Some places just make you feel at ease, happy, or whatever other positive adjective you might find to describe a sense of general, unspoiled well-being. The Ledbury definitely counts as one of them. Brett Graham is a genuinely passionate cook, who seeks the best, and tries to present it in highly engaging fashion. On the other side of the house, you have the service brigade, led by John Davey, and a most charismatic sommelier, who goes by the name of Manuel (although he is off now).
As my sister had her birthday to celebrate, we made the pilgrimage to Notting Hill one day in December, and sat down for another fantastic meal. To accompany the Billecart Salmon brut rose, the classic red beet macaron with foie gras cream and pain d’epices crumble was served. These are a delight: Tasty, fun, well made, and most intensive reproductions of the two main ingredients. Very good, and all one needs to start a meal like this.
Bread today was very good too, with two instead of three types (which I suppose is a reduction one has to take into account when coming for lunch). Butter is also hard to criticise, and the service is generous with both.
To kick things off, we had a deep-fried quail’s egg, with Jerusalem artichoke puree and shaved autoumn truffles. This was a most enjoyable amuse bouche, which incorporated a few contrasting textures, and tastes, to create some most comforting winter dish. Very good.
I had requested to have the Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi amd Frozen Horseradish again, after having hugely enjoyed it a few weeks earlier. It was served again with the Originel from Julien Courtois, which makes for a great match. I won’t say anything, as I’ve described the dish in the previous post, only that it was just as outstanding as the first time. A fantastic dish.
Next up was a Chestnut and Truffle Soup with Warm Pheasant Canapes and Quince. Served with a Medium Dry Amontillado, Fernando de Castilla, this was a fantastic autoumn dish. The soup had the comforting, earthy fragrance of truffles, and tasted like a pure distillation of the chestnuts flavour. It was a perfect chestnut soup, to which the addition of truffles (and possibly some truffle oil) gave an even more terrestrian, autoumnal character. The little selection of pheasant preparations was a real highlight I must say. Here one had a pheasant sausage roll, a deep-fried pheasant leg, and a little toast, on which some liver was spread (if I’m not mistaken). All of them were delicious, and easy enjoy. Top-notch comfort food, which hardly gets any better. Very good.
Moving on, we had a Roast Turbot with Seared Scallop, Pumpkin Gnocchi and Clementine. Here, Manuel poured a glass of 2007 Pouilly-Fuisse, Clos Varambon, Chateau des Rontets, which drank fantastically well and took up on to citrus-fruit notes and slight sweetness of the sauce. This was another outstanding fish dish. Last time’s turbot had the most impressive texture I have encountered with this fish in London, and this time it was just as good as that. The fish was perfectly cooked, a little crispy on the edges, juicy, slightly translucent inside, and most firm in terms of texture. THis really was a glorious piece of fish! The accompanying scallop was also cooked very well, although a little more rare than a classical French restaurant would have done it. This was another fine piece of seafood here, in a town, which can’t pride itself on its glorious quality of fish. I’ll have to ask Brett to cook more seafood next time around, as it doesn’t get better in London ( the Square can equal them, and ADAD). The accompanying gnocchi played the side role very well, as they were tasty, fluffy and slightly crunchy on the outside. A sauce based on clementines was a fine partner for all of these glorious treats, as it had a slight sweetness, a little acidity, and elevated the flavours to something out of this world. A truly memorable dish. Excellent.
This main course, we were about to see was a truly great affair. Poached Breast and Confit Legs of Pigeon with Root Vegetables, Chocolate Malt and Grapes. To go with it, we had the very enjoyable 2005 Vin de Pays du Gard, Roc d’Anglade, Remy Pedreno, Longuedoc. When this dish arrives, you are first of all overwhelmed by all, that suddenly arrives on the table. However, once you dig in, it is terrific. The perfectly poached breast of pigeon is obviously the main element here, served with chocolate and whisky mashed potatoes, grapes, the roasted heart, confit legs, roasted foie gras, a pigeon sausage, a selection of root vegetables and a hearty jus, this dish is indeed a complex affair. However, after having lifted the lid of the smoke dome, the confit legs (crispy on the skin side, with creamy meat), are great. The grilled sausage, which takes on a nice smoky aroma from the burning wood is again a highly refined version of comfort food, and the roasted foie gras lifts up the pigeon, as it gives it a smokey rich note. On the main plate, one has the selection of root vegetables, which on their own and a little jus roti would more than suffice, but accompany the meat fantastically. Apart from all of the highly intricate, complex combinations and elements on this plate, it has an incredible coherence, which is quite incredible. There does seem to be something like a controlled chaos here, which results in a hugely interesting and beautiful dish. Outstanding.
Moving on we had a bit of cheese with a very nice 2004 Chateau la Conseillante, Pomerol, served from a magnum, which was incredibly earthy, and already ready at such a young age. A glorious wine. The cheese itself was also very good, although it does not quite reach the incredible selection of the Greenhouse yet.
A pre-dessert was a buttermilk sorbet, with hibiscus broth, rhubarb and doughnuts. Now, these doughnuts were quite delectable, and made for a good, rich counterpoint to the slightly acidic, very refreshing sorbet (which in itself was very good). This was a much more successful pre-dessert than the one I had eaten at my first meal. Very good.
The first dessert served was a passion-fruit soufflé with vanilla ice cream. This was a very fine soufflé, which was better than the one at the Gavroche for instance, as the egg whites here were not as hardly beaten as in the latter’s. This results in a more creamy texture, which doesn’t seem quite as “stiff”, or rigid. Flavour-wise, there was also a little more intensity in this one, although in the end, both restaurants produce a fine soufflé (which isn’t that hard after all). Excellent.
The second dessert was a Chocolate Cremeux with Walnut Ice Cream and Warm Chocolate Madeleines. Here, we had Le Truffier, La Salamandre, Perigord, which is truffle infused wine. This was rather interesting, as the truffle flavour and nose went rather well with the chocolate. In the truffle season, this dish could be highly interesting, when truffles are incorporated into the chocolate, and/or shaved over the whole thing. This dessert was the best of the bunch we tried today. You can hardly debate this dessert. It was excellent.
Not wanting this meal to end already, I asked for a third dessert, and got an apple and pain d’epice based creation. This featured a piece of poached apple, roasted apple ice cream and a cannellono of pain d’epice. The incredible thing here was the ice cream, and the poached apple. The cannellono was good, but the textures of the wrap (pain d’epice), and the mousse inside it, made out of the former, were too similar, to create any effect. This was the least interesting of the desserts, save for that fantastic ice cream. Very good.
Petit-fours were very good, as was coffee.
I am rather impressed with what I get here. For the second time, the food was very, very good, the execution was faultless, and I spent a great few hours here. Brett’s cooking seems incredibly individualistic. There is a feeling that things are moving, it feels almost like the sometimes unusual combinations Wissler of Gagnaire use mixed with the rigour and perfect execution of, say Ducasse’s chefs. This is exciting food, that delivers also on the technical side, something often a little forgotten by some of the “creative” chefs. At the moment, I can’t think of anyone, who cooks more exciting food than the guys here (in London that is), so I would be more than surprised if the Michelin would not give it those 2* in January, as the service, decor and wines don’t stay behind the kitchen’s level.
Judging from two meals in a very short period of time, there seems to be potential for the 2*, as the stability is there, a factor a place like the Greenhouse will have to work on, in order to go there.