When you love food as much as I do, it isn’t long until eventually it starts to find its way to you.
After years of recommending restaurants to friends, family and acquaintances who drop into my inbox; my work has begun to pay me off handsomely in the currency of food snaps alongside excited texts of: “you have to try this place!!!!!”
I no longer have to spend hours trawling articles or walking around the Manchester ‘burbs in search of the next must-eat place (I don’t have to – but I still do); satisfied in the knowledge that if it’s worth eating, it’ll find its way to me.
Often, I am recommended eateries that are a little outside my jurisdiction; a bus ride, maybe a train – or in this case, a 5,000 mile plane journey, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
My brother and his bestie bought the ticket and took the ride over to sin city, where the lights are bright, dignity is fleeting and all-you-can-eats are somewhat of a religion. Having been once or twice before myself, I knew that nowhere in Vegas does anything by halves, so when he sent me a picture of their last supper at Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, I wanted every last delicious detail.
Cut to Chris Griffin’s one-man soliloquy (edits by Frankie):
Picture the scene – Las Vegas. Middle of the desert. 36 degree heat.
We trawl up the strip – me wide-eyed in wonder at this totally bonkers city of sin. We strolled by New York, took a spin round the Eiffel Tower and past the stunning dancing fountains of The Bellagio. All of a sudden, something catches our eyes; the famous ‘HK’ that was synonymous with my favourite celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay. It’s Hell’s Kitchen.
“Can we go in?!” I asks excitedly, after insisting Matthew take numerous pictures of me by the sign.
“Of course!” Matthew replied.
It’s late on a Thursday afternoon and it’s packed to the rafters. Powerless to resist, Matthew and I peruse a menu, just to see what’s on offer. A set menu of three courses with each course a staple from the popular programme now in its 15th season, with matched wines. A fairly hefty price tag, but surely worth every bite/sip…anything else can be made up by stealing table napkins.
We asked for a reservation – our last evening on Saturday. The host practically laughed in our face – it was a Saturday night after all.
The host can clearly see our want. Our desperation – ‘I can squeeze you in at 5pm’ – “PERFECT!!” I squeal.
We’re sat by a window – overlooking the strip. It’s light, airy. A good spot for a late reservation. The napkins! They’re embossed with the ‘HK’ – the glassware is amazing. The cutlery exquisite. Would he be here? Would Gordon serve my food? Would he be berating one of the line chefs with his trademark temper? Would he call ME, an idiot sandwich?!
No. Of course he’s not here. And I’m rather pleased he wouldn’t be insulting me – I was already an emotional wreck just at being in the restaurant. He was apparently here to open and remained so for two or three weeks – until he went on to other ventures and restaurants that carry his name. We settled in and met our waiter.
The set menu – a choice of two starters, a Caesar salad or scallops, a set main of beef wellington and a dessert of sticky toffee pudding. Nothing for vegetarians here, how refreshing. We decided to get a starter each – to compare and then enjoy our main and pudding for afters. All with a matched wine.
Starters arrived – scallops paired with a light Viognier and the salad with an oaky Chardonnay.
The salad was good – but if I’m being totally critical, there’s very little you could get wrong. The scallops were the standout winner. A spiced corn purée with some of the best tasting scallops I’ve ever tried.
Here’s where things got a little tense in Hells Kitchen…
Our starters had just been finished, knifes and forks had just been placed together, when our mains arrived. The runner attempted to move the starter plates away whilst simultaneously trying to place our mains down…
Now just wait a minute…
I get that we walked in pretty late in the week – and it’s a Saturday, but we weren’t told about a turn-time. This was our last night in Vegas, I wanted an experience that would last – Dining here is a dream. The waiter came over (probably called Jared or Mikey or Hank or somesuch American name) – I explained weren’t ready. He apologised, removed the mains and said, ‘just let us know’.
We settled in to enjoy the remainder of our white wine and the two beers that had been ordered at the start of our meal and chat about our break so far.
Then, disaster struck.
Another runner again attempted to deliver our main courses.
I motioned to the waiter. I was upset. I was frustrated. I left the table to use the toilet and Matthew to explain. (Sorry)
I returned and Matthew was still talking to the waiter, Buddy or something, can’t remember. He apologised. Explained that he would verbally call when we were ready.
We finished our beer and chatted further. After two failed starts we were ready.
OH MY GOD.
That Beef Wellington. It’s something that I will remember for a lifetime. It was perfect – in every sense of the word. Cooked to perfection. The accompanying sides of a creamed mash and seasonal veg were probably on the small side, and it could probably have done with some more of the delicious jus that it came with, but that’s only because the size of it was huge.
The Cabernet Sauvignon that the Wellington was matched with is one of the best examples of this ever-popular grape I have tried. From California, it hadn’t travelled far – but it went a long way.
Dessert – a sticky toffee pudding that rivalled the size of the Wellington, served with a scoop of delicious ice cream – that I still to this day have no idea what flavour it is. But my word was it good. Paired with a dessert wine that, on its own would rot teeth, was sublime with this sticky toffee pud. I couldn’t finish mine.
The bill came, we paid and slowly left. Probably walking a bit slower than usual. Partly because of the massive meal, partly because we were soaking up the atmosphere of this fantastic restaurant.
There was a wobble, sure. But would it have been Hell’s Kitchen without? Thanks Gordon, your team didn’t disappoint.
*Fade to black*
There’s only a few things which thrill me more than a well-baked Lasagne on a chilly Autumnal evening, and that’s when people truly enjoy their food and above all, their experience.
I hope you enjoyed chowing down on something a little different today; living my best food life vicariously through others as well as in my own reality is truly a gift, and one I intend to share. Happy Eating!