My boyfriend’s birthday recently passed in June, and I will be the first to concede that I was left baffled regarding what to get him. As some of you may know, my boyfriend works as a Chef, and understandably he had an immense passion for food – both cooking and eating it. I dabbled with the idea of buying him another fancy – and way too large to be safe – kitchen knife (Mr Chef is obsessed with kitchen tools), but I knew I wanted something more unusual, and something which would be remembered well in years to come. That’s when I stumbled across the various food experience packages on the Virgin Experiences website. To be exact, the three course dinner and champagne meal at Gordon Ramsey’s Grill restaurant at the Savoy Hotel.
I immediately knew that this was the perfect fit; not only did it constitute a mini break to London, but it allowed my boyfriend to experience a different, and well reputed, fine dining experience. Additionally, I am just as obsessed with food as he is, so this was the perfect fit.
We arrived at the Savoy fifteen minutes before our 1.30pm lunch reservation. For those of you who have viewed this iconic hotel, it certainly strikes a glamorous tone against the often drab and grey toned hues of the famous metropolis backdrop. The presence of doormen, complete in coattails and hats, made me feel slightly wary of the imposing grandeur, whilst I simultaneously revelled in experiencing the high life. Despite arriving slightly early, our table was completely ready. Draped in a thick, heavy white cotton of excellent quality, the table looked immaculate against the Art Deco furnishing of the room. With glass chandeliers, lighted table candles, and reflective columns, I kept excepted my eyes to light upon one of the numerous celebrities to have graced this restaurant with their presence. We had very kindly been asked previous to being seated if we would like our bags to be taken to the cloak room (excellent service), and I would recommend doing this to keep the lovely aesthetic of the room uncluttered, as well as leaving you free from troublesome bags.
Our lunch menus, which were part of the Virgin Experience, were already carefully placed upon the table, highlighting the attention to detail they had made when taking our original booking reservation. The forethought that had gone into this was very gratifying, as it meant we did not have to experience an awkward moment of informing the waitress that we were dining from the set, gift experience menu. The menu was explained, and our complimentary champagne poured into flutes by a friendly waitress who was impeccably dressed. We pursued the menu whilst sipping our drinks, struggling to keep our eyes from continuously devouring the room and its inhabitants.
One thing I really want to stress if how welcoming our servers were. Many of the other guests were of a maturer age, and dressed in much more expensive attire, but never once did we feel looked down upon, or as if we did not belong in this environment, despite our Welsh, working class backgrounds.
Although we had the champagne, we decided to sample the other drinks. Now, if there is one slightly negative aspect I have regarding our time at the Savoy, it was the drinks. The actually taste cannot be criticised in the slightest, but they did not actually arrive until after we had eaten both our starters and main courses. Becoming slightly parched, we queried the missing drinks. Our waitress was extremely apologetic, and immediately went off in search of said drinks. A few minutes later, she arrived back, explaining there had been an error with the drinks ordering system, resulting in the lateness of said drinks.
I had opted for a non-alcoholic drink (mocktail); the Hariet T. Upon arrival it was impossible not to stare transfixed at the sheer enormity of the blackberry decorating my drink. I have never before, and likely never will, see a blackberry of such magnitude again, and as the photos portray, it was actually bigger than my thumb! I do not know where the Savoy source their fresh produce from, being situated within a busy city, but acknowledgements must be given to them. The drink itself was lovely. One of the problematic areas with mocktails is that quite often the combinations of juices merge together into one universal taste, despite the varying juices and proportions used. Yet for once, I actually experienced a different taste. Consisting of strawberry puree, pineapple juice and cranberry juice, this drink was understandably sweet and refreshing, a combination I love. Yet unusually for a mocktail, I could actually taste the sharper pineapple juice cutting through the sweetness, creating a harmonious blend which is all too often overpowered by the sweeter juices.
Mr Chef opted for his usual, a beer, the Innis&Gunn Oak Aged Beer Original, to be precise. He was equally impressed, stating a good depth of flavour.
