When Gordon Ramsay opened his first US restaurant in New York last November, all eyes turned to see how Britain's most famous chef would be received in the Big Apple. Kerstin Kühn reports
Teething problems involving staffing issues and complaining neighbours made things somewhat difficult for Gordon Ramsay to find his feet at first at Gordon Ramsay at the London, and reviews from some of New York's most notorious critics offered only a lukewarm reception.
But six months on and the restaurant at the London NYC hotel (formerly the Rihga Royal) seems to be fitting right into the New York fine-dining scene, and head chef Josh Emett says things are getting easier all the time.
"The first few months weren't easy, and there was a lot we had to get used to both in terms of staffing issues and suppliers as well as produce and seasonality," he says. "We're so used to getting exactly what we want in London that it took a bit of time to adapt to the way things work here. But we're starting to get to grips with things now and are getting on with it."
Emett, former head chef of the Michelin-starred Savoy Grill in London, has been in charge of the 55-strong kitchen brigade since chef de cuisine Neil Ferguson returned to the UK earlier this year.
He oversees the menu of both offerings at the hotel in New York's Midtown, including the 95-seat London Bar, which imports the tapas approach of Maze in London, and the more intimate 45-seat formal restaurant, where the more serious eating takes place.
Modelled on his eponymous flagship eaterie on London's Royal Hospital Road, the restaurant is Ramsay's smallest venue, with only 14 tables. Designed by British interior designer David Collins (see page 30), the windowless dining room reflects a simple elegance, with muted colours and walls lined with panels that can be turned to show, on one side, hand-carved timber, and on the other, a mother-of-pearl effect.
Like the Royal Hospital Road restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at the London NYC hotel offers a three-course menu ($90/£45), as well as the menu prestige, which is a seven-course tasting menu ($120/£60).
Starters and mains include some of Ramsay's signature dishes as well as new creations developed by Emett that nonetheless reflect Ramsay's elegant, modern approach to simple, classical French cooking.
Among the eight choices for starters, for example, is a long-standing favourite of sliced scallops, which, sautéd with spices, come with cauliflower purée and beignets and sherry caramel. Alongside this are familiar ingredients in a salad of rabbit loin with roasted hazelnuts, Granny Smith apple, sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) purée, endive and anchovy sauce.
Similarly, the eight-strong selection of mains includes one of Ramsay's signature dishes of cannon of lamb with confit shoulder, candied onions, imam bayildi and marjoram jus alongside a familiar combination of roasted lobster with herb linguine, baby leeks, mushrooms and a white port sauce.
Dessert options include classics such as a mint chocolate fondant with milk ice-cream and crème de menthe, as well as a fantastically fluffy apricot soufflé served with amaretto ice-cream.
Additionally, diners are treated to elaborate canapés as well as extra amuse-bouches and palate cleansers throughout the dining experience, and the after-dinner bonbon trolley offers delightful treats, including cotton candy and caramel popcorn.
Together with the culinary experience, Ramsay's front-of-house right-hand man, restaurant director Jean-Baptiste Requien, leads an army of waiting staff, whose attentive service is truly outstanding.
Most of his team seem to have crossed the Atlantic from Ramsay's many London venues. However, recently appointed sommelier Christopher Tunah, who oversees one of the city's most extensive wine lists, was recruited in the USA.
What's on the menu
Three courses $90 (£45), coffee and bonbon trolley $8 (£4)
- Ravioli of tiger prawn poached in its own bouillon with fennel cream, shellfish vinaigrette and chervil velouté
- Confit Hudson Valley foie gras with slow-cooked free-range chicken and truffled quails' eggs
- Loin of tuna with pickled white radish, peekytoe crab, herb salad and sesame dressing
- Cannon of lamb with confit shoulder, candied onions, imam bayildi and marjoram jus
- John Dory fillets with sweet corn succotash, Baby Gem lettuce, dried Parma ham and a light bacon velouté
- Roast loin of suckling pig with braised belly, confit leg and shoulder, English minted peas, pearl onion and braising juices
- Caramelised pineapple with crystallised cilantro
- Mint chocolate fondant with milk ice-cream and crème de menthe
- Apricot soufflé with amaretto ice-cream
Gordon Ramsay at the London, 151 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019, USA. Tel: 00 1 212 468 8888. Website: www.gordonramsay.com