This week I had the pleasure of eating out in London, lots. Probably too much. So what did I learn during my lavish time off work? Money can buy happiness? A little. A lot more if you like perfectly executed food, brilliantly matched wine, and made to feel like a bit of a Princess. This is what The Ledbury managed. Currently ranked 10th in the world with talented Brett Graham at the pass, the restaurant is keenly seeking renewed confirmation of it’s excellence when the 1-50 places of the World’s Best Restaurants are released soon. And I for one, hope it doesn’t slip.
The ever-increasing damage didn’t hinder this experience. For me, this is the most genuine compliment. – The expense did not taint the experience – The front of house team is so friendly and warm, that we were quickly at ease with the stiff tablecloths. The knowledge they effortlessly reeled off was endless, typified in the wine flight (more of that soon). There was never a point when the thought of the bill crossed my mind through the duration, because there was never a time when the service or food could have been faulted. And when you are presented with exceptional food and drink in such a way, it’s less ‘what am I paying for this!?’, and more ‘I’m allowed to eat that!’, followed with warm feelings of honor and joy. Eating in two-star restaurants is a luxury, and there certainly is a high price tag to match at this establishment, but I would recommend it in a heartbeat.
The vacant dress code really does help set the tone here. I mean, I could’ve done without some of louder Ralph Laurens, but you can’t have it all. The ethos from the oft is one of personal comfort of the customer, matching their own interests and tastes. The experience is food centered, and people are excited. You can’t escape the full Michelin service though, which I find testing at the best of times. The number of times I said thank you, was exhausting, almost encouraging me to stop drinking the water so a refill was never required. However, the most futile challenge was making it back from the bathroom fast enough that there was no time for your napkin to be properly folded. Maybe if I stopped guzzling on water, then this challenge would be redundant also.
The benefits of the customer service were showcased with our spot on wine flight. Presented to us were wines I had never had before, so well matched to the dishes, that they were as necessary as the ingredients themselves. This worked from the Buffalo curd miso style soup paired with a punch-packing PX grape wine right through to the olive oil cake dessert with a Muscat pairing which really felt like an extension of the dish itself. The audible excitement from the well-to-do neighbors on the right on being treated to a glass of wine from their favorite area in France, whilst the table on the left were gifted an extra course which they had been eying up, illustrates this.
The place oozes with refinement (can refinement ooze), and expectation. The setting is unassuming, and as with many high-end restaurants, the décor is tasteless in its mediocrity. It might leave room to appreciate the modern cuisine, but a smear of personality might be nice. Following from this minor negative, the scallop dish was slightly over cooked to the point of them being really chewy. This disappoint does mean my favored scallops (everyone has these right?), are the one from The Lido, sorry Brett!!
Let’s get to the best bit. The highlights for me were the oyster cream, raw sea bream, caviar, cucumber and frozen English wasabi. This dish, sounds like something I wouldn’t particularly order, but the way the flavors, textures and temperatures bounced off each other, to create something not only wholly delicious, but cleansing and fresh was really amazing. And that oyster cream was ‘summin else. The next thing to blow me away was the lobster dish, largely for the size of lobster claw presented to me, but also the exquisite plating and on point cooking. And lastly, was the final dish, the pave of chocolate. All the puddings were amazing, and it’s a tough one between this and the pre-dessert strawberry bowl of amazing-ness. But chocolate is my kryptonite, so it was an easy win in the end, and this was unbelievably smooth and chocolaty, perfectly accentuated by the () ice-cream and matched desert wine (which I’m afraid to say I was paying less attention to at this stage).
My big regret is booking transport for 16:00, when we sat at 12:00. We had time for a tasting menu, plus coffees, but unfortunately had to rush off before we could take them up on the tour of the kitchen we were offered. I’m going to hold you to that though, and can’t wait for next time.
Duration: 3hrs 25mins
Price per person: £180
THE PESCETARIAN TASTING
Smoked mussel and squid ink cracker (left), goats cheese puff with black truffle (right)
Brioche and cauliflower
Oyster chantilly, tartare of sea bream and frozen english wasabi (with cucumber and caviar)
Mackerel, flame grilled and raw, with pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard and Shiso.
Buffalo curd with onion, peas and broth. & a black truffle rarebit accompaniment