Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last ten years, you’ll know Gordon Ramsay has built up London’s most impressive portfolio of top-end restaurants. Most of them are former ‘Savoy’ group hotel dining rooms. Their style is grand contemporary French, their quality is often impressive, but they tend to lack charisma. A whole constellation of Michelin stars has duly followed. Add Gordon’s turbo-charged PR machine, and they have been a huge financial success.
Even the Ramsay effect, however, could not rescue Pengelley’s, the predecessor to this Knightsbridge newcomer (and his only establishment, other than his HQ, not attached to an hotel). It is said he lost a million quid on it.
Second time round, we still have somewhere that’s reverential and bland. The thing about this reverential stuff is that it only works if everything is nigh on perfect, and our meal was just pleasant, in a so-what sort of way. If – as one of us did – you go for the set lunch (£21), who’s complaining? You get a lot of space, comfort, and good food – in our case ceviche, paillard of veal and macaroni and a strawberry tart – for your money. Go – as the other did – for the standard menu, though (£45), and the questions begin to bite. Despite the best efforts of ex-Greenhouse chef, Bjorn van der Horst in the kitchen, nothing really sparkled. Even the highpoint of that selection – a finely cooked bit of brill – was rather swamped by its buttery sauce.
Whether the market – and especially the Knightsbridge market – wants a new worthy-but-dull restaurant is questionable. But with the fundamentals here on a good footing, perhaps they can inject a bit of va va voom into the experience. Even Gordon would miss another million’