The chefs went foraging for wild garlic in Epping Forest: The Ritz has at last reopened

·3-min read
 (Dominic James/Maverick TV )
(Dominic James/Maverick TV )

It’s been the biggest week of 2021 so far for me, as on Monday we reopened The Ritz. I’ve been the Executive Chef at the hotel since 2004 with my main objective to run the best hotel restaurant and offer the finest hospitality in Great Britain. It was essential for us to get the reopening of The Ritz Restaurant right and as a minimum the aim is to be better in terms of the execution of the dish than we were when we closed our doors last December.

Since January, during the closure we — my sous chefs and the front of house restaurant service team — have used the time to question ourselves and everything that we do, from what we are cooking to what we serve the food on. It has been a revelation. We’ve never previously had the opportunity to really stop, reflect, refine and look forward, and I firmly believe we are closer as a result and that there is more respect, synergy and understanding between the chefs and the service teams.

Spring is my favourite season for British ingredients. It’s been wonderful to be cooking with morels, broad beans, asparagus, Jersey royals, lamb, Scottish langoustine, Cornish lobster… My sous chefs have been focused on enhancing some of our dishes, refining flavours. For example, we’ve been working with different elements of the lobster — the claw and the tail — to change slightly our lobster dish. Spencer, who is the premier sous chef, has developed a kombu custard, with oyster and caviar. Some of the chefs went foraging in Epping forest last week and have made a wild garlic oil which is finishing several dishes.

We’ve enhanced the tea, coffee and petits fours experience and developed a new table side offering for the restaurant’s tasting menu to provide more interaction with our guests. It looks amazing during service in the dining room.

The Restaurant has been fully booked for lunch and dinner this week, and our bookings are looking healthy through the summer. We’ve had some well-known faces in the restaurant this week, but of course I can never reveal any names! It has been a long and tough winter, so I hope that all of our guests have enjoyed themselves and left us happy. Certainly the feedback I’ve been receiving has been positive.

Next Monday (if the rain stops) we will open a new Italian Garden, a more casual, terrace-style restaurant at the hotel next to Green Park. We’ve created a menu with a seafood focus to suit the space.

There is an energy and an excitement here, and on Monday lunch service when the first cheques were called for the restaurant, this was palpable in the kitchen. It is a pleasure and an honour to be part of culinary history at this great hotel, and the pressure is on us to deliver for each guest. My philosophy has always been to strive for perfection, knowing you’ll never get there.

I lost 21 kilos in lockdown and aim to keep this off now the kitchen is in full swing. I want to keep up my regime with a walk each morning around Green Park and St James’s Park. It’s the best way to start the day!

John Williams is executive chef at The Ritz

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