my apartment to finish some work. When the check came, John took out cash and I figured we’d split it (which is what always happens when I go out to eat with a reader and in the past, it’s actually worked out pretty well). However, John realized that he was short on cash and then said that he didn’t have enough money on his credit cards to charge the rest of the meal on his card, which surprised me and REALLY annoyed me. I seriously thought it was some kind of joke since the dinner conversation hadn’t been extremely interesting or entertaining (was it some kind of hidden camera show where they were trying to see how much pain I could put myself through before walking out on dinner?). In the end, I paid the difference because I really couldn’t stand sitting there while John just looked at the bill aimlessly (I wonder what would have happened if I just asked to split the bill and leave John to pay the rest).
Sure, I think it’s fine to pay for friends and I am definitely generous when it comes to going out to dinner but it’s one thing to not have enough money when you’re dining with a stranger…it’s completely unacceptable to not even bother to THANK the person that just paid your bill. The bad experience with John and the forgettable food at Gordon Ramsay really ruined my evening and makes me hesitant to meet up with readers in the future.
If something like this had ever happened to me, I would be incredibly apologetic and I would probably run to the closest ATM to pick up cash to pay the person back immediately. John has my email address and didn’t bother to thank me the next day OR even follow up. I figure it’s a sign of immaturity (he was only 23 or 24) but seriously, if you don’t have the money to dine out at a Michelin star restaurant, why would you offer to eat with me in the first place?