Before our starters arrived, we were provided with a silver bowl of bread consisting of two white slices and a seeded brown loaf, accompanied by a wooden slab topped with fresh butter. Both breads were lovely. While the white was soft and springy within, the seeded took the crown for me. The added seeds produced a lovely texture to offset the pillowy inside, along with the crusty exterior. Admittedly, I felt the butter was slightly on the hard side, and found it rather hard to spread, but perhaps if it had been served soft, we would have been in danger of a puddle of butter spreading across the immaculate furnishings.
For starters, which arrived almost immediately, I chose the Salad of Parma Ham, Peaches, Parmesan, and Clove Dressing. Salad has a somewhat pitiful reputation of being unexciting and often drab, but this was a fine example of how something simple can be made to look delicately beautiful. I have never properly had fruit in my salad before, and I can now say that the peach and parma ham proved a delightful combination of complimentary flavours. The lettuce leaves themselves, whilst not the most tasteful ingredient in the world, added a satisfactory crunch to the juicy peaches and moist ham, whilst the slightly acidic dressing stopped any overpowering sweetness emitting from the fruit, giving additional flavour to the salad leaves. In all, the dish was of excellent quality, and a nicely light start to the meal.
Mr Chef, not a huge salad lover, decided on the Chilled Tomato Gazpacho, with Foccacia Toast. The dish was poured at the table by our waitress, adding another sophisticated layer. Mr Chef wasted no time in plunging his spoon straight into the bowl, meaning I did not get the best picture (excuse the half eaten soup image below).The soup itself was perfectly smooth, with each silky mouthful providing a hit of flavour, with gentle hint of garlic to cut through the tomato. The foccacia toast was an excellent choice of sturdy bread, giving a handy and stable toast to mop up the remaining gazpacho.
Next, on to the mains. As many people know, I am definitely not a big lover of red meat, much preferring white meat or fish. Naturally, I settled for the Corn-Fed Chicken option (although the advertised poached cod very nearly changed matters!). Mr Chef, definitely a red meat eater, chose the Charcoal-Grilled Sirloin Steak, costing an extra £12.50 supplement charge. Once again, both dishes were very well presented. Our waitress completed the presentation by pouring a small portion of our accompanying sources onto our meats at the table, leaving the remainder in small silver jugs to be divulged upon ourselves at our own will.
Quite simply, my chicken was beautiful. Pristine white meat, cooked to a succulent perfection. Not once ounce of it was dry or overcooked, and both myself and Mr Chef were extremely impressed. It was definitely the best chicken I have ever eaten at a restaurant. The crumb coating on top of the chicken not only tasted good, but gave a needed crunch to a dish which otherwise could be quite lacking in texture, complimenting the moistness of the chicken. It was not until cutting into my chicken that I actually realised the beans and spinach were nestled cleverly underneath. The beans were also cooked excellently, avoiding the dreaded bullet texture restaurants can often give to their vegetables. The accompanying spinach was surprisingly fresh, providing a reminiscent taste and smell of the seaside. With the intentions of being wholly honest, I must admit that I did not like the saffron sauce. It was not that it was cooked badly, or indeed any fault of the kitchen team. My boyfriend, in fact, loved it. Instead, it was simply a matter of personal preference. I have not really had saffron before, so perhaps this was why I did not enjoy the sauce, as I found it to leave an almost burning aftertaste in the mouth, reminiscent of an extremely strong mustard.
My boyfriend’s steak, requested to be cooked medium rare, was cooked just as well as my chicken (as the below photos show). One cut through with the knife revealed a lovely juicy inside, like any steak worthy of its name should be. The dish was accompanied by game chips, a new creation to my eyes. The ‘chips’ were cut in a criss-crossing pattern, and despite being delicately thin, held their shape well. Similarly, it would be very easy to overcook something so thin, but they tasted lovely, with a satisfying crispness. Mr Chef opted for the classic peppercorn sauce, which he informed me had just the right amount of heat and a well balanced flavour. The rocket salad gave a different texture and was very fresh, but taste wise did not bring anything amazingly different to your typical salad.
