I didn’t know “amusé bouche” meant “loud mouth.”

14 May

Alan’s birthday is coming up, so we decided to celebrate it properly while we were in London. As a foodie (and Food Network addict), he gets a semi-chubb for Chef Gordon Ramsay, so it was on his bucket list to eat at one of Ramsay’s restaurants. Thus, Alan made a reservation for us to have lunch at Claridge’s, and I picked up the tab. That’s how birthdays work.

We both did the five-course tasting menu, paired with wine flights for 55 pounds each. I’ll leave the nuanced food descriptions to Alan since he took copious notes (more on that shortly), and instead just share a couple quick observations.

But first, in case you don’t know who Gordon Ramsay is, this flowchart of his show (Hell’s Kitchen) created by Cracked.com should help serve as a primer:

First, I generally don’t like seafood unless it’s shellfish. Yet I ate an entire course of RAW sea trout. Just goes to show that anything – in the right hands – can be exquisite. My absolute favorite course (and this is saying a lot since one of the courses was an amazing shaved veal shoulder in heavenly honeyed au jus) was the asparagus.

Let me take one minute to describe the asparagus: It was breaded with bacon. Not wrapped in bacon. Breaded in it. What a FRIGGIN’ FANTASTIC idea. Breaded in bacon, sitting in a sweet almond sauce, topped with shaved comté. Holy amazement. I could happily eat that every day of my life, and I expect to spend a fair amount of time trying to replicate it at home.

OK, OK. So I said I’d leave the foodie stuff to Alan since this was his wet dream of a meal. I’d like, instead, to focus on the maitre d’ – a French gentleman named Jean-François, who seems to model himself on Martin Short’s character, Franck,  in Parenthood. (Don’t know what I mean by that? Then watch THIS.)

He first introduced himself to our table when the amusé bouche (an onion and mushroom cream soup that tasted like butter, but better) arrived. As twin servers placed the dishes in front of us, Jean-François clapped and shouted, “Bon Appetit!” on volume 12. Nothing like having all eyes in the dining room watching your first sips of soup!

Later, when trying his first bite of the cucumber sorbet that came with the sea bass, Alan exclaimed ,”Wow!” just as Jean-Françcois walked by. “Vhat?!” he wheeled around. “A vow from zis table?! Zat ees our mission – to dazzle! Ve are very happy now!”

Alan and I traded looks, feeling a bit like we were on candid camera. But it didn’t stop there. Somewhere between course 2 and course 3, Alan was hunched over the table, scribbling notes on a piece of paper. (I’d like to think he was quoting one of my more witty remarks, but I suspect he was actually just writing down what he ate, since a) he has a dodgy memory, and b) I’m not that quotable.)

Anyway, Alan’s all bent over, writing, when Jean-François comes racing over, announcing that, “It ees very suspicious to see someone writing in a restaurant.”

Alan explained that he’s a huge fan of Ramsay, so this was a bit of a “fan moment” for him, one that he wanted to savor (and capture) in detail. That must’ve satisfied the paranoid side of Jean-François, because he then insisted that he would give us a tour of the kitchen after the meal.

We were happy to tour the kitchen and see the inner-workings of one of London’s best kitchens up-close-and-personal, but we were especially intrigued by JF’s accusation that a crib sheet was “suspicious.” Did he think it was rude to be taking notes in a white tablecloth establishment? Or was he paranoid that Alan was a reviewer, there critiquing everything for a public write-up? Or perhaps he thought he was trying to suss out the flavors so he could steal the recipes?

We weren’t quite sure how to interpret it, so rather than over-think it, we decided to just tour the kitchen. And while Mr. Ramsay himself might not have been on the scene that day, there was still plenty of yelling. Every time a dish was plated, someone (often Jean-François) would scream, “Service! Please!” and runners would quickly scurry to remove it.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that every time he approached our table he was shouting. I think it’s just what he does.  Someone whose show is named “Hell’s Kitchen” probably doesn’t make hiring decisions based on the candidate’s Inside Voice. In any event, he provided exactly what we went for: a meal to remember.

Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s
Brook Street | Mayfair | London W1K 4HR
T: +44 (0)20 7629 8860

3 Responses to “I didn’t know “amusé bouche” meant “loud mouth.””

  1. lexy3587 May 18, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    This sounds like such a great experience – both the brief descirption of the food, and the entertainment value! I definitely want to make it out to a food-network chef’s restaurant, and am very jealous of you guys having gone!

    • pithypants May 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

      It’s definitely not the kind of thing I’d do every day — or even every year — because the price tag was pretty hefty. But as a one-time thing? Absolutely. Totally worth it!


  1. Something Everyone Haute Do in London | The Popdialectic - May 17, 2011

    […] should say, before I go further and by way of reference, that Alison has already blogged our experience so some of the most fun details are in print and I won’t address them here. Go […]

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