For 50 years The Rib Room has been one of London's iconic restaurants and when you first walk in you can't fail to be impressed by its decadent atmosphere and sumptuous design - it certainly whets your appetite for what is about to follow.
As the elaborate cocktail bar beckons you get the feeling that you should be wearing your best shiny suit and your lady her favourite little black number - neither of which I add we were – and while they would certainly not be out of place in the opulent surroundings a more casual approach to dress seems to be the order of the day.
However, the big question is does The Rib Room's reputation as one of the capital's top culinary experiences following its much anticipated return to the scene last autumn after an extensive refurbishment and the arrival of head chef Ian Rudge, fresh from Nigel Haworth's Michellin-starred Northcote, still stand up.
There is no doubting the success of the Martin Brudnizki led re-design which has transformed the restaurant and cocktail bar in to elegant areas fitted out in warming ambers and green with a subtle hint of a bygone age or the attention to detail and level of service you can expect from the immaculately presented staff – although some may feel it's a bit too fussy.
Part of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Knightsbridge's fashionable Cadogan Place, Rudge has constructed an interesting menu since taking over at The Rib Room. There is a strong emphasis on injecting new flavours to traditional and seasonal British dishes – and some of the food is exceptional, living up to the restaurant's reputation and its elegant image.
Seated in the comfortable dark green leather chairs at our table we were greeted by head sommelier Louise Gordon who presented us with the extensive wine list on a fully interactive iPad, complete with tasting notes. This is an innovative idea which works well and the knowledgeable Louise helped us select a bottle of Deen de bortoli VAT 8 Shiraz 2008, a full bodied rich red from SE Australia.
The star of the food show was undoubtedly the starters.
My diver caught scallops with curried cauliflower, gem lettuce and Indian masala oil (£16) was an exceptional plate of food. The wonderfully fresh scallops, quite possibly the best I have tasted, were soft, juicy and succulent and the smooth delicious cauliflower provided a perfect balance to the dish.
Fiona's pressed foie gras with Yorkshire rhubarb purée, muscat jelly, apple blossom and hazelnut dressing served with toasted brioche (£15) was a picture on a plate - almost too good to eat. The perfectly presented square of foie gras delivered sweetness and depth, it was a wonderful dish to savour and talk about long after the event.
The mains that followed were good but did not quite hit the high note of the starters.
Loomswood duck breast with a potato wrapped drum stick, salsify and pear purée and wild mushrooms and raisin jus (£28) was perfectly cooked (pink) and tasted great with some interesting flavours. But, in Fiona's words, 'cried out for more of the delicious jus on the plate' rather than the meagre offering she received.
The Rib Room is renowned for its roast rib of beef but I went for a more 'modest' choice of chargrilled calves liver with Suffolk bacon, stovie and caramelized onion sauce (£24). The liver melted in the mouth, the bacon was quality and the stovie packed flavour, but I found the sauce a little uninspiring and overall did not fall in love with the dish.
We enhanced our mains with a side of lovely sautéed spinach and some wonderful crunchy roast potatoes, which in the words of Fiona were 'spectacular' – praise indeed from someone who is not a lover of the humble spud.
I finished off with a memorable desert of macerated blood oranges with vanilla bean ice cream served with a pot of scrumptious hazelnut sauce and delightful popcorn honeycomb (£8.50), a great pud with the flavours of each mouthful working well together.
Eating at The Rib Room is an experience I would not have missed and to a large extent it does live up to its reputation although you do have to question some of the prices. However, there is good value to be had with lunch (two courses for £19 or three for £25) and a set dinner menu of three course for £30.