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Gordon Ramsay at the London


johnder
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Another detail to mention.

Throughout the meal, the entire service staff kept referring to my date -- a 30-year-old woman who looks younger and couldn't possibly be construed to be my wife -- in the third person, as "madame", with the accent on the second syllable.  Even though none was French (one was German, one was British, and the rest were American).

I alternated finding it charming and creepy.

Where -- at least at places that are serious -- do you see that any more in New York?

Today - madame is simply a polite French/sometimes Continental way to refer to a woman who is too old to be a mademoiselle (most women past college age) - whether or not she is married. Just like a polite way to refer to the same type of woman in the southeast US is m'am. And in Spanish - it would be senora. Etc. Robyn

To clarify, I find referring to women in the third person as kind of creepy. I believe they addressed me as "you".

You may find it creepy - but it's just the way people are taught to speak in their native languages. For example - a Spanish speaking person who is attempting to deal with me in English in a service capacity will usually call me "Lady" - the translation of Senora. Sounds weird - but the grammar is correct (in Spanish). Shouldn't be a deal breaker for anything (except perhaps if the person is working as a professional translator). Robyn

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Yeah, but of all my servers, only ONE (a German) wasn't a native English speaker. Most of these people seemed to come from either England or the Midwest.

My point is, it's an AFFECTATION. They're aping "Continental" service. In some ways it's charming. In others it's creepy.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Yeah, but of all my servers, only ONE (a German) wasn't a native English speaker.  Most of these people seemed to come from either England or the Midwest.

My point is, it's an AFFECTATION.  They're aping "Continental" service.  In some ways it's charming.  In others it's creepy.

Well a Madam over here is something completely different to "madame" and Ma'am is reserved for the Queen. Simply saying "and for you..?" would be considered rude and "and for the lady..." very oldfashioned (although still very much in use over in the uk amongst more senior/wealthy diners) We would strive to use the name of a regular guest where possible but it gets cloying when repeated ad infinitum as seems to be the case stateside so "Sir" and "Madame" are the "safest" and most polite. :wacko:

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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But again (and I don't want to stretch this out), while I was addressed as "sir", I was never addressed as "sir" in the third person. They never asked, "Did Sir like his pork belly?"

And my other point is, the fact that I noticed this shows that it's simply not the norm in upper-end NYC restaurants.

And my third point is, I'm not really complaining about this, but merely using it as an example of how retro this restaurant is -- both in ways I enjoyed and in ways I didn't.

But it's probably silly to talk about this any longer.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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I was never addressed as "sir" in the third person.

Do you all think sir would feel better if I started doing this to sir?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I was never addressed as "sir" in the third person.

Do you all think sir would feel better if I started doing this to sir?

Oh, do!

Although if sir begins referring to himself in the third person, we're all in trouble.

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top 3 in NY (I haven't been to Per Se or Masa):

Jean Georges

Momofuku Ssam (I'm being both perverse and serious)

WD-50

with shoutouts to Yasuda, Robuchon, Esca and Daniel.

best restaurant in America:

Alinea

How can you say that Alinea is the best restaurant in the US when you haven't even been to Per Se - which is (for you) a local restaurant. Did you ever go to Alain Ducasse before it closed?

On my part - I wouldn't presume to say what the best restaurant in the US (or any other country) is (although I can give opinions about those restaurants I consider the best where I live - I just go out more at home than anywhere else). Just haven't been to enough of them (although I have been to Per Se and Alain Ducasse). All I can say is where I've had my best/favorite meals. Robyn

best restaurant in the U.S. that I've been to.

as for Per Se, I simply won't deal with the reservation system.

Ducasse never struck me as being worth the money on my budget.

fwiw, I've heard (more than once) from people who have eaten everywhere that the best restaurant in the U.S. is the Mansion.

I cheated both with Per Se and Alain Ducasse. Shared a reservation with an eGullet member at Per Se when her companion had to cancel dinner on relatively short notice. We happened to be in New York the day of her reservation. But I wouldn't go back because I don't enjoy eating dinner at 5:30. Was a walk-in at Alain Ducasse on a relatively slow Monday when our patio seating at Jean Georges was cancelled due to rain and they wanted to seat us at the bar (no way I was going to eat at the bar on my 30th anniversary).

However I agree with you in general about reservation hassles. It is one thing to make extensive reservations far in advance when you're going on a long trip planned a long time in advance if there's a reasonable way to do it. It simply isn't fun if you're making local reservations (apart from trips - how do I know what I'll be doing 2 months from now - and things get harder when you're trying to get together with friends - they don't have a clue either).

I can say that with some restaurants that have hard to get reservations - particularly overseas - you can sometimes avoid problems by sending email to someone - anyone - who will get back to you - especially if you are willing to do something like lunch on Wednesday - rather than dinner on Saturday night.

