The Ledbury had been on my list and probably on a lot of people’s lists of must go places in London. I always think that when a restaurant has so many awards and everyone raves about it, there is a risk that it will be a disappointment. On the other hand, several of my friends have told me it is their favourite restaurant in London so it was about time we tried.
We booked the reservation on the day it opened to make sure we could go on a date that worked for us and our friend Miles. We decided on lunch instead as all of us have done our share of long set dinners that go until way too late, and then you have to try to sleep after eating 10 courses…..not easy!
I have to admit that I am mostly over long meals and fancy ones and since we moved to London, have enjoyed great food but in a more casual atmosphere, and also easier on our wallet as rent in London versus Vegas is a bit different….But we do still indulge in long tasting menus when we travel.
Every time someone comes to town, like my friend Nanda recently and asks between Gordon Ramsey and Alain Ducasse and all, I had to email more knowledgeable friends who have lived here longer and tried them all. My brief experience just includes Fera, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Restaurant Story and now Ledbury. Apart from L’Enclume in the Lake District (www.samstewartetc.com/lenclume-review/)
Stewart and I arrived early and enjoyed a glass of bubbly rose and the setting. The waiter immediately approached me to ask if I write a blog, I guess my pro camera was a give-away as others with iPhone went unnoticed. He was very nice about it and I explained that it is my hobby and just a side project.
Service was amazing the entire lunch and the staff were extremely knowledgeable about each dish and also flexible on requested changes.
Miles and I opted for the set-menu (for £50 for four courses) as it almost could have been written for me, with my favourite things. Stewart went for the a la carte (£85) and convinced Miles to share the lamb for two with him for a surcharge added.
What we ate:
The meal started with some delicious amuse bouches:
Seaweed lava bread with a dollop of smoked mussel and mushroom mystery concoction and apple jelly and shiso leaf on top. Very cool looking and interesting
Foie gras puffs and mead jelly: tiny little hard on the outside liquid on the inside nibbles. Despite them being foie, they were not too rich.
Muntjac dumplings with fruit jelly: absolute favourite amuse. Warm fried spheres with shredded meaty and tasty Muntjac which I had never tried or heard of before and is a type of deer. The fruit jelly just added some complexity and even Stewart, who doesn’t love sweets mixed with his savoury foods liked it.
Symbols: SM = Set Menu and ALC = A la carte
White Beetroot baked in Clay salt, smoked and dried eel: this was completely different from what you would expect from reading the menu. The beets were almost translucent and sliced hair thin and had a subtle beet flavour which worked well with the smoked and dried eel pieces that were either hiding underneath the beets or sprinkled on top. The caviar wasn’t mentioned on the menu but brought it all together with its salty bite. (SM)
Hampshire Buffalo milk curd Truffle toast and wild mushroom broth: This dish had two components – the very earthy mushroom broth with small onion ringlets floating in it and milk curd and also a truffle toast presented on a gorgeous wood slate. They noticed that Miles and I were jealous when Stewart ordered this dish so they actually brought three portions of the toast so we could all try and to protect Stewart from ending up with one third of one and not have the perfect toast to broth ratio. The broth was perfect and the toast was rich and addictive but the combination when you dipped the toast in the broth was sheer magic. (ALC)
Chestnuts and Celeriac “risotto”: I first tried a celeriac “risotto” at Terroir Parisien (http://www.samstewartetc.com/paris-terroir-parisien/ )and was love at first bite. Since then I have tried to re-create it at home and was borderline successful. When I saw this one the menu I had to contain my excitement and not run to the kitchen and kiss the chef. And thankfully, it didn’t let me down. The celeriac was cut in perfect rice size bites and mixed with chestnuts which were there for texture and forming the perfect “dish” to showcase some black truffle slivers sprinkled on top. Very decadent and sophisticated, earthy and creamy. Who needs rice! (SM)
Rabbit Shoulder with chestnut cream and chanterelles: since our meal at Le Cirque in Vegas twelve years ago when we had the most amazing rabbit with spatzle, we always order rabbit when presented as an option. Before that meal I always thought of little cute rabbits and refused to eat them……but, once I tried, there was no going back. In this case, the shoulder was very tender and since chestnuts ad chanterelles are among my favourite things (even though this was Stewart’s dish) I ended up stealing a few bites from Stewart. (ALC)
And after all of us had two courses each, they presented us with a half pour of white wine on the house and said it would pair nicely with the extra course we were getting. Miles and I got the same wine while Stewart had a different one which was intriguing as Miles and Stewart were both having lamb next and I was having beef.
