Every now and then the culinary curious deserves a treat. The only thing needed is just an excuse to splurge. Once justified the next task is deciding where to go. In London, this is not necessarily an easy task with an ocean of top notch restaurants to choose from. This time we settled with The Ledbury which has been around for 9 years. Earlier this week it was ranked number 10 in the most recent World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The solid reputation The Ledbury has built up the past decade plus the two Michelin stars it holds attracts many bookings. Going to this kind of place requires some careful planning or luck if you’re aiming at popular hours. In our case it was a combination of the two. I was one month ahead and only managed to get the last available dinner table for the following month. Note that weekday lunch tables probably are probably easier targets for flexible travellers.
Brett Graham, a chef from Australia, is the guy behind the success story. Prior to The Ledbury he was working at The Square, another well regarded French restaurant in London. Situated in this quiet corner of Notthing Hill just a few blocks away from the touristy Portobello Market The Ledbury is surrounded by a mix of residentials. It melts in quite well with its discreet black facade.
I don’t eat French very often, especially not on the fine dining side of the spectrum. But when I do go I am reminded of how good it can be. This was one of those occasions. Produce is important for The Ledbury and this was emphasized in the explanation of dishes. The dining room is formal but not too stuffy. It was filled with a mixture of nationalities, all more or less dressed up. The service reflected the character of the room, formal but light. No need to feel intimidated here. On weekday evenings there is the option to go for à la carte or one of the tasting menus (vegetarian and non-vegetarian). We went for the normal tasting menu:
• • •
Salad of Violet and Chinese Artichokes with Hazelnuts, Cured duck, Grapes and Grated Foie Gras
• • •
Crapaudine Beetroot Baked in Clay, Smoked Eel and Dried Olives
• • •
Poached New Season’s Morels Cooked in Earl Grey Tea with Truffle and Wild Herbs
• • •
Roast Scottish Langoustine with Steamed White Asparagus and a Cream of White Beer
• • •
Jowl of Pork with Carrots, buckthorn and Walnut
• • •
Aged Fillet of Belted Galloway Beef with Celeriac, Juniper and English Wasabi Flowers
• • •
• • •
Banana and Chocolate Malt Tartlet
• • •
A well orchestrated assembly of textures and flavours made this an excellent start of the meal. Earthy flavours mixed with freshness from the grapes. Crunchy hazelnuts went against the flavourful foie gras and thinly sliced duck. It was impressive how these different component came into unity on a plate.
It was interesting to try the beetroot baked in clay. Its said that the method conserves moisture, which I guess results in improved flavour. This kind of beetroot has a more dark and purple tone than it’s more common relative. It was sweet and smoky. The smoky eel had a good texture but I felt this was more accompanying the beetroot than being the main character in the dish. Lovely subtle flavours.
Morels are a delight on the plate. The honeycomb-like structure creates an unique texture that few other mushrooms can match. It also carry this nuttiness that adds depth to a dish. The dish came with creamed Jersey Royals as well which was so smooth and unassuming that it almost disappeared in the dish. Again a well composed plate of food.
The Langoustine was one of my favourites this evening. Brilliant flavours and clever presentation. Flamed shiitake mushroom has been used to recreate the shell of the langoustine and added another layer of flavour and texture. The langoustine was lightly cooked and succulent.
This dish didn’t make the same impression on me as the previous one but nonetheless it carried some interesting elements. The meat was soft and on the fatty side, a bit like bacon. The crisp buckthorn sauce was perfect with it while adding some extra colours as well.
Fillet is a cut I usually avoid it on the a la carte because it’s quite predictable in how it is prepared and might not be as flavourful as some other cuts because of the lack of fat. What it’s prized for though is the smooth and lean texture. The medium rare fillet was no exception here. It was smooth to cut through and topped with bone marrow there was no lack of good flavours.
A selection of locally produced cheeses were offered before desserts. Each was patiently explained before we chose which ones we wanted. Obviously having all of them wouldn’t leave much room for dessert…
The vanilla custard with blood orange granita was a light and refreshing break from the cheese.
Nothing too exotic but seriously good. Small pieces of banana were mixed into the creamy chocolate. This classic combo was rich, sweet, simply pure indulgence.
Throughout the meal the service was consistent. The staff were knowledgeable, patient and guided us through the tasting menu smoothly. Well balanced and vibrant flavours were consistent throughout the tasting menu. So was the presentation. I can’t think of any dish I was anywhere close to doubt. With the precise execution and careful sourcing of ingredients demonstrated this evening The Ledbury deserves to be one of the top restaurants in London. The meal has been one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve had in London. I will certainly find a reason to visit again.
For more photos from The Ledbury, please visit my Flickr set.
127 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AQ
Tel. +44 (0)20 7792 9090