Christmas dinner is served up at the kitchen table at Gordon Ramsay's Pétrus
From fabulously inventive canapes to boozy soufflé to close the night, Pétrus is cooking up a menu of technical brilliance
When the call came in that the mighty Gordon Ramsay group was looking for someone to check out the new Christmas menu at Petrus, the Belgravia-based Michelin-starred restaurant, then I signed up faster than you can say ‘big sweary chef’.
Tucked away down a side street in one of London’s most upmarket areas, it’s the sort of place that requires early booking – so if you’re looking to get in there for Christmas or New Year, then call them now. After reading this, of course.
First up, a confession. I have never eaten at a kitchen table before. For the uninitiated, this is a table that’s set in the pressure cooker that is a professional restaurant kitchen. It’s been on my to-do list for a while, but the right opportunity never came along. Until now.
After being shown to our table, a plush curved booth set in to the back wall of the kitchen, facing the pass (the hot shelf where the food is given to the waiting staff), we were introduced to head chef Larry Jayasekara, a Sri Lankan with 13 years experience at the highest level (Waterside Inn, Le Manoir, Michel Bras – you get the picture). He explained that each of his team would bring over the individual courses that they had helped prepare – seven in total – and talk us through them. With wine pairings for each too, of course. Special mention to our Scottish sommelier, by the way – his choices were adventurous yet perfectly judged. >>
Suffice to say, every course was a winner. From the fabulously inventive canapes at the start (you must try their miniature take on a croque monsieur) to the boozy prune and Armagnac soufflé that closed the night, this was cooking of such technical brilliance that my fellow diners and I soon ran short of superlatives.
Highlights? There were many. A deep, rich ballotine of foie gras, served with mead and toasted brioche was a fabulous interpretation of a French classic. The steak tartare, dotted with cute miniature egg ‘yolks’, crunchy cornichons and edible nasturtiums had also been put together with thought and care.
The big beast of the night, though – the dish that got the whole table ‘oohing’ – was a slow roasted whole capon served with a gratin of dauphinoise, sauté mushrooms with parsley and garlic, and jus roti. Crisped to perfection on the outside, and with a quiveringly rare interior, Larry explained that there’s literally a 30 to 40 second cooking window between the ideal ‘done-ness’ and a totally ruined bird. To use a physics analogy – like Schrödinger's cat, you never really know what you’ll find until you take a look inside.
The kitchen, despite a full restaurant above us, never once seemed to raise itself above a mildly busy level. It was fascinating to see how precise they were with their movements, weaving around each other like ballet dancers. If anything, their meticulousness makes you appreciate your meal all the more.
Clever, fun and visually stunning, every dish was the gastronome’s definition of a Christmas treat. If there’s a foodie in your life and you’re struggling to think of a present for them, book this table. You won’t regret it.