John Williams MBE, executive chef of The Ritz, looks exactly as chefs should: from his well-tailored whites to possibly the tallest chef’s hat or toque, you’ll ever see. He wears it, he jokes, to give the illusion of a taller, thinner man, but it’s surely much more. His appearance is that of chefs in picture books of the past. In fact it’s worth going there just to see his titfer. And before this week, I had never dined at The Ritz. It was, I felt, for a man who writes a column called Man About Town, a gap in the CV. I have probably walked past it hundreds of times and I once went to a very strange party in one if its suites (but that’s for another column, if the lawyers will let me).
This week the wait was over as I joined the other jacket-wearers – it’s one of the few places where it is still compulsory to wear one – where Laurent Perrier and Tatler magazine were celebrating Williams in the hotel’s Music Room. He was well worth honouring, as he cooks like the consummate chef too, preparing a fantastic, five-course dinner paired with different styles of LP champagne from the ultra brut (no added sugar) to the demi sec (extra sugar) to the brilliantly blended Grand Siècle. Well worth the wait.
There are only 600 bottles of Salon in the UK
There was more bubbly next night at the launch of Champagne Salon’s 2002 vintage. Salon is the best champagne you’ve never heard of. It’s extremely rare, there have only been 38 releases since 1921. The grapes for the latest batch were picked in 2002, and have sat in the house’s cellars until they were deemed good enough and ready for release.
Those who were at the Saatchi Gallery for its unveiling to the world would have noticed its beautiful, all chardonnay flavours, but this isn’t something for your everyday celebration. For starters there are only 600 bottles in the UK, and second those who make it don’t recommend that you drink it yet anyway.
Didier Depond, President of Salon-Delamotte, talked on Wednesday about the wine being something to put away for up to 30 or 40 years. “It’s not for myself,” he said. “It’s for my children, my grandchildren.” If I get a chance to drink it again in 2044, I’ll let you know if it was worth waiting for.