For a town that’s still more noted for gaming than food, Las Vegas can certainly pull in the big names. Yesterday Gordon Ramsay opened his first restaurant in the city at Paris, Las Vegas while Nobu unveiled plans for his first hotel at Caesar’s Palace.
For those more used to Ramsay’s high end eateries at the Savoy and in Hospital Road, Chelsea Gordon Ramsay Steak might come as a bit of a shock. First of all it’s in the middle of a Parisian-themed casino under a fake Eiffel Tower (nothing remarkable about that: many of Vegas’s top restaurants sit cheek by jowl with several hundred slot machines).
A tubular entrace, designed to simulate the channel tunnel, brings you into a large room with a vast Union Jack on the ceiling and an angry red squiggle of a light sculpture. I assumed it was inspired by Gordon’s language but it's apparently a representation of his hand movements when making his signature dish of beef Wellington.
There is a tiered chrome steak trolley with a perch for each cut with a mirror behind to enable you to appreciate the marbling. “Every guest will receive a visit from this trolley” we were earnestly assured by one of the suits behind the restaurant. It was hard to keep a straight face.
We got to sample the Beef Wellington (very good) and two other dishes including a cute version of Caesar salad made with mini soft-boiled Scotch eggs and an impeccable sticky toffee pudding. Other dishes such as 'Colorado lamb chop complimented by flavors of Shepherd's Pie, lamb meatballs, peas, carrots and potato puree' give gastropub staples an upmarket Ramsay-esque twist. Still others like British ale onion soup made with Boddington’s and smoked beef tartare with Guinness-infused mustard seeds, feature beer as an ingredient. A big play is being made of Ramsay’s love of ale.
Some locals were surprised to see Ramsay in Paris, Las Vegas rather than in one of the more glamourous hotels but at least he hasn’t any competition from the other big names there and there are rumours of another opening within the Caesar’s Palace stable soon.
It was an uncharacteristically humble appearance from Ramsay who admitted he’d ‘made mistakes’ in the past. “Look, everyone thinks Vegas is a walk in the park but we’re taking nothing for granted. I’ve felt left out for many years because every top chef in the world is here."
Wasn’t he tempted to do the three Michelin style food which started his career though? A flash of the old Ramsay: “I’m not going to put my balls on the line and do fine dining! There’s incredible competition here - there’s no city which hosts so many top chefs. But pressure is always healthy."
He may be deliberately underplaying his chances. He has the virtue of a much higher profile in the states than his European rivals through programmes such as Hell’s Kitchen, “Kitchen Nightmares” and “MasterChef”. And the new restaurant will get invaluable TV exposure: the winner of the next series of Hell’s Kitchen will join the brigade.
“The American market is very personality driven” says local Vegas restaurant critic Al Mancini, who isn’t surprised Ramsay has gone for the safety of a steakhouse format. "People who watch TV want simple meat and potatoes food and chefs want young diners to feel comfortable in their restaurants.”
The key question is whether Ramsay will now be making his base in the US. His MD and fellow chef Stuart Gillies says not despite the fact that the chef has bought a multi-million pound property in Belair, Los Angeles. He still, Gillies points out, has 14 restaurants in the UK including the recently opened Bread Street Kitchen and is due to open the Union Street Café near Borough Market later this year. The kids apparently still go to school in the UK but the whole family will be in LA for the summer. It must be tempting . . .