London, June 26th 2011, The Ledbury, #34 San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World
Aussie chef Brett Graham has been making a name for himself on the world’s stage ever since he started working for Philip Howard at The Square (a bit too heavy on the foie for my liking). He has been running The Ledbury in Notting Hill since 2005 and is now in the Premier League of chefery.
I’d like to say that the blonde and I visited for a lazy Sunday lunch this weekend but I’m not A A Gill, so I’ll stick with M and I visited albeit slightly concerned about eating such high quality cuisine on the warmest day of the year so far.
Despite the temperature breaching 30 degrees and sun blazing down from clear blue skies our trepidations were quickly dispersed as we arrived and were quickly seated in the serene surroundings of the fully canopied outside terrace. So the setting was perfect and we sat down to enjoy our meal.
Having already shunned the notion of the full tasting menu prior to arrival (we can always go back you see… as it is only a 20 minute journey from home on public transport) we selected from the a la carte Sunday Lunch menu.
Scallop ceviche with herb oil and horseradish snow >> A flashback to Noma; similar (if not identical) earthenware plates, herb oil and the now ever present tapioca… but take nothing away from this dish; on a scorching summer’s day this was as near to perfection as one can come although I am tempted to suggest that it would have been even
better without the snow and just garnished with plain grated horseradish which would have reduced the chill factor… having said that you wouldn’t have got the melt factor which was very pleasant indeed… anyway, a scrumptious start.
Pan fried Brill with fennel puree and girolles >> M chose the fish dish – and on arrival I was seriously concerned that I made a mistake when ordering as it looked absolutely brilliant (pun intended!). This picture doesn’t do it justice and having
been granted a few mouthfuls I can safely say that the tastes lived up to the
beautiful plating. Everything was perfect – we did have a discussion about the braised fennel; debating if chargrilling it would have added another dimension but we left that undecided as we allowed the delicate flavours of the fish, fennel, fungi and fläder
to mingle on our palettes and meld into a perfect harmony. We both agreed that we had eaten better fish (the monkfish at Arzak for example) but we couldn’t think of a more complete fish dish in our extensive culinary experience.
Roast loin of Muntjac with braised shoulder and beetroot >> Venison on the menu? I must have… it’s a rule that is always adhered to and Muntjac is an unusual breed to see dished up as its usually Roe or Red Deer. Too autumnal perhaps, especially when paired with a glass of ruby red Pinot? Well let me tell you it went down a storm – everything perfectly cooked and the mildish (difficult to compare taste and texture with other breeds without knowing how long it had hung, but I’d say slightly milder in flavour and softer in texture than Roe so an excellent addition to a summery menu). Oh did I say I wasn’t regretting my decision for the main course? Stonking!
Chocolate pavé with lovage ice cream and burnt milk >> Rich dark chocolate on a hot summer’s day? Not the most obvious choice for sure but was it a good one? My
goodness yes! Everything on the plate was a tasty surprise in itself; from the oddly herbaceous nuttiness of the lovage ice cream to the burnt milk puree and sauce – but put them all together and you get a perfect mix of the rich and sublime. M was kind enough
to share… but I didn’t get much a look in if I am honest!
Trio of brullés with chocolate madeleines >> I’m not a big fan of flavoured brullé
so an odd choice for me – but I’d spotted another table ordering this and the madeleines intrigued me as they came served in a cocoa nut shell with some form of “gravel” and I wanted to know what it was… crushed cocoa and coffee beans it turned out. So from right to left: malted barley with banana, vanilla with verbena and chicory with vanilla. All perfectly delicious and moreish. But what about those teeny chocolate cakes? Still warm from the oven with oozy chocolate centres… mini fondants near as damn it and utterly fantastic! Best bit? Pull apart, dip in melting ice cream of choice and then into the crushed cocoa/coffee beans to create an instant childhood memory: ice cream with
sprinkles! This would probably rank up there as my favourite desert ever. I still have a grin on my face!
Wow, I think all in all that was a perfect gourmet Sunday lunch and the answer to the question would we go back for the tasting menu? Most definitely! Perfect cooking, well balanced dishes in a beautiful relaxed surrounding and brilliant value for money.