I went to Gordon Ramsay’s house to photograph his dog for Tatler once. Even he couldn’t quite believe it was happening. “Are we really doing this?” he laughed. Yes, we really were. It was during a period that I was shooting a lot for Tatler, and somehow I got roped into doing the celebrity pet page. I only agreed to do it because the first in the series was one of Elton John’s spaniels, and it meant I got to go to his mansion (how I wished we were shooting Jake and Dinos, his donkeys, instead – they have their own mini-castle!). Then there was promise of Courtney Love’s turtle. But that never materialised. So I stopped doing it.
I went to Gordon Ramsay’s house to photograph his dog for Tatler once. Even he couldn’t quite believe it was happening
Ramsay’s stock has been volatile over the last few years. He may not have sunk to Marco Pierre White depths (there are mesopelagic fish that haven’t gone down that far), but his reputation as a serious contemporary force in cooking has taken a fair few knocks. I’ve never seen a full episode of any of those TV shows, but I know they haven’t done him any favours. Still, his London flagship on Hospital Road is one of Europe’s finest. And his Paris outpost, Gordon Ramsay au Trianon, in Versailles, is seriously impressive.
When the Waldorf Astoria (Hilton to you) took over this property a few years ago, they did a splendid job turning it into a not-quite-Palace hotel, a short walk from the iconic topiary, gardens and Chateau. It’s radiant with monochrome graphic marble hallways and public spaces. The bedrooms are swish, bathrooms are black and white tiled Carrara wonders, and there are – in a strange move – treadmills at the end of the corridors. This is very much a conference hotel – in-room wifi is a risible €25 and the hairdryers seem to have come from a charity shop. But it looks the part.
I was in Versailles shooting with Agnès b for a story celebrating the 40th anniversary of her label. Agnès grew up in Versailles (the town, not the Chateau), and has a grand home nearby. She very kindly put me up in the Trianon Palace for the night, and it seemed churlish not to give Ramsay a whirl. I invited the sculptor Yasemen Hussein to join me – Yas disappeared off into the Hall of Mirrors for inspiration while I shot with Agnès, and we met up in the restaurant later on.
Gordon Ramsay au Trianon has a black and white marble floor that calls for high heels, sweeping hems and lacy handheld fans. This room, with its vast garden-facing windows, crystal chandeliers and white and lemon banquettes and chairs, would be the perfect setting for a late 80s Peter Greenaway movie, or an early 80s Adam Ant video.
the perfect setting for a late 80s Peter Greenaway movie, or an early 80s Adam Ant video
Dinner kicked off with champagne and a truffled scrambled egg amuse-bouche that came to the table in its own shell, housed in a kind of heavy metal spiked vessel – half Sputnik, half Game of Thrones flail weapon. Luckily, as we were the first people to be dining that evening, we hadn’t suffered the usual annoying experience of seeing all the surprises float past to other tables a few courses before we would get them. Yas, who spends most of her life welding fantastical objects in her studio in south London, was thrilled.
Nothing quite matched the medieval glamour of the amuse-bouche in terms of presentation, but dinner was consistently excellent. Fine dining in Paris is a strange beast – in an attempt to surprise and excite, while sticking to rigorous French culinary codes, it can become weird. Not Mugaritz and interesting weird, more like lipstick-on-a-pig weird. Ramsay’s restaurant in Versailles is playful but serious: four types of butter appeared on a marble disc – one shaped like a pyramid, two cubed, one rolled; a foie gras ballotine appeared in a curled lace of beetroot; lobster tail with mozzarella was presented with a flourish of purple and green leaf. The real highlights are the more visually prosaic – the most perfectly cooked, lush, chunk of veal – melt in the mouth soft, with one carrot and an asparagus tip. The meat of the gods. The waiter brought a trolley over with the biggest wheel of Comté either of us had ever seen. He served thick shavings with a cube of toasted brioche. I speculated with Yas about how much such a wheel of Comté could cost, and whether it would be ridiculous to have one at home: Night Cheese, taken to its most extravagant conclusion.
The finalé was a candied pineapple, coconut, vanilla and passion fruit dessert in the form of a golden egg sitting in a swirl on its plate, peppered with gold. Here was an abstract portrait of the Sun King, cooking by Dali. Coffee arrived along with some small cones of something fancy, in a cloud of liquid nitrogen. As the smoke cleared, we tottered off, tipsy, singing “I Want Candy” (the only good bit of the otherwise rubbish Marie Antoinette movie). Gordon Ramsay au Trianon is anything but a dog’s dinner. C
Gordon Ramsay au Trianon, 1 Boulevard de la Reine, 78000 Versailles, France
+33 1 30 84 50 18; gordonramsayrestaurants.com