I was not a fan of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking. Granted, I had never actually tried any of his cooking, but I had looked through one of his recipe books, and hadn’t liked his recipes.
Still, with an empire of restaurants (eight, at present) across London, he must be doing something right. On a friend’s recommendation, I decided to try one of the newer (and more affordable) offerings, Boxwood Café at Knightsbridge.
A couple of things should be noted about Boxwood Café. First, even though it’s right next to the road, it’s very easy to miss. It has a very unassuming exterior that I walked right past without even realising.
Second, its very name is a misnomer. This is no more a café than I am a cardiologist. The moment you walk in, a reception greets you and enquires if you have a reservation, and there is a coatroom to handle your jackets and other bulky belongings (in my case, a haversack). Service is attentive, polished, and quite French – almost all the waitstaff were French, though that’s not too surprising in the Knightsbridge area.
Some reviews have bemoaned the dark, moody feel of the décor, but personally I quite liked it – very in keeping with the understated touch of class permeating the whole restaurant; reinforced by the fact that almost every patron of the “café” was in suit and tie, or otherwise formerly attired. I felt distinctly under-dressed in my jeans, but it was to the credit of the staff that they barely raised an eyebrow, and service was equally personable in my direction.
Bread is served with the traditional lightly salted butter and a less traditional taramosalata – a Greek dip made with olive oil, cream and cod roe. I’ve never had it before, and it was a great first experience; the taramosalata was light, creamy and the taste of the briny roe was ample without being overwhelming – a deft touch and a delightful spread that totally enlivened the rolls it was served with.
I had a white onion soup with roasted shallots and rosemary croutons, a frothy affair that arrived in a cast iron pot and was poured into my soup bowl in front of me. Again, fancy, and definitely not what you’d find in a café. The soup was perfectly executed; an adroit balance between texture, taste and density. Mild, light and just a little sweet, the only drawback was that the soup was rather too lukewarm.
Uncharacteristically, I opted for a light meal, choosing the ravioli of Italian squash, served with caramelised hazelnuts and shaved parmesan, goat's curd and wilted herbs. The combination looked unusual and I was prepared, somewhat perversely, to be disappointed. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed this vegetarian option – the ravioli was extremely delicate, and the squash purée was sweet and rewardingly hot, offset by the creamy and rich curd. The parmesan shavings were unbelievably thin, while the herbs had surrendered their strength (the sage was notably mild) and served almost as vegetables.
Although my meal was short, it changed my opinion of Gordon Ramsay and his style of food. Despite his many outlets, he does not appear to have over-extended himself; the quality of food is very high, and service standards are impeccable. I’ll definitely be dining at his restaurants again, as soon as I can start affording them.
Boxwood Café (Modern British)
The Berkeley, Knightsbridge, SW1
Tel: 020 7235 1010
Overall: Well-worth the rather hefty price tag