Most people eat in restaurants to get out of the kitchen, but for the cognoscenti visiting Gordon Ramsay’s new venture at Claridge’s, the whole point is to get into it. The chef’s table, a short, tray-balancing hop away from the swinging restaurant doors, seats between four and six diners, and can be booked for lunch and dinner. The table costs £100 per head, excluding wine, for which guests will be served a personalized, especially tailored degustation menu chosen after discussion with chef Madeleine xx.
To one side of the table is the pastry section, where guests are assailed with the warm, fuzzy, scents of home baking. They do it here with vanilla and – hot from the blowtorch - the sweet, toffee flavoured haze of caramelised sugar. But should the kitchen odours prove a little bit too confidential, there is an air-conditioning vent set above the table which, given the amount of Anglo Saxon spoken amongst frantic sous chefs, will need to clear the air in more ways than one.
However, the main focus of dinner theatre is not the dialogue, but the stage. The table faces ‘the pass’ - a pristine area of food preparation beneath a curtain of gleaming copper pots where plates are garnished before being passed to serving staff, en route to the dining room. In the background a huge stock cauldron bubbles away, breathing steam like a minimalist dragon, surrounded by white knights.
Seated right in the front row of the kitchen, you are assured of head chef, Mark Sergeant’s attention. Not least because the table is directly underneath a bank of CCTV cameras fixed on the main dining room. Mmm, big Brother Gordon is watching you. Supposedly, it’s so that the staff can see how fast diners are eating, and pace themselves. So, it turns out that even if you wanted pleasure of eating in a glitzy restaurant. One way or another, you’re still going to end up in the kitchen.