So, mystery solved – the waiter picked up on the fact that Stewart doesn’t love sweet flavours on his food when he was asking questions about the menu and gave him a different turbot from ours. And his wine had to match that. We were so blown away at this point that the nuance of his question got incorporated into the flow of the meal. They had us at this point……we were in Love with the Ledbury…and the meal was still going….
Turbot with mandarin and ginger: white and flaky and glorious and complex layers of flavours with the mandarin and ginger but not overly sweet.
Turbot with dashi butter, brassica (Romanesco broccoli, cauliflower) and monk’s beard: this was Stewart’s dish and we ended up having some degree of food envy despite how good ours was because we love brassica vegetables, particularly Romanesco broccoli. The dashi butter added a beautiful umaminess and the monk’s beard was crunchy and made it visually very cool.
Ruby Red Beef Short Rib, Cabbage, Chanterelles and Grilled Onions: melt in your mouth short ribs with wintery delicious accoutrements…hard to go wrong. (SM)
Herdwick Lamb with salt baked kohlrabi, padron and garlic: this was on the a la carte menu and had to be ordered for two people but we figured out a way and Miles and Stewart both had it. There were three cuts of lamb – chop, neck and haunch – on the plate and were all delicious. The padron was subtle and so was the garlic but the different lamb preparations were perfect. I think my beef was actually even better but the lamb was very good as well. (ALC)
Cheese trolley (£15 for the extra course and very worth it!): mind blowing and amazing variety and quality. My only comment is the some of the crackers that came with it had too much anise flavour which didn’t work with the cheeses and we could have used more of the oat crackers. But we asked for some bread and it was promptly delivered…..
Poached Rhubarb with rapeseed Shortbread and Coconut: Miles was going to have cheese but when he saw that Stewart’s cheese platter meant five very generous pieces of cheese, plus one extra as the fromager du jour (waiter who that day was manning the cheese cart and impressed us greatly with his knowledge) took pity on us and gave us an extra one (as we were agonizing over two options) he decided to order dessert instead. I am not a rhubarb aficionado but it was a lovely delicate tart and the Rhubarb was not stringy, which can be very off-putting. The best part was the coconut soft meringue dollops on top which tasted like fresh coconut and were beautifully presented. (SM)
Brown sugar tart, stem ginger ice cream: I was going to eat the banana dessert in the menu but the waiter strongly suggested I should try the brown sugar tart as it is one of the items that has always been on the menu, for a reason……It was indeed delicious and very creamy but not too sweet and the ginger ice cream was the perfect combination. (ALC)
And to finish the meal, Caramel fudge, Macadamia and thyme honey nibbles and a white chocolate and yuzu truffle that surprised us as it was actually chilled.
We had ordered coffees and consumed them so when the petit fours arrived, they brought us more coffee so we could enjoy it with the sweets. Once again, such a lovely touch.
In sum: when can we come back? An incredible meal on every aspect. Delicious food and the service experience was one of the best ever. Expectations were high, and they exceeded them…by a lot! I also really appreciate that the sommelier read our tastes very well and introduced us to wines we had not previously tried and were reasonably priced, including some delicious Greek white from Santorini that I can’t quite remember (since I had too many other wines after that…).
The Ledbury http://www.theledbury.com/
127 Ledbury Road Notting Hill, London W11 2AQ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090