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I’m on my way to my reservation at Gordon Ramsay’s hot spot, York & Albany, in London’s Camden Town neighbourhood. Only it’s not a restaurant: It’s the notorious British chef’s first foray into the hotel business. I’m not quite sure what to expect of a Gordon Ramsay-owned hotel. Will the housekeeper scream at me if I leave my socks on the floor? Is the concierge going to curse out some poor underling in order to secure my theatre tickets? Am I in for a sleepless night of kitchen nightmares?

Hoteliers and chefs have been inseparably linked since the days when Escoffier was defining haute cuisine with his friend César Ritz in Paris. But the two have usually retained a clear distinction, with the chefs running the kitchens and the hoteliers looking after the rest. That’s starting to change, though, as the world’s most famous chefs translate their hospitality skills from the kitchen to the suite.

They seem to be pretty good at it, too. Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons recently landed on Condé Nast Traveller’s Gold List. Alain Ducasse collects inns – two in France and one in Italy – almost as quickly as he collects Michelin stars. The original nose-to-tail chef, Fergus Henderson, is now going table-to-bed with the recent opening of the 15-room St. John Hotel in London, which features a Krug-stocked minibar and a room service menu that replaces the clichéd clubhouse with a veal tongue and horseradish sandwich. Perhaps the most ambitious project will debut next year, when Nobu Matsuhisa opens his first hotel at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with 180 guest rooms and a private check-in for guests.

Ramsay’s York & Albany falls somewhere between the lavish opulence of Nobu’s hotel and the hip, cottagey minimalism of Henderson’s. My cab turns the corner and we pull up in front of a yellow- and purple-trimmed townhouse across from the lush expanse of Regent’s Park. There’s a small deli beside the bar where you can stock up on esoteric pantry staples – smoked paprika, a box of Époisses, membrillo paste – or have them fix you a picnic basket with a leek and Gruyère quiche, spiced cherries, lemon mascarpone, honeycomb, granola and a half bottle of champagne.

Le Manoir aux Quat'SaisonsAt chef Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, you can book a night and a round table.

A similar half bottle greets me in my suite, a decidedly masculine space with its angled ceiling, substantial desk, leather furniture and private balcony. The stone-lined bathroom banishes the British chill with heated floors – like a hotplate for my feet. Adding to the sensation that I am a personal guest of Ramsay’s, the room service menu offers me the option of ordering from the menu or simply requesting whatever I feel like: If the kitchen has the ingredients, they’ll make it. As tempting as the offer is – I wonder what chef Ramsay would make of my request for a little poutine? – I make my way down a flight of stairs and around the corner to the dining room proper for dinner. Attractive families with well-behaved kids, a group of American tourists on a culinary pilgrimage and natty Camden locals dine on pumpkin tortelli with sage leaves and beurre noisette and Isle of Gigha halibut, ragout of sweet corn, pancetta and baby spinach.

“Would you care for a digestif, Mr. Johns?” asks the solicitous waiter. Don’t mind if I do. “Perhaps you’d like to take it on your balcony,” he offers. I would, and by the time I sign the bill and climb the flight of stairs, it’s there waiting for me. ®

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

La Bastide de Moustiers, L’Andana, L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle alain-ducasse.com
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons manoir.com
St. John Hotel stjohnhotellondon.com
York & Albany gordonramsay.com/yorkandalbany

Tags

CHEFS     DESTINATIONS     ENGLAND     HOTELS     LONDON    

Comments… or add another

Donald Earle

Wednesday, July 25th 2012 13:13
I would like a list of Ramsay owned hotels

Jasmin

Thursday, July 26th 2012 09:40
Hi Donald,

Although Ramsay has several restaurants under his name in cities around the world, according to his website, he only owns the York & Albany mentionned in this story.
Jasmin, enRoute web team
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