Pétrus, London

Pétrus

2/5

Pétrus – never “Château Pétrus” – is famous for being the most expensive wine in the world. That’s not a good thing. Most people have a knee-jerk hatred of brands like that, and the rest – the ones who drink it – hardly ever appreciate it. It’s a truism that sheikhs and oligarchs and robber barons know the price of everything and the value of nothing: rappers buy the cognac because of its cost, not its taste. Expensive plonk is typically just a bonanza of willy-waving, so for a restaurant to align itself with a wine like that, and all its dreary affluent pretensions – smacks of grasping inertia, of being hopelessly out of touch.

There’s a bottle on the list here for 49,500 quid. What a brazen, hilarious amount to spend on fruit juice. That, and the resurrected name, tell you everything you need to know about the ambitions of this place. And if the food were stellar, they could almost get away with it. But it isn’t, so they don’t.

Belgravia smells of second homes and stucco; the local brothel would be called the Non-Dom’s Condom. “We have lots of regulars already,” says Jean-Philippe Susilovic, the maitre d’, sometime Hell’s Kitchen personality and an eminence grise in the embattled Ramsay empire.

Susilovic is terrifyingly good at what he does: he strikes a brilliant Belgian balance between deference and chumminess. It’s a job most people would be hopeless at: to bow before the bloated and Botoxed without grovelling. He welcomes you like you’re back from a war, and he puts a relaxed hand on your chair as he talks to the table – it’s far more impressive and hospitable than anything the kitchen is doing.

We started with an amuse of ho-hum onion soup: a tablespoon sloshing at the bottom of outsize aubergine-shaped bowls. Amuse or not, the portion looked mean: stockpot dregs the colour of dishwater. My starter was a cold canneloni of salmon and crab with lettuce sauce. It was bland and wimpy, tamer than a Furby, and the pasta was overcooked. A “mosaic” (a poncy word for terrine) of foie gras and rabbit was better, interplaying bunny and liverfat, with an excellent carrot chutney.

Beef fillet and shin was blokey and safe – but trout with sweetcorn was utterly horrendous. The fish was raw in the middle and tough at the sides, and the Tudor-dentistry sweetcorn was a disastrous pairing. I liked the puddings more: toffee apple with a sage yoghurt parfait, and a chocolate sphere that dissolved when they poured sauce over it.

The effect of the room, JPS aside, is depressing: staff shuffle endlessly to the table, fill glasses, remove things, repeat what you’ve ordered. They’re professional – it’s all so very, very professional. But this is mute, emasculated, limp-wristed dining, bereft of the spark and verve you associate with Ramsay’s onscreen persona. The set lunch is currently £25 which is, I suppose, a good deal if you want to experience a restaurant reaching for gongs and plaudits. But none of it has anything to do with pleasure.

Pétrus, 1 Kinnerton Yard, London SW1

Tel. +44 (0)20 7235 1200

See on the map

Set lunch £25, à la carte £55, tasting menu £65

18 thoughts on “Pétrus, London

  1. >All Ramsay places are like this, from Claridge's to RHR. The cooking is RHR is better, of course, but there's always the feeling they're aiming for 'just good enough', stopping safely short of fireworks and happy with pleasant.

    Plus – trout and sweetcorn? In a place aiming for Michelin stars? AND they couldn't cook it properly?

  2. >Good, concise review, Oliver. I think it's a shame it doesn't quite cut it though, as it could have been a triumphant return for Ramsay.

  3. >So you are all agreed…AA Gill, Kang and you that this restaurant is crap?
    Funny how I enjoyed it so much. Especially at the price. Maybe I have no taste?
    Well for a ordinary housewife chav like me, the meal was spectacular!

  4. >Chris – I know. Madness. And also weirdly, blandly international: we could have been anywhere.

    Emyr – Thanks. I agree – it is a bit of shame.

    TUR – I'm glad you liked it :)

  5. >A great write-up, Oliver – just as enjoyable as Gill's or Coren's.

    Your comment about the terrine put me in mind of a dish I had recently in Tokyo that could, justifiably, have been labelled a mosaic but was, in fact, on the menu as ratatouille.

  6. >Eatmynels – FWIW, I think your £25 would be better spent elsewhere.

    Mr T – Thanks, good to see you back. That ratatouille / mosaic looks completely beautiful.

  7. >You're an arrogant CUNT! A man that worked towards three Michelin Stars at Royal Hospital Road in partnership with Marcus Wearing's ex maitre-d' … you must be joking!

    Terry Tibbs… talk to me.

  8. >Anon – Oh hello! I was wondering when you'd crop up on here: you've trolled so much on the other blogs I was feeling left out.

    The only thing 'Wearing' here is you.

  9. >Brilliant review as always Ollie. 'willy waving' made me laugh out loud. I must say, the quality of the comments is also excellent. Anonymous has really got a bee in his bonnet! Or her bonnet I suppose.

    I rather like the sound of carrot chutney though. I will have a go at making some, so at least something good will come of your meal there.

  10. >Thring at his finest – loved the Tudor dentistry line! Anon clearly has a loose grip on irony…this is as fine a stab at the arrogance of overpriced Michelinery as any I've read in a long time. Keep up the good work.
    K

  11. >Helen – Yeah the carrot chutney was fab. Do please have a go and report back.

    Salty – Thanks! Very sweet of you.

  12. >Just back from lunch there today. The chef menu was good. From foie gras, scallops, lamb to crème brûlée and chocolate sphere. In my opinion, everything was good. The only complaint was the lamb which was not seasoned well enough. Set lunch menu looked like a good deal but I didn't like the idea of trout and sweetcorn. Couldn't agree more about the service. Anyway, I'm Gordon's fan though.

  13. >Really enjoyed this review Oliver.

    As usual, beautifully written and observed. And for my money, all the better for being a little shorter too. It's punchier that way.

    Keep it up!

  14. >Perhaps if you ate the Cannaloni instead of photogrphing it, it may have been warm, (Quite sure if it would be hot it may taste of rubber).

  15. Pingback: Food News & Awards 2010 | James Ramsden

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