I recently had my first meal at Gordon Ramsay -- a deluxe eight-course tasting menu. The service was extremely welcoming and competent, and the savory dishes were flawless. I was much less pleased with the dessert courses. As memory serves, we began with a creme caramel in rasberry sauce, which was delicious but a tad predictable; this was followed by a grapefruit ice parfait, which was acidic, though I liked the candied cilantro leaf that came as garnish; and then a frozen chocolate and vanilla truffle, which was a bit like a vertical ice cream cake and incredibly straightforward -- good but no more interesting than any other pairing of chocolate and vanilla. The petits fours followed this same pattern: a caramel truffle and a strawberry ice cream truffle. Caramel and strawberry ice cream! I kept waiting for something soused in armagnac or calvados!
Slight dessert disappointment aside, Gordon Ramsay was a pleasure, well worth a return visit.
I think, though, that an even better dining experience is to be had at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir Aux Quatre Saisons, near Oxford. Not only is the manor itself beautiful beyond restaurant comparison, but everything Blanc does has a surprising etherial lightness and subtlety. As my wife said after the fact, it's vaguely imaginable that we could approximate some of the Gordon Ramsay dishes at home, but unimaginable that we could reproduce anything from the Blanc menu. The Blanc dishes were simpler, I think, but more perfect --the food seemed to float on the plate and every flavor was so sharply defined. My lunch at Le Manoir remains the best meal of my life, and the morels and asparagus in gewurtztraminer cream sauce remains the best dish of my life, whatever the Michelin fellows have to say about it.