Some visits to restaurants are spur of the moment – a sudden urge for Pizza Pilgrims or Chicken Shop results in a regular detour for me. Others are more carefully planned – carefully researched and booked months in advance. With that comes risk as expectations are sky high and restaurants need to do something really special to meet them. I’ve been desperate to go to The Ledbury for years, alongside it’s two Michelin stars, it’s many ‘Restaurant of the Year Awards’ and it’s lofty place as the 13th best restaurant in the world – it’s most people’s pick as the best in London. Many moons ago that title rested with Marcus Wareing at the Berkley and my visit there was very special, does the Ledbury live up to the hype?
Situated in a quiet corner of Notting Hill – the Ledbury is relatively unprepossessing, a single restaurant on an otherwise residential street. The décor is smart but relaxed – lots of natural light floods the room and there’s no dress code. Opened in 2005 it’s covered itself in glory ever since. Brett Graham, the Australian head chef is my kind of cook – precise, passionate and with a healthy appreciation for quality British produce, preferably the kind you get to shoot.
As it was a special occasion we had their tasting menu, they also offer a four course a la carte menu and a very reasonably priced set lunch.
Amuse-bouche – Apple and Mullet, Cheese and Bay Tart, Brawn Cubes
A wonderful selection of little bites started the meal, all beautifully presented. Apple and raw fish is a good combo, but the star was the little deep fried brawn cubes – crispy, warm and deeply piggy. The bread was also excellent: sourdough, bacon brioche and a crystallised malt – freshly made in house.
Salad of Violet and Chinese Artichokes with Hazelnuts, Cured Duck, Grapes and Grated Foie Gras
This was very much a textural tour de force – crunchy artichokes and hazelnuts, soft melting duck and frozen buttery foie gras. Magical stuff.
Flame Grilled Mackerel with Pickled Cucumber, Celtic Mustard and Shiso
One of their signature dishes, and with good reason. The mackerel is absolutely perfect, delicately charred on one side, blushing pink on the other. The pickled cucumber was dainty and delicate while the gentle hint of shiso, an asian mint, just underlined the oily fish. It’s easy to overdo a dish like this whereas the fresh, sweet flavour just sang.
Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Aged Comte, Truffle Toast and a Broth of Grilled Onions
Curds are the beginnings of cheese and the combination of soft, melting dairy with hot sweet onion is always going to be a winner. Enoki mushrooms and the truffle toast add a nice savoury element.
Roast Hand Dived Scallops with Brassicas and Seaweed
A monstrous scallop, perfectly cooked and slashed with shreds of seaweed. I particularly liked the cauliflower and romanesco – its a clever match with the delicate fishy flavour.
New Season’s Morels Cooked in Earl Grey Tea with Bacon and Wild Herbs
Perhaps the only slightly duff note in the menu – still perfectly executed, but I didn’t quite get the rich, smooth mashed potato with the wonderful, but very lonely, morel. I’d have happily eaten an entire bowl of the mushrooms, keep the spuds away from it!
Aged Fillet of Belted Galloway Beef with Salt Baked Turnips, Tropea Onions and Bone Marrow
Another piece of precision cooking, meltingly tender beef with a delicate savoury sauce. The turnips really benefitted from their salt bake, firming up nicely.
Cheese Board – Carcassone Goats Cheese, French Beer Washed, Swiss Soft, Dorset Cows Cheese, Colton Basset Stilton
They had a good cheese selection, though nothing on the monumental board at Le Gavroche – they were happy for us to share a plate and the five cheese we had covered the bases nicely.
Pre Dessert – Guava Custard with Blood Orange Granita
Light and refreshing, without the acidic kick you get from some pre-desserts. The blood orange granita was admirably smooth without any harsh, crunchy bits.
Banana and Chocolate Malt Tartlet
The tart was beautifully put together – delicate pastry, chunky banana and rich smooth chocolate dusted with little bits of honeycomb crunch.
Brown Sugar Tart with Stem Ginger Ice Cream
As a birthday treat we got an extra course – a fabulous sugary tart with a subtle ginger ice cream.
The perfect end to a four hour lunch: a strong coffee and some lovely sweets. Light crunchy biscuits, soft fruity jelly and one of the lightest truffles I’ve ever had, nestled on a bed of cocoa nibs. Heavenly.
Throughout the meal the staff were fantastic, far friendlier than in many starry establishments and happy to chat about the food and offer advice. Despite it’s international reputation it’s managed to maintain that spark of a neighbourhood restaurant.
If I had to sum up the food at the Ledbury in one word, it would be ‘precise’. There are no massive flavour fanfares, no wacky combinations or fads. This isn’t a culinary rock concert, rather a gentle symphony, flawlessly played. The menu really flows through the individual dishes. Flavours are delicate and elegant, beautifully presented and well thought out. It’s modern haute cuisine at it’s very best.