I managed to contact such a person within the Ramsay organization on a recent trip to the UK - and she was great in terms of getting us the reservation we wanted at RHR (which happened to be lunch the day we were doing to the Chelsea flower show). Otherwise - concierges can frequently help - often by email (which is useful if you are going to a country where you don't speak the language well or at all - or the time differences are very extreme). A third possibility is staying in the hotel where a restaurant is located - you frequently get better access through the concierge desk.

But - there are some - not a huge number - but some restaurants in the world where the reservation process is so silly and overloaded that I wouldn't go through the hassles required unless I was having life-saving surgery there :smile: ;.

As for the whole Madame thing - I don't think it's an affectation except perhaps when done poorly by someone from Kansas. It's just a protocol - and I've seen it both abroad - and in New York. Like at David Burke & Donatella - I think we had about 3-4 people attending to our table - from maybe 3-4 different countries - and I was always Madame. Same at Ducasse. I've rarely seen it on the west coast of the US - perhaps because I've rarely run into servers born outside the US there at high-end restaurants. In places like Miami and parts of Texas of course - it's more likely to be Senora (or Lady) than Madame.

I realize that some people might find this post off topic - but so far I haven't read many messages which contain anything but what I consider minor or irrelevant complaints about GR in New York.

Robuchon at the Mansion might be the best restaurant in the US these days - but I'll probably never get there - just because (as a non-gambler) - I think Las Vegas is a 2 day town and we've been there within the last five years. FWIW - if you're interested in the place - I've only read one review on line where the diner ate both at the Mansion and Jamin in Paris. It makes for some very interesting reading.

Finally - as for budgets - except for those hedge fund guys who made $25 billion last year - we all have budgets of one kind or another. One way to keep down the tab at an expensive restaurant is in the liquor department. Cocktails are usually cheaper than wine. A couple of glasses of wine is cheaper than a bottle. And at every *good* expensive restaurant we've been to - you will not be made to feel like a poor idiot if you ask for a wine at the lower end of the price list that works with your dinner. Although you can wind up with some bad wine (we had bad at Jean Georges - really excellent at Alain Ducasse). When outside the US in a wine-producing country - asking for a relatively inexpensive recommended *local* wine almost always works like a charm. I'm not sure that will work in New York (we have had some barely drinkable whites from the Finger Lakes - but never a drinkable red). Robyn

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I realize that some people might find this post off topic - but so far I haven't read many messages which contain anything but what I consider minor or irrelevant complaints about GR in New York.

Yeah. Funny thing what a bad rep this very good place has.

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I realize that some people might find this post off topic - but so far I haven't read many messages which contain anything but what I consider minor or irrelevant complaints about GR in New York.

A bit of perspective is in order. GR at the London was widely considered to be a near-clone of GR at RHR. That restaurant carries three Michelin stars, and regularly appears on various Top 50 in the World lists. GR at the London also carries an $80 prix fixe at dinner, making it more expensive than about 99.99% of NYC restaurants.

With that in mind, you expect an experience that is far beyond merely "good." You expect an experience at or close to the NYT four-star restaurants — a level that virtually no reviewer, professional or amateur, believes this restaurant has attained.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the posts on this thread are not about the food. But among the few that are, you find varying degrees of "underwhelmed." For instance, tupac17616: "I've only had one meal at each (both extended tasting menus), but I found the food at Picholine to be of generally a much higher level than GR."

This poster, of course, is not saying that GR is bad. But he's saying that, based on both its price and reputation, he expected quite a bit more. And there are a number of posts to that effect on this thread, though you have to wade through quite a bit of irrelevance to find them.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Thing is, though, Ramsay still got manhandled by the food press.

Obviously, "better than Country, not as good as Picholine" isn't what Ramsay was aiming for. But still, does anybody seriously think this is a two-star restaurant? Part of it, of course -- as you've pointed out -- is that Ramsay plays directly into (meaning against) Bruni's and Platt's biases. But I think there's also a bit of overreacting going on. It's like, once this restaurant doesn't deserve four stars (and, as you say, nearly everybody agrees it doesn't), it might as well get only two. Just seems nuts to me.

And, although I have no basis for this belief, I can't believe it was that much worse under Neil Ferguson.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Obviously, "better than Country, not as good as Picholine" isn't what Ramsay was aiming for.  But still, does anybody seriously think this is a two-star restaurant?  Part of it, of course -- as you've pointed out -- is that Ramsay plays directly into (meaning against) Bruni's and Platt's biases.  But I think there's also a bit of overreacting going on.  It's like, once this restaurant doesn't deserve four stars (and, as you say, nearly everybody agrees it doesn't), it might as well get only two.  Just seems nuts to me.

Bruni administered similar two-star bruisings to Alto, Café Gray, Le Cirque, The Modern, Gilt, and The Four Seasons — all very pricey restaurants that, I am sure, considered themselves at least three-star material. Most critics, though not Bruni, did the same to Del Posto. I don't think GR was singled out for such treatment.

I do agree that it is nuts.

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In this case -- unlike most Oakapple cites -- it isn't just Bruni, though. It's like the entire New York food media were so blinded by their expectations* that they were unable to judge Ramsay at the London for what it is.

