I am not a fan of Gordon [expletive] Ramsay. I think he’s rude as [expletive], a demeaning little [expletive] to his staff and generally comes off in his television appearances as a [expletive] [expletive]hole. When you read about restaurant staffers saying they’re reluctant to return to a toxic work environment, it’s places like Ramsay’s kitchen they’re referring to.
That said, the food at the new Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips at Icon Park in Orlando is pretty [expletive] good.
For all its standing as an iconic and even stereotypical dish of Britain, fish and chips is not an easy dish to pull off. And not just in American restaurants trying to recreate a bit of Old England. I’ve had mediocre to downright lousy fish and chips in London and other villages throughout the British Isles. For the record, the best f&c I’ve had was at the pub owned and operated by Kevin Dundon next door to his Dunbrody Country House Hotel in County Wexford, Ireland.
It won’t surprise you that the quality of the fish has a lot to do with the dish’s success. Cod is the go-to and that’s what is used here. The batter is important, too, not just in its consistency but in its ability to coat the fish without being too heavy and without falling off in clumps as you eat it.
Although the website for the Orlando restaurant doesn’t specify the makeup of the batter, Ramsay has in the past published a recipe that includes rice flour and 00 flour, and of course beer – a beer batter is now mostly assumed whenever you’re talking about fish and chips.
Another “ingredient” that leads to the success or failure of fish and chips, or any fried food for that matter, is the oil. It’s less about the type of oil than it is about its cleanliness and temperature. Oil can be reused only so much before it begins to degrade, and foods cooked at too low a temperature will usually turn out greasy.
Not an issue here. Even though I stopped in for a late lunch, the quality of the batter and the way it was fried were perfect. Even if it wasn’t the most flavorful or best seasoned I’ve tasted, the batter was a good thickness and clung nicely to the fish with each bite.
And the fish itself was first rate, moist with big flakes.
The sea salted fries, comprising the other component of the combo, were fine. They, too, were nicely fried, not peeled, but also not quite seasoned enough. I was disappointed I didn’t have some malted vinegar to splash on them – I may have missed the packets with other condiments, such as ketchup for the Yanks, elsewhere.
The meal comes as a fish combo that includes three fillets, two sauces (I liked Gordon’s tartar and the Dijon and mayo) and a fountain drink for $16.99. There doesn’t seem to be an option to order just the fish and chips, although you can order only chips for some reason. Still, I did not find the food to be overpriced, not when the quality is this good. By the way, other meals include shrimp, lobster and chicken. But this isn’t called Gordon Ramsay Chicken & Chips.
One disappointment: mushy peas are not available. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of mushy peas but I do like ordering them.
The restaurant at Icon Park, one of only two in the U.S. (the other is in Las Vegas), is quite small. It's designed to look like an iconic English phone booth and is only slightly larger inside. It’s a fast-food operation – order and pay at the counter then wait for your number to be called. There is some indoor seating at a counter along the window and a patio outside beneath the big wheel.
Although masked, the staff spoke as though smiling. They were all so friendly that I’m sure they’ve never been subjected to the harangues of the man whose name is on the building. Also something to note: GRF&C is a cashless operation, and credit card slips are returned without a place to add a gratuity. So I hope Ramsay is paying them a good wage.
I’ve had opportunities to dine in Ramsay’s restaurants overseas but always avoided them because I find him so reprehensible as a person (or that’s the personality he’s chosen to portray on his “reality” shows). But based on my experience at the chippy shop, I’ll give his restaurants another consideration.