One of our wedding gifts was a gift certificate to Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at The London hotel here in New York. It was for a whopping $370 (!), which I thought would give us a few dinners. Richard chuckled and said, “We’ll be lucky if it covers ONE dinner.” He was right!
Our reservation was for 6:15 PM on 2/6/13.
WIW: light blue shirt, a tie woven out of navy blue, medium blue, iridescent blue, and muted orange silk (a hand-me-down from my Grandpa Ryan), a navy and black mini check sport coat, grey trousers, black belt and shoes.
WRW: light gray suit (The Wedding Suit), white shirt, reversible Countess Mara bow tie, tied to show both the blue/green/pink polka dot side and the pink/orange/blue striped side, black belt and shoes.
We walked through a loud and boisterous bar and restaurant to get to our dining room. It’s silent as the tomb in there, heavenly. Lovely room, done in delicate shades of off white, grey, fawn, and Clinique green. Neither of us were wild for the chandeliers, but the wall sconces were divine. Sixteen tables, probably about half of them with people at them (maybe less than half). The chairs were Clinique green armchairs, on a swivel! Have you ever heard of such a thing.
The table was set with a display plate, three glasses, and a bread plate to the left with a bread knife. No other flatware, which I found interesting. The required flatware was delivered with each course, very high style.
Richard has a friend at the hotel, a hilarious woman of a certain age with the unlikely name of Julie Andrews. She walked us in, sat us down, and chatted us up. She was thrilled that we were there, and she couldn’t have been cuter. She had a waiter bring over two glasses of Champagne, crisp and delicious.
We had looked at the menu online ahead of time, of course. I got the six-course Prestige Menu/Vegetarian at $185. Richard thought he was getting the six-course Prestige Menu [Carnivore], but through some misunderstanding he ended up getting the three-course Prix Fixe, the penny saver alternative at $135 (which he found quite satisfying).
I told my friend Ethlouise here at work about our dinner. I mentioned the $185 price and she turned away in horror, raising her hand in a gesture that said, “Do not say another word.”
ME: And you know me! My attitude is you can spend less than $10 at Subway and be just as full. Your stomach will not be grumbling when you go to bed that night.
HER: At that price, you could take your whole church to Subway!
ME: Including the choir! And you know they’re big eaters.
They started with an amuse bouche before we placed our order, a beignet made of hearts of palm, served with a celeriac velouté (an intensely creamy soup). Divine. I’m going to be using the word “divine” quite a lot.
Our primary server was a lovely charming Japanese woman. Our secondary server was a tall slightly husky blond guy, American. Various other people - - everyone was stellar. A gentleman came around with rolls - - Richard got the Italian roll, I got the olive roll. The rolls were warm and the butter was soft and served on a little round marble slab.
Years ago I went to The Essen Haus, a German restaurant off the capitol square in Madison, WI, with my parents. The waitresses wear dirndls and the waiters were lederhosen. That kind of place. We got a basket of bread with little pats of butter wrapped in foil.
ME: There are few things in this world that I hate more than a frozen pat of butter.
MOM: Why don’t you stick it up your armpit.
And she turned and something to my dad. We went on with our meals, la dee dah, and I discreetly reached into my shirt and pulled out a pat of butter.
MOM: [intense stage whisper] What the HELL are you doing?
ME: I put the pat of butter in my armpit. It was a great idea!
My first course was a baked buckwheat crêpe with wild mushrooms, stracciatella, and black truffles. Delicate and heavenly. Let me remind you that I had six courses and Richard only had three, so with each course that he skipped they brought him a plate, so we could share. Isn’t that thoughtful?
Richard’s first course was sautéed driver scallops with poached Kusshi oysters, a romaine roulade, and Vermouth butter. I had a bite of scallop and it was perfect. Richard told me there’s about 30 seconds difference between a perfectly cooked scallop and an overcooked scallop. These were perfect. Richard was blown away by the romaine roulade: it was romaine lettuce rolled up very carefully in a tiny pinwheel and then cooked. Richard said, “I’m glad it was someone else’s hands that were doing all that tedious work.”
My second course was a white onion velouté (that creamy soup again), with crispy cauliflower, fennel, and fingerling potatoes. Let me say here that each course was quite small, the perfect size. I bet there was only one cup of soup in that bowl. It was this soup that steered me in the direction of the vegetarian menu, and it was spectacular.
Sometime around the second course this group of three guys came in the dining room and went over to the table next to us, took off their jackets, and were talking with perhaps a bit too much volume. One of the guys was a little portly and was wearing suspenders, which to me is like a woman showing her bra straps. Not always a bad thing, but tacky as heck in the wrong setting (this was definitely the wrong setting). The host came over to them almost as soon as they sat down, spoke with them for a moment, and they got up and left. I asked Richard:
ME: What do you suppose the host said to them?
HIM: Well once they were in the dining room there’d be no tactful way for the host to throw them out. I think THEY decided they didn’t want to be there. There wasn’t any fun to be had in that room, and they wanted fun.
My third course was a potato rösti served with cipollini onions, wilted spinach, and smoked egg yolk. Such a beautiful, fascinating combination of flavors.
Richard’s second course was braised sturgeon with crispy wild rice and a mushroom fricassee in a parsley smoked chicken sauce. Gorgeous, firm meat to the fish, delicious. Richard got a glass of pinot grigio to go with the sturgeon. I had a club soda and lime. At some point I went to use the bathroom, which was impossibly chic! White marble with tiny black and white tiles. More Clinique green. A one-seater.
My fourth course was black olive tortellini with sweet garlic, oregano, herb farfalle, and ricotta salata. Amazing. Divine! This course was served with a knife, fork, and a sauce spoon, which I had never handled before: the bowl of the spoon is almost completely flat, and it has a little notch/scallop on the right side. It was lovely.
My fifth course was a grapefruit sorbet, with cucumber meringue and gin. Tart, crisp, just the thing to clear the palate before dessert.
My sixth and final course was a local ricotta mousse with candied pine nuts, kumquat, and fennel ice cream. Incredible. But Richard’s third and final course was the hit of the evening, a cocoa nib soufflé served with Toby’s Estate coffee ice cream on the side. The soufflé had a perfectly flat top and perfectly sharp edges. It was warm and frothy and welcoming. The cocoa nibs added a teeny crunch to the texture. And the coffee ice cream was marvelous.
But wait, there’s more! The tall blond waiter came by with the bon bon cart! He talked us through all the different choices, and we ended up with five or six candies each. My fave was the dark chocolate filled with orange.
The whole evening was like a trip through the looking glass - - so elegant and classy and yes, divine!