1890 by Gordon Ramsay, a fine dining restaurant at London’s iconic Savoy Hotel seems is bit of a return to fine dining form for Britain’s favourite no-nonsense chef. We might all be accustomed to seeing his fiery but fair approach to bumbling novices on TV in the UK and the US, but never forget that this is a chef festooned in culinary accolades, who famously worked with the likes of Pierre Koffman, Albert Roux, Guy Savoy and Marco Pierre White. Since 2001, Ramsay’s own restaurants have been in possession of Michelin star awards and have been run by many chefs with their own stellar careers: Angela Hartnett, Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton, to name but a few. Recently opened, 1890 by Gordon Ramsay is named for the year in which culinary pioneer Georges Auguste Escoffier was at The Savoy Hotel, but has deliberately taken influence from some of Escoffier’s classic dishes and given them a modern twist. With just 26 covers, dinner here is an exclusive and memorable experience, showcasing Ramsay’s intelligence and intuition as a restaurateur, as well as the precision and creativity of his team.
Being such a small restaurant, Restaurant 1890 by Gordon Ramsay is tucked into one of the wings of The Savoy Hotel’s grand entrance and it’s not until you reach your seat that you realise there is a view over the bustling hotel guests and theatregoers outside. A quick cocktail in the bar perked us up for the challenge of a nine course tasting menu (Bespoke Black Book-style Espresso Martini, natch, with dark rum not vodka). The restaurant itself has a jewellery box aesthetic, with gold and bronze walls and ceiling, sumptuous fabrics and glassware on display. We were welcomed by Simone, who explained the menu to us and introduced Head Sommelier Emanuel, who is a considerable asset to this restaurant in his fascinating depth of knowledge and charming personality. Of course, his choice of aperitif for us, Taittinger Prelude Grand Cru NV, made an excellent first impression and we were similarly impressed by the canapés: the lobster cornetto, which was reminiscent of Mexican ceviche and tostadas, was my personal favourite.
The first dish was a tomato consommé with Mig Mag olive oil, served alongside a set custard with peas, Iberico ham and mint. Edible flowers added a spring delicacy to the dish and the consommé, drunk as a chaser, was bursting with tomatoey sweetness. A square of parker house rolls were served alongside, but we both found that the honey drizzle – delicious on its own and sourced locally, from GM Sarah’s bees – was too sweet for the rest of the food and we were left hankering for a plain roll and salted butter. The accompanying wine was a 2018 Aulerde Riesling Grosses Gewachs by Weingut Wittman, with a citrus tang and slight oiliness that created a silky mouthfeel.
We continued with a Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru 1999 from Chandon de Briailles, a fresh yet punchy light red with a noticeable strawberry aroma, which added a sweetness to compliment the umami of my lobster cardinal, one of the dishes drawn from Escoffier. The presentation, perfectly positioned morsels on an oversized plate, was immediately impressive; the lobster was meaty, but the sauce was the star, rich as it was with shiitake purée, tinged with rose. A second Escoffier fish dish followed, this time a turbot Véronique, although Escoffier’s recipe is originally for sole. The confit turbot was served with sea herbs and a champagne and caviar butter sauce, a dish that had an unctuous richness with a saline note cutting through. The wine was a very unusual choice, a Patrimonio Blanco from the Corsican Domaine Paradella. This vineyard has taken the unusual step of introducing owls to protect the grapes and this vintage, 2020, is only their second ever, but has a unique salty and oaky character.
The main course was escargot bourguignon. If you’re still on the fence about eating snails, climb on down and tuck into this one. Short rib and a meaty bourguignon sauce created a hefty centrepiece to the menu; my only criticism would be that, for me, the acidic vegetable garnish actually detracted a little from the depth of the sauce. I’m not sure when it became unacceptable to have a dish that wasn’t perfectly balanced in terms of acidity, but sometimes I just want that big comfortable hug without any tart tingling… And I can always go a couple of extra snails. That said, the dish was still utterly scrumptious and paired perfectly with the Napa Valley Merlot 2017 from Long Meadow Ranch, which had floral softness that bridged the gap between the more delicate flavour of the snails and the big sauce.
Moving on, the cheese course that followed featured one of my all time favourites, a 24 month aged Comté, with spiced apple and crumbly caraway biscuit. The wine was another masterful choice by Emanuel, a 2007 ‘Chez Jau’ Rivesaltes Ambre, an oxidized white wine which had flavours redolent of Christmas pudding and a fiery fullness on the palate. This was immediately followed by a raspberry melba with pepper sorbet that woke up the tastebuds in preparation for dessert. Executive Head Chef James Sharp, who has been working up through the ranks of Ramsay’s restaurants, came out briefly at this point to say hello to us, James is motivated by his desire to use exciting produce to work creatively and explore new ideas. It’s clear in the way that the Escoffier classics, such as the peach melba, have been tweaked in such a loving way that there is considerable flair in this chef and his talented brigade of just six!
The dessert was another classic, the Ile flottante, featuring a buttermilk sorbet under Italian meringue, served with chef’s favourite gariguette strawberries, pine berries and jasmine. This combination of flavours was quite intriguing but delicious. As someone who never orders a fruit dessert, I certainly enjoyed this dessert, but I did miss a chocolate option (especially when there was also no chocolate in the whimsically burger shaped tarte tropézienne that was served as petit fours). The wine that accompanied the dessert was a Recioto di Soave Le Colombare 2017, which was perfectly divine in its combination of honeysuckle, cooked strawberry and the unique sweet notes produced by botrytis.
Restaurant 1890 by Gordon Ramsay is the perfect luxury dining experience with the same classy, quintessentially London ambiance that characterises The Savoy Hotel as a whole. Lightly drawing on the historical influence of Escoffier is a stroke of genius – it allows the heritage of fine dining in The Savoy to be celebrated, while also allowing a rising star like James Sharp to find his own way of expressing these classic dishes. Don’t miss this opportunity to relive the era of Escoffier at the Savoy!
Restaurant 1890 by Gordon Ramsay