Restaurant review

David Ellis on The River Restaurant review: Gordon Ramsay leaves innovation at the door

NOT

Oh, please don’t think I hated this place just because, of everything, I liked the serving dishes better. But this tableware, you should see it. There was a sparkling half-pipe of a bread tray – one end decorated not with skaters, but with a carved starfish and its mate of clams. An oyster platter was a puddle of nickel, moonlit on an open sea. And then there was the shrimp cocktail – spoiler, no one can say this restaurant is at the forefront of modern cuisine – which arrived in a bowl held aloft by a silver-skinned octopus, the tentacles flapping in victory, or perhaps fighting for punches.

The problem was, I had already seen this exact cephalopod that week in a hidden, family-run Greek Cypriot place on Cleveland Street called The Four Lanterns, there since 1970 and what you might euphemistically call “sans. pretension “(although for the record I loved the place; go – 020 7387 0704 to book). So seeing him in Gordon Ramsay’s new seafood restaurant tickled me: it’s fine, but when the bill is around £ 125, it’s not entirely unfair to wait for something. something new, or at least not something you can find at the local Greek gaff. Or, for that matter, at John Lewis (check out their website). Going to the Savoy probably shouldn’t be like having dinner at your aunt’s house.

A cute eight-legged stand isn’t the end. But it seemed emblematic of a kind of familiarity – what one might call the ordinary – that characterizes this large hotel dining room. I don’t think the River Restaurant is a bad restaurant, I just wish Ramsay had put a little more effort into it. All together now: I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.

There is, however, a lot to like. These oysters, Scottish, were fresh, brackish little things – although we asked for ‘chef’s pick’ and received an assortment of six. Maybe the chef was out of ideas. The shrimp cocktail was as it should be: big meaty shrimp fingers, not too heavy on the sauce – well, you probably know how it was. It’s a shrimp cocktail. Certainly there was the welcome addition of grapefruit.

Mignon: the octopus bowl containing the shrimp cocktail

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Half a (delicious) lobster came simply, as it should, shiny and perfectly cooked, the shell cheerfully abandoning the flesh. The track charred monkfish was lightly spiced with a tandoori mix and whipped off the grill just in time. Her side, a cauliflower bhaji, was more difficult. I liked it, but of course I did – I had her twin over the weekend in one of those M&S curry boxes (that’s a guilty pleasure for me. Shame …) Still, the table of Americans by us seemed to be having a great time, even though one of them repeatedly mentioned the death of the other’s mother. A restaurant that can overcome such a conversation deserves its due.

There was also a fairly good scallop tartare. He was sitting on his shell – normal, okay – and that’s when it hit me: The last time a restaurant like this would have been cool, the crowd could have turned to this. shell to draw the ashes of their cigarettes. I guess they could call it timeless. I could not.

The last time it would have been cool, the crowd might have turned to the scallops to pat the ash off their cigarettes.

Ramsay has long looked after the Savoy Grill at the front of the hotel. Taking back what was once Kaspar’s black terror matches its recent, astonishing and somewhat admirable global expansion. He doesn’t stop and, well, the chef knows who’s coming and how to keep them happy. This place was full. And okay, River is obviously not after the stars or whatever; it is probably a classic fishing spot with a comfortable environment. Mission accomplished. But with such a name above the door, and at £ 250 for two, with just half a bottle of wine, no puddings and no coffee, is it too much to want a little more? Cool places are at their best when they offer joy, innovation and a sense of escape. It sounds too typical for that. New? Could have cheated on me.

The Savoy Hotel, Strand, WC2R 0EU. Meal for two including drinks and 15% service, around £ 250. Open Sunday to Thursday, noon to midnight. Open Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 am; gordonramsayrestaurants.com


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