Following a major refurbishment and the appointment of a new head chef, the Rib Room bar & restaurant at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower reopened in October. But, despite the substantial changes, it has stayed true to the classic British food for which it is so well known, as Amanda Afiya discovers
The Rib Room bar & restaurant at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower has been operating since 1961, the year the hotel threw open its doors. In that time, it has built up an incredible reputation for serving traditional British cuisine, with a classic rib of beef taking centre stage.
Last year, the hotel brought in interior designer Martin Brudnizki with the brief to renovate the room. Brudnizki was asked to create an interior that would pay homage to the long tradition of the Rib Room while meeting the high expectations of its loyal clientele, but also convert the restaurant's four walls into a multi-functional space. So he created a restaurant that seats 132 with a further 50 in the bar, a destination cocktail bar and two private dining rooms, one with access to an exterior cigar terrace.
But restaurants, of course, aren't all about the design and critical to the opening was the appointment of a new head chef who would be sympathetic to the traditions that the Rib Room is known for, while simultaneously giving the food some contemporary flair.
Think British, think Nigel Haworth. Enter Ian Rudge, formerly of the one-Michelin-starred Northcote in Langho, Lancashire, and Haworth's Ribble Valley Inns, who was appointed last summer to head up the Rib Room kitchen.
Working closely with executive head chef Simon Young, Rudge has retained some of the restaurant's "must have" dishes such as the ubiquitous rib of beef, prawn cocktail and beef tartare, but he has also brought in some more modern techniques - such as the use of water baths and holder mats - for some of the other à la carte dishes.
Take the caper-crusted rack of Cornish lamb, neck curry, shallot compote, Jerusalem artichoke purée and coriander (£26) or the breast of Loomswood duck, honey-crusted drumstick, pear, parsnip purée, shaved chestnuts and fig sauce (£28) - two main course dishes packed with technique, flavour and texture. "I love the lamb neck curry dish," says Young. "It has great flavours and is a real poor man, rich man dish with varying cuts of meat."
Desserts, similarly, embrace a mix of classic and contemporary dishes with custard tart (£8.50), Black Forest chocolate delice (£8.50), apple crumble soufflé, apple and custard sauce (£8.50) and ginger parkin (£8.50).
Indeed, Telegraph food critic Zoe Williams wrote in her review in December: "Puds were like a hymn to Englishness. I swore I'd never order another parkin after I had one that was like eating a decaying housebrick not so long ago, but this ginger affair was a whole different order. It was very simple and tasted as if it had arrived, unadapted, from the recipe book of Mrs Beeton; it was an ideal balance of sweetness and ballast, and had a perfect texture, moist but crumbly."
Alongside Rudge, who Young says "brings passion, quality and flexibility" to the operation, is the consummate front-of-house operator Michele Caggianese, the Rib Room's restaurant and bar manager, who was recently named UK Restaurant Manager of the Year. Young says: "Michele is the ultimate professional - he creates a relaxed style and is not at all stiff."
Traditional or avant-garde techniques in the kitchen, the transformation seems to have paid off. "Customers have responded very positively to the new look, returning more frequently than they ever did at the old Rib Room," explains Young. "The layout of the room is far more flexible for business lunches, intimate dinners, private dining or just a relaxed evening at the bar, and crucially, we've seen an uplift in business of 15%."
Sample dishes from the menu
Roasted lamb sweetbreads, caramelised cauliflower, toasted almonds £11 Orkney scallops, butternut squash, apple-glazed bacon £16 Pressed foie gras, dandelion and fig salad £15
Roast rib of Casterbridge beef with Yorkshire pudding £40 Whole roast Suffolk partridge, crispy bread sauce, black pudding, Savoy cabbage, grape jus £29 Dover sole, served plain or with Morecambe Bay shrimps and hazelnut meuniere £40
Ginger parkin with cinnamon ice-cream and caramel sauce £8.50 Macerated oranges, vanilla bean ice-cream, praline sauce, honeycomb £8.50 Custard tart with plum compote £8.50
The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant Jumeirah Carlton Tower, On Cadogan Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 9PY
Tel: 020 7235 1234