If food is the currency of love (and it is) then Mrs Del Monte has earned herself an affair with a really hot guy (Hugh Grant) or two affairs with average guys (Ant then Dec).
Not only did she mark my Birthday with a surprise trip to Lisbon last week, she took me out to the Ritz for supper last night (http://www.theritzlondon.com/restaurant/dining-en.html). I’ve not set foot inside the Ritz before and was primed by the dress code: “In The Ritz Restaurant and The Palm Court, gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie, with the exception of breakfast; jeans and sportswear are not permitted.” Apparently women can wear dungarees should they choose. So I pulled on my suit (which has shrunk, again) and valiantly hopped up the steps into London’s most famous B&B.
Like Burgh Island, there’s something to be said for imposing a dress code. All are subtly imbued with a sense of time and place, chests swell, chins jut. Even I refrained from calling all the waiting staff Guido and snapping my fingers at them.
We chose from a somewhat baffling set menu in which each option was followed by a description which bore no relation to the name; this meant that I thought that there were six starters when in fact there were three.
Amuse-bouches (cheese soufflés, prawn cracker, foamed salmon on salted meringue – the latter especially fizzed) preceded scallops for her and a pea soup over ham hock and poached quails egg. This was a good start and a challenge for me to keep my manners and not drink directly from the bowl. This was followed by lamb loin for her and John Dory for me. The presentation lacked for nothing and the dishes didn’t disappoint on scoffing. I shall be stealing the idea of flaked black pudding on grilled tomatoes for future fry-ups though I cannot hope to replicate the delicately small portions we were served. Then the cheese. Up till this point each dish had been a lesson in micro-construction, put together with the precision of a heart surgeon. But the platter of English cheese was brutal. All accompanied by a shockingly expensive but sumptuous bottle of Galician white.
But you don’t just come for the food. Unfortunately the table wasn’t well orientated to people-watch (though I was told that the Ritz isn’t the sort of place you can celeb spot) but we did have front row seats the the serving stations and the constant flurry of waiters, busboys, sommeliers and guidos slicing through space with terrifying efficiency. The room itself is grotesque opulence and while an amazing place for fine dining would also serve as a decent backdrop for an Eyes Wide Shut bacchanalia.
Snooty without being exclusive, faintly touristy in fact, but you should treat yourself. Scratch that. you should treat yourself and me. It might be the only way of getting yourself into Jedward’s underpants.
The Ritz London
Tel: 0207 493 8181