Everybody who’s anybody in Las Vegas, to paraphrase the writer John Gregory Dunne, goes by one name. Cher does Vegas. Celine does Vegas. So does Gordon.
The peripatetic Gordon Ramsay, who regularly abuses his minions in various TV shows, makes perfect sense here, as he proved with his first venture, Gordon Ramsay Steak in Paris Las Vegas. His second Strip venture, Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, is as British as the Millennium Eye, a place where servers wear houndstooth, beer kegs line the walls, and ’80s music from U.K. artists such as Adam Ant can be heard through the din.
The former Bradley Ogden space has been overhauled, and the seating capacity is now nearly 300. The front of the restaurant is open to the casino floor, and various design touches—such as those red phone booths you find in London—have been added, just in case you didn’t already know this was, in essence, a British pub.
Good thing, because the food here didn’t convince me I was. Ramsay’s menu is prepared by talented chef Jeremy Berlin. But somehow, it all feels compromised, geared to the mainstream. Most dishes are tasty, but several of them are underseasoned and lack daring. Once again, we’re told to expect gastropub fare. And once again, we get a tricked-up, British version of Culinary Dropout. Still, I don’t doubt that Ramsay’s doing exactly what he planned.
Take the tiny crock of cheese brought with the interesting house pretzel and pumpkin seed breads. Instead of hitting a home run with a Welsh rarebit, what we get here is an altogether bland spread, British Velveeta. Or how about the English ale onion soup? At Gordon Ramsay Steak, it’s a dish worth returning for. This take is sweet, oily and forgettable.
This is not to say there aren’t high points.
Yorkshire ale-battered fish and chips—cod, I’m told—have a deliciously crunchy exterior, and come with large, proper English-style chips and a side of mushy peas. If you’re a fan of shepherd’s pie, this beef and lamb stew with root vegetables topped with mashed potatoes is excellent, although I would have preferred a piped-on crust.
I also liked the chilled shrimp salad and the fine, fatty pork and duck rillettes, served in a clever duo of mason jars. And I love the iPad drink menu and the fact that there are three dozen beers on draft.
But other dishes disappointed me, especially since, given the talent level of Ramsay, my expectations were rather high. Mustard-glazed lamb short “riblettes” were fatty and generally flavorless. Brick-pressed Cornish chicken wasn’t crisp, and I didn’t notice any sign that it had been pressed.
Fish dishes acquit themselves well, though. Both pan-roasted snapper and sautéed Scottish salmon are imaginatively garnished and well prepared. PEI mussels and clams with chorizo and caramelized fennel come in a deliciously creamy broth.
And then there are the desserts, to my mind, the best reason to stop in here beyond the good cocktails, beers and other libations. Sticky toffee pudding is the mainstay, and though slightly different than the one served at Gordon Ramsay Steak (this time, it comes with sweet-cream ice cream instead of brown-butter ice cream), it is still amazing.
Equally good is Peanut Butter & Jelly, a sort of blackberry cobbler paired with peanut crumble; Spotted Dog, an unreasonably rich bread pudding; and a butterscotch pot de crème layered with spice cake and pumpkin seeds.
The pot de crème is so good it almost made me forget the previous occupant here, Mr. Bradley Ogden. But not quite.