Clare Smyth MBE has now been appointed chef-patron of Gordon Ramsay’s flagship Chelsea restaurant. Her name features on the intelligently inventive menu, and the cool, elegant dining room has been refurbished with distinctly feminine touches, including lilac-toned silk-screen print panels.
Dishes tantalise then delight the senses; no element of the complex assemblies seems showily redundant – even the pouring of sauces at table adds visual and aromatic impact. A snow of frozen buttermilk proved a perfect counterpoint to slivers of summer vegetables in a rock pool of warm, deeply flavoured jus. Shavings of salt-baked turnip gave saline balance to the sweetness of rabbit loin with roast hazelnuts, and vadouvan-spiced, smoke-puffed wild rice provided a crunchy backdrop to tender mutton.
If our set lunch desserts were a touch less perfect, petits fours stepped in with polished panache. It helps to have an insouciant budget, but we were treated with warm courtesy throughout: even by the sommelier, pre-tasting our screw-topped South African rosé. Show particular interest in any aspect of the meal and you’ll elicit an enthusiastic and informed response.
The Herdwick mutton, we discovered, was ineffably pink and tender because it had been brought down from high ground hefting to lush grassland for three months. We left with a smile, and lifted spirits.