Gordon Ramsay’s new Restaurant 1890 at The Savoy is a masterful homage to a fine dining legend

By Michelle Johnson | 23 Apr 2022 | Indulge

French haute cuisine makes a comeback at this contemporary take on bold, classic flavours

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The year is 1890, and the recently-opened Savoy Hotel is lauded as the first purpose-built deluxe hotel in the UK. Situated along London’s The Strand, it is a magnet for the rich and royal, established by theatre impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte with a view to dazzle the créme of society with luxurious suites, designer décor – and unbeatable cuisine.

The maître-chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, is synonymous with the hotel’s culinary and star-studded legacy – he was famous friends with some of the world’s greatest performers, including actress Sarah Bernhardt and opera star Nellie Melba (for whom he invented the Peach Melba) – and, at The Savoy, the chef’s supper rooms made it fashionable for aristocratic women to dine in public for the first time.

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Escoffier was a champion of French haute cuisine, famed for popularising and modernising the five ‘mother sauces’ – béchamel, espagnole, tomate, velouté, hollandaise and mayonnaise – as well as falling on his military background to formalise the brigade de cuisine – the kitchen hierarchy still used today. 

Fast forward 132 years, and Escoffier’s presence is once again felt in The Savoy, thanks to one of our most prominent chefs célèbres: Gordon Ramsay. Launched this year, the intimate Restaurant 1890 is an homage to the famed French chef, from its refined, gold-hued décor to its sensational nine-course tasting menu. 

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Ramsay’s second Savoy restaurant (the hotel is also home to The River Restaurant by Gordon Ramsay) is helmed by executive chef James Sharp, previously of Ramsay’s Michelin-star restaurant Pétrus. With just 26 covers available across ten tables, this is more akin to a private dining event than a mere meal out. 

The experience begins at the small private bar area outside the dining room, where cocktails – named for Escoffier’s famous friends – await. We opt for a classic old fashioned over ice, a perfectly balanced, light and smoky aperitif, as well as an off-menu mocktail that comes presented even more beautifully.

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In the dining room, our table overlooks the Savoy Theatre – and the queues of theatregoers heading into an evening production of Dirty Dancing are the only sign that we are not in a bygone era. Sumptuous fabric and artwork are set off by art deco mirrors and finishing touches, as a trio of canapés – devilled crab, beetroot and horseradish, and smoked cheddar gougère – begins our tasting experience with flare. 

From there, a roast chicken consommé is accompanied by Parker house roll – rich with onion and rosemary and finished with a sticky glaze – followed by a medley of sugar snap pea and rich tomato royale that our waiter rightfully describes as “spring in a bowl”. A seasonable asparagus with an unmistakably morish garlic hollandaise comes next, before a Turbot Veronique with champagne and caviar beurre blanc. Both paired with a beguiling white merlot (expert head sommelier Emanuel Pesqueira’s recommendation), these are my favourite dishes, thanks to the interplay of exquisitely fresh but simple core ingredients and powerfully complex sauces. 

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The main dishes are completed by a melt-in-the-mouth cut of Aberdeen Angus short rib with artichokes and sauce Bordelaise – there is barely the need for a knife with this heavenly tender portion of beef. Pesquiera offers an “adventurous” Cabernet Sauvignon, full of unexpected spice and raspberry notes, to pair. It is deep pink and delicious – a much lighter shade than I might have expected – and speaks to the sommelier’s impressive intuition for his guests’ individual tastes: a nearby table opts for a sherry-hued organic white wine as their pairing of choice. 

A trio of seasonal desserts finishes the tasting experience – aged comté cheese, a sharp raspberry sorbet, and blood orange parfait paired with dark chocolate and cardamom sauce – before, finally, coffee with a selection of petit fours of grapefruit and juniper pâte de fruit, and salted caramel chocolate. 

A worthy homage to the great Escoffier, Chef Sharp’s realisation of Restaurant 1890’s menu of complex flavours and peerless produce is wholly contemporary, succeeding in taking the lucky diner on a true culinary journey through London’s love affair with French haute cuisine. Add in the evocative setting and attentive team, and the result is time travel at its finest.

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