In the culinary world, few names carry as much weight as Gordon Ramsay’s. The acclaimed Scottish chef – who is also a television star, author and father of six – has risen to the top of his industry, building a global restaurant empire of nearly 60 restaurants, four of which boast Michelin stars.
In October, the chef brought his beloved British flavours to Macao for the first time with the opening of Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill. Located inside The Londoner Macao, the British pub channels “Cool Britannia” – a period in the 1990s when UK’s music, culture, art and economic development boomed. Needless to say, the concept fits right in at Cotai’s British-themed integrated resort.
Due to delays caused by the pandemic, it took over three years to take the restaurant from conception to completion. Just this week, Ramsay stepped foot inside for the first time. During his short visit, we spoke to the decorated chef about the new pub, his go-to dishes, potential expansion plans and his key to success.
You made a quick stop in Macao years ago. What do you remember from that visit?
It was 2010, and we were looking at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. We came over to Hong Kong, jumped on a helicopter and flew over [to Macao].
It was a flying visit but super impressive back then – what was apparent was the attitude towards growth. It was obvious [Macao] was going to explode. My goodness, me, flying in late last night… yeah, this place has become a mecca.
How did the Covid-19 pandemic impact the restaurant’s development?
I’ve been [working on] this project [Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill], for the last three years. When the world was brought to its knees by Covid, we [had more time to] make subtle changes and iron out any creases. No restaurant in the world ever gets that long [to work on] our development kitchen, our R&D team, the recipes, focusing on the ingredients and just… perfecting it. I always turn a negative into something positive and say to my team: ‘Guys, this is a blessing. Let’s use this to our advantage. Let’s open up stronger than we ever could have.’
I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to look around, but the attention to detail is breathtaking!
Yes, it’s beautiful! We interviewed David Beckham here.
David and I had dinner together on Saturday with the girls, and he said it’s stunning! But my objective was to bring something quintessential, something that money can’t buy and something that captures Cool Britannia. We’ve done that in abundance.
Why did you want to open a Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Macao?
We have seen a huge influx of Chinese, Asian, Hong Kong and Macao clients travelling to London. From our one-star to two-star and three-star restaurants, to a beautiful restaurant on the River Thames, the list of our database clientele from this area is extraordinary. They’ve been asking me [to come here] more than I’ve been desperate to get here.
The relationship with [Sands] started back in 2012 in Singapore. [We love] what they’re doing in terms of growing, focusing on young talent. For me, a moral compass is high on my agenda.
We study, we look at the ingredients, we look at the location, we conceptualise and a whole army of talent drives [us to the opening]. [Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill] has barely been open three months and here we are in this beautiful, majestic Cool Britannia box.
What do you love most about your new restaurant?
The level of attention to detail in every corner is incredible. I’m like an excited puppy when it comes to these kinds of restaurants. Meeting all the team last night, then sitting in the corner having dinner, watching people come to celebrate, girlfriends meeting up for the first time – it was just a joy to see.
Any area of the pub you like the most?
If I was with the family – I have a noisy, massive family – I would never let the two boys loose in the dining room. They’d be picking the bulldogs off the wall, thinking they’re going to turn into real bulldogs!
Your favourite meal or your favourite location always depends on who you’re with. Last night, we sat in the window, we had the whole team there. The booths capture the essence of what the restaurant stands for, because you’ve got that view [of the cocktail bar and main dining room] and the crystal glass partitioning, which allows the atmosphere to bleed through into those booths, so you don’t feel too shut away.
What’s your go-to order?
If it’s a quick sharing dish, then it’s the beautiful squid. If it’s a celebration then it’s definitely the [beef] Wellington, and if it’s not that, it’s some of the fish. We draw heavily from the surrounding areas [to source our ingredients], and the vegetables are beautiful, second to none. We sometimes go further afield for consistency with proteins, with Australian, Japanese wagyu [beef].
You’ve started introducing more vegan alternatives. Why’s that?
That’s crucial. Having three daughters, they remind me of the importance of that balance. From Tilly being 22, Holls being 24 and Meg being 25, they love vegan cuisine. They also love fish, they love meat, and they find that balance.
You just have to ask any chef globally – the rapid increase in demand for vegan and vegetarian menus is on the rise. So you move with it, get creative, and it’s a really good test for a chef to cook with no meat or fish and deliver something magical.
If you had to choose one dish to order every day, what would it be?
That’s a tough question. I’m gonna put [beef] Wellington out there. Women love jewellery, men love suits, and chefs just love this majestic slice of Wellington because it’s done with such incredible finesse. From the beautiful flaky pastry to the fillet mignon inside to the duxelle to the red wine jus… I want to put my hat on the Wellington.
You’re in Macao for a short time. What are you doing while you’re here?
Yeah, two and a half days. If I told you my schedule, you’d never believe it, so I keep that stuff a secret and close to my chest.
I will absolutely be devouring the local cuisine like there’s no tomorrow. It’s always on my wishlist because tapping into the local scene is what chefs are all about.
You saw Macao’s potential in 2010. Did its growth surprise you?
It’s hard to imagine that it was going to blow up like this. You only have to look at the sprinkle of Michelin stars in Macao over the last five years – it’s so good to see. And it’s not just the European chefs getting the scores on the door.
Macao is where it’s at. It’s become a little bit of a mecca. I didn’t think it would quite be at this scale. The good news is that it’s not slowing down anytime soon, so I’m glad that I’m here.
Do you have any plans to expand more in Macao or Asia?
Good question. I’m a firm believer in getting the first one right. I’d love to do something a little bit more fine dining, something more rooftop-ish… smaller, 60 to 70 seats, stunning scenery, breathtaking views. This year we’re also celebrating 25 years of our Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea and 24 years as a three-star [Michelin restaurant]. To bring something unique like that [to the region] would be beautiful.
What’s a must-visit destination for food lovers?
We were in South Korea last year, and the local Korean food was some of the most exciting food I’ve ever tasted. After that, I would say Macao.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
If you really want to learn how to cook and get inspired today, you’re in a great position with what’s going on online. There’s such an amazing sort of insight to really focus in on what you want to master. Travel is crucial. Travel, travel, travel, travel. That broadens your horizons and gives you an insight to other culinary worlds that are incredible. Going down to India for the first time and cooking vegetarian cuisine for three weeks – [those were] three of the best weeks I’ve ever had in my entire culinary career. Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.