_________________________________________________

* Obviously Ramsay was complicit in this.

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Obviously, "better than Country, not as good as Picholine" isn't what Ramsay was aiming for.  But still, does anybody seriously think this is a two-star restaurant?  Part of it, of course -- as you've pointed out -- is that Ramsay plays directly into (meaning against) Bruni's and Platt's biases.  But I think there's also a bit of overreacting going on.  It's like, once this restaurant doesn't deserve four stars (and, as you say, nearly everybody agrees it doesn't), it might as well get only two.  Just seems nuts to me.

Bruni administered similar two-star bruisings to Alto, Café Gray, Le Cirque, The Modern, Gilt, and The Four Seasons — all very pricey restaurants that, I am sure, considered themselves at least three-star material. Most critics, though not Bruni, did the same to Del Posto. I don't think GR was singled out for such treatment.

I do agree that it is nuts.

Of those you've mentioned - I've only been to Le Cirque - when it was in a hotel (think it was the Palace?) maybe about 4 years ago. And we had an unusual meal experience there. We had dined at Le Cirque in Las Vegas. It was dreadfully mediocre (as opposed to Circo - which was quite quite good for a middle of the road restaurant). And I wrote the owner a real letter detailing our experiences. Got a reply that said - next time you're in New York - be our guests for lunch at Le Cirque. Took about a year. But we took him up on his offer next time we were in town. And I can can tell you that we got the full Ruth Reichl Treatment 2 (as opposed to her treatment 1) for VIPS during that lunch. One of the best meals we've had in the last decade. An experience we'd probably never be able to duplicate.

But getting back to Ramsay - I think the problem here is that there are some people (maybe every reviewer who's younger than 50?) who do not like classical formal food served in classical formal surroundings. Which is what Ramsay does (at least in London). I suspect his place in New York isn't up to London standards (it takes years to get up to 3 star Michelin standards) - but I doubt it is a 2 star NYT stars place.

Now I have my own prejudices. You'll never convince me that a steak dinner with creamed spinach is worth what top steak houses charge. Probably because (unlike most people in big cities - I live in the 'burbs) - I can turn out a wonderful steak at home on my BBQ for a lot less money. When I go out - I like to eat things that I would never in a million years consider making at home (too long - too hard - too complicated). Something like a multi-course high end continental meal. I don't eat that kind of food that often - otherwise I would wear a dress size I don't care to wear. But it's great a half dozen times a year.

Ditto with pasta and a lot of other Italian food. So easy to make wonderful stuff at home.

When I go to a restaurant - I want to eat food that: 1) I can't/won't make at home (even if it's fried chicken - which is a big mess to make); or 2) just because I'm too lazy to cook on a particular night.

I think with reviewers - they ought to put their prejudices out front. If they don't - they're not very good reviewers. Robyn

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  • 4 months later...

i ate there - io the MAZE last month and had a fantastic time. tHe room had a great buzz and vibe despite the fact we were there at 7 on a friday night. Highlights included (with aplogies for the cut and paste from the website...) White onion velouté with duck ragoût and shaved Pèrigord truffle $12.00 , Apple cured duck breast, smoked foie gras with amaranth $14.00 Roasted sablefish with creamed parsnip, onion bhaji and ginger velouté $16.00

Twice cooked poussin, roast - Coq au Vin with prune purée and foie gras velouté $16.00. We had a great German waiter (with a sense of humour!!!) and were offered the chance to view the kitchens too.

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Oh yeah, my mother and a business associate had a great lunch at Maze a few weeks ago. Not as good a deal as JG, but she said the subtle nature of the food was a welcome change. And on Larry King tonight, Gordon claimed that things in NYC are going great after a "tough" six opening months. Then again you have to take that with a very, very, very large hunk of salt.

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Oh yeah, my mother and a business associate had a great lunch at Maze a few weeks ago.  Not as good a deal as JG, but she said the subtle nature of the food was a welcome change.  And on Larry King tonight, Gordon claimed that things in NYC are going great after a "tough" six opening months.  Then again you have to take that with a very, very, very large hunk of salt.

The only thing I know for sure, is that the main dining room is totally, totally, totally off the radar. It doesn't get a mention anywhere.

But that doesn't mean things are going badly, or that GR was fibbing to Larry King. The restaurant probably draws plenty of tourists and business travelers, and those folks wouldn't be posting to boards like this one, or writing reviews in local magazines. There are a lot of diners who are looking for something solid, highly competent, and unadventurous. This might be the ticket for them.

It will be very interesting to see where this restaurant lands in the next NYC Michelin Guide.

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my understanding (and many others have noted this) is that main dining room appears to do good business....it's all British tourists. there just aren't any NY'ers eating there. (it's significantly cheaper than eating in London)

Edited by Nathan (log)
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My understanding is that this was a very, very good summer for NYC restaurants due to a major influx of European tourists secondary to the weakness of the dollar compared to the Euro and the pound. It stands to reason that GR at the London would have benefited greatly from this.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 8 months later...
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