It's appropriate that I went to the restaurant at The Ritz hotel in London the same day as Prince George's Christening. It's a rare occurrence to actually feel like royalty, especially when dining in the capital, but when my guest and I were handed our coats after an 8-course tasting menu with the clock pushing eleven, I could have sworn I was heading back to Buckingham Palace. That would have been nice actually, it's only a short stroll across Green Park from the hotel.
The Ritz equals opulence and the Ritz Restaurant is no different. A cavernous eating space is dotted with marble sculptures, you walk to it through an atrium dripping in wealth.
That might make you think the restaurant itself is snooty, but we found that to be far from the case. Our sweet sommelier looked mildly crestfallen when I told him I was allergic to red wine and that we didn't like oak-y chardonnays. But rather than get in a huff (something I've experienced before), he bustled away and came back with a delicious Chateau Cantelys which worked very well across all the myriad courses.
And my, what food it was. The scallop with apple and hazelnut was zingy, the heirloom tomato salad with chunks of lobster felt decadent but light. Course three was a bit of a bust for me - I'm simply not a fan of meat paste, even if it does come from an expensive and unfortunate goose.
But the foie gras was more than made up for with the veal sweetbread that followed. Sweetbread's often gelatinous nature was non-existent here, the glaze lending it a kind of bite which gave it a richness and depth.
I enjoyed the langoustine, though my companion felt the cauliflower puree didn't quite work with it, the sweetness of the vegetable clashing with the meaty fishiness.
Once again though, the next course came back strong. When I asked our server how he made carving a grouse look so easy, he smiled and told us he had learned in Switzerland, where a mistake meant you had to pay for the bird. On a waiter's salary, he got good fast. Shot and flown in that morning from Scotland, it had incredible flavour, which wasn't overpowered by a delicious gravy that we mopped up with crisp potatoes.
A lemon sorbet with fresh raspberries cleared the palate and would have been a brilliant end, but they weren't finished. A hazelnut semi-freddo came ornately caged in chocolate, whilst a vivacious sommelier (a different one) waxed lyrical about a 30-year-old Xerez sherry. It tasted sweet, luxurious and of figs. Though still October, we thought it was Christmas.
With worries about the babysitter, we had to speed off into the night, with the immaculate staff smiling and wishing us well as we left.
Georgy-Boy might get used to all this in a few years, thanks to where he'll grow up. For me? I'll remember it for a long time. Especially the pianist playing a lounge version of It Must Have Been Love by Roxette. What a dude.