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Friday, 6 May 2011
Petrus is one of Gordon Ramsay’s star eateries with experienced, Yorkshire born chef Mark Askew at the helm. Petrus was once the joint labour of love of Gordon Ramsay and his most successful protégé, Marcus Wareing. Together they set up at the grand Berkeley Hotel and were rewarded two Michelin stars for their efforts. However in 2008 an almighty falling out led Wareing to work at the venue alone, and Ramsay took the Petrus name elsewhere. That restaurant is now tucked away in luxurious Knightsbridge just round the corner from my workplace. I had never tried a Ramsay restaurant so was excited to finally have the opportunity to experience the food behind the TV personality.
Lunch begins at 12 noon at most of London’s smart restaurants, and so when we arrived at Petrus a little after 1.30 many diners were already gorging on desserts. We were seated at a spacious table overlooking the room and presented with large cream menus. Brushing past the tempting a la carte, I found the lunch menu ... three courses for £30, or including two glasses of wine and coffee, £45. The list of options was impressively long, with many alternatives. Note: If you are vegetarian you will have to opt for the £60 vegetarian menu as there are no veggie dishes in the set lunch.
To keep costs down we politely declined wine. We waited slightly impatiently for bread, which took longer than it should to arrive at our table. With the warm slices of white and brown came the first of our little extras, an amuse-bouche of watercress mousse with potato and horseradish, with a crisp crouton and raw salmon. It was light and delicious, with a refreshing flavour, though I did avoid the salmon.
I wasn’t overly impressed with my starter, a neat slice of pressed foie gras and confit duck, served with a mouthful of oily hazelnut salad and a lump of sweet carrot chutney. It was brave of me to order foie gras in the first place, an acquired rich taste that I like in moderation but still find ethically difficult. It was nice enough, but just not as special as I’d expected. My companion chose the beef carpaccio with celeriac remoulade, horseradish and capers... this was better, a complementary mix of flavours and textures.
When our main courses finally came I was preoccupied watching the surrounding tables receiving their numerous sweet surprises. Looking greedily forward to dessert (plus the extras) I was glad our mains were quite petite. I had roasted breast of poussin and leg stuffed with wild mushroom, and cep sauce and my friend had braised pork cheek with romanesco, turnips and spiced Madeira jus. The food came steaming, a divine aroma of sweet rich flavours. After a disappointing starter, I was delighted with my main, perfectly cooked meat and with a creamy salty sauce that was ‘lick the plate’ worthy. With the mains they kindly brought us two extras, steamed broccoli and potato dauphinoise.
Accompanying the dessert menus came two miniature ice-cream cones filled with white chocolate and passionfruit mousse: a little mouthful of sugary heaven and a taster of the treats to come. With seven pudding choices, I felt a tad overwhelmed and asked the waiter about his favourites - the chocolate ones came out on top and so we both went for those: white chocolate cylinder with coffee and mascarpone ice cream for me and chocolate sphere with milk ice cream and honeycomb for him. Both were yummy, though after trying each I can confirm the chocolate sphere the true winner at our table. The waitress poured hot chocolate sauce on top of the dessert causing the perfect sphere to collapse inwards revealing a creamy plump ball of ice cream.
It wasn’t over yet, I’d seen steaming silver pots being taken to other tables so I asked our waiter if we too could share in this fantastical freebie. Just as we paid the bill, we received our treat which had liquid nitrogen streaming out magically; the waiter lifted the lid and beneath the clouds were four adorable little round lollipops - some kind of alcoholic ice cream coated in white chocolate.
Though the Petrus food was below par in places, and the service could have been better, the tricks and excitement made up for it. Surprises and freebies are my favourite things about Michelin star restaurants, and as far as magic is concerned Ramsay didn’t disappoint.