Twice a year I have lunch with a business magnate I have known for over 40 years. The protocol is that he gives me lunch in the autumn and I reciprocate in January but what with his busy life the dates get delayed. So yesterday was my “winter” turn which arrived on a glorious spring day.
As my friend was moving to Green Park I chose the dining room of the Ritz, one of the most beautiful in London. The Ritz was acquired by the Barclay Brothers and is an old-fashioned hotel in the grand manner. The Ritz in Paris is owned by Mohammed al Fayed and I stayed there years ago in great opulence in circumstances which I won’t go into now!!!
I had initially booked for 12-30 but then I was contacted by my friend’s P/A that a business commitment necessitated 1.00. I thought it would be a simple procedure to advance booking by 30 minutes. I was wrong. I was initally told this was impossible and after I kicked up a fuss they offered me 12-45 or 1-15. I accepted the latter. I was most irritated already and I had not even set foot in the restaurant. The obvious solution was to say that “Do come at 1 but, as a lot of diners arrive then, we may ask you to wait a few minutes to order.” Can a hotel like the Ritz not cope with a full restaurant ? In fact it was 2/3ds full.
They offer a three course meal for £49 with a glass of champagne which these days represents good value. They insist on a jacket and tie which may explain the superannuated nature of the clients as it was mainly ageing couples perhaps celebrating silver or diamond wedding. Lady Thatcher dined here most days at the end of her life.
We had a slow cooked duck egg, asparagus and pecorino foam, a tad gooey but interesting enough in flavour. I then had turbot surrounded by vegetabes. My initial reaction was at £46 this was on the small size. It was served with a creamy wine sauce and truffles. The Daffers waist-line had expanded since Easter and I must admit my Max Mara blouse was stretched!!
At £139 for two, without alcohol- these magnates have to keep their heads free for afternoon work, not of the Daffers variety !!!- it was not that expensive. The service, as you would expect, was excellent which rather belied the silly bookings fuss and its best feature was the stuccoed grandeur of the dining room. Nonetheless I left with a slightly disappointed feeling. The food was not quite good enough, the atmosphere too formal and it was really a case of two old friends catching up to supply the enjoyment factor.