In addition, we ordered a side of Jersey Royal Potatoes, with I highly recommend! I am extremely fussy with the way my vegetables are cooked, fearing to go near a pub carvery for the dreaded undercooked vegetables. Thankfully, these were exquisite. Crisp on the outside, but ridiculously fluffy within, they were cooked to perfection. They had been seasoned expertly, and the the buttery sauce in which they had been cooked gave the impression that they were practically melting in my mouth. Myself and Mr Chef engaged in a selfish battle to each eat as many as possible to stop the other one stealing such delicious goods.
The next course our waitress brought out was something with took both of us by surprise. Knowing this was a birthday celebration, we were very kindly given a lovely decorated plate, complete with an individual cake and birthday candle, for the occasion. I sampled a piece of the cake, and it was incredibly light and tasty, paired with rich, good quality chocolate sauce. Little details such as this really made our experience so much more memorable, so if anyone from the Savoy is reading this, thank you so, so much!
I am a caramel fiend. Always have been, always will be. If a menu has anything caramel related within it, it is a sure fire certainty that I will want it. Therefore, my dessert was the Crème Caramel with Poached Apricots. Admittedly, I did not think that the poached apricots added much to the dish, except providing a differing texture. Whilst they were pretty positioned, they were rather lacking in excitment, tasting of your typical apricot. The crème caramel, on the other hand, was a superior accomplishment of a dessert. My spoon sliced effortlessly through the wobbly structure, giving a reminiscent feel of jelly, but with a luxuriantly soft, melt in the mouth, creamy flavour. The sauce added to the top was a deep, rich amber, which on its own emitted an almost burnt, smoky caramel flavour, but worked brilliantly paired with the sweet creaminess. I cleared my plate, and quite easily could have eaten a second or third.
Mr Chef decided on the chocolate profiteroles. I must admit, when the dish arrived, I did envy his selection. The pastries were covered in a rich, glossy chocolate sauce, which only the best quality chocolate can produce. I could have easily lost my sense of decorum, and face planted the dish there and then (rest assured, I successfully restrained myself.) The profiteroles were not what I was expecting. The pastry was much more crisp than I have seen before (no soggy bottoms!), yet it worked really well, providing a stable surface for the sweet vanilla infused whipped cream which sandwiched the profiteroles together. All in all, we were both pleasantly surprised at how light this dish actually was, giving a slightly different twist on a classic dessert. We were once more surprised when, after asking for the bill, were were given a small tray, laden with pistachio macaroons and gorgeously rich chocolate truffles. This was given complimentary to every diner there at the conclusion of the meal, and is a testament to our wonderful experience here.
The service here was undoubtedly the best I have ever experienced in a restaurant. Our waitress was equipped with a handy tool, actually scraping the bread crumbs off our table several times. Likewise, when our neighbouring diner went off to the toilet, our waitress immediately covered his food with a silver lid for preservation, instantly whipping it back off upon his return. Whilst we were provided with free water, which we could pour from the bottle ourselves, there was really no need, with a waitress magically appearing every time our glasses were hanging below the quarter full mark. Additional touches, such as the carving of the salmon en croute actually taking place on an elegant trolly at the table side, also gave an extra air of refinement.
Whilst dining here would normally be on the pricey side, you really are getting everything you pay for. From beautifully presented and excellent quality dishes, to the first class service we were provided with. Visitors really must remember that this is a fine dining experience, and yes some dishes will be smaller than your cheap, rushed pub classics or chain favourites, but you are receiving so much more effort, quality and sheer skill behind your dishes.
I am now desperate to go back to sample the famous Afternoon Tea, and will definitely be hoping to review this in the future for you! Fingers (and bellies) crossed!