Eating at the Ledbury has become one of the must do’s for anyone visiting London, or living here. At least in my book. Brett Graham, recently awarded with a 2nd star from Mr. Bibendum, cooks the most interesting, food in London, and is among the best chefs in the UK without question. However, that’s not all, as the service brigade is equally great. Led by John Davey, who really knows what he does, these guys are fantastic. Hayley, who led me through my last meal too, did a fantastic job tonight, and the new sommelier Yoann Vasquez equally deserves his fair share of praise.
The meal here started with a glass of 1999 Pol Roger, which I find very good, especially after a little while in the glass. To follow, we had a very enjoyable 2003, Chablis Grand Cru Valmur from Raveneau, which took quite a while to open up, but whose last drops were phenomenal. To accompany our meat courses, a bottle of 2004, Auxey Duresses from Jean Francois Coche Dury was a memorable experience. This was a most pleasing wine, which was perfectly balanced, even at such a tender age. I will forever remember that first (and the subsequent) sip(s), as this ranks very highly in my red wine tasting life. Alongside this, Yoann poured me a glass of 2002, Gevrey Chambertin 1er cru Clos St. Jacques from the Domaine Fourrier. This was a very fine wine too, but I much preferred the Auxey Duresses, which was already much more approachable. As we had something to celebrate, we had a glass of 1996, Chateau d’Yquem and a glass of 2002, Chateau Suduirat for the desserts. I had the ’98 Yquem a few days earlier at the Square, which was a little underwhelming, but this was what I hoped Yquem would taste like: It was incredibly close to perfect, and quite simply exquisite. The Suduirat was not a bad drop neither, but looked a little pale next to its big brother (both figuratively and literally).
To accompany the Champagne, we had the obligatory beetroot/foie/gingerbread macarons, which were as good as ever. Very good.
The menu for tonight was put together for us by Brett and a few of the dishes (in fact most of them) were not on the night’s menu itself we were told. To start off, we were served a new creation: Frozen Foie Gras with Quince, Banyuls and Gingerbread Crumbs. What looked like a, nowadays quite trendy, pile of earth, tasted like heaven. The frozen foie gras was grated like cheese, giving it an incredibly light feeling, whilst retaining its powerful taste, and came with nicely crunchy gingerbread, reduced Banyuls and quince puree. This reads pretty sweet, but was a masterwork of balance. Every flavour was spot on, and the whole thing was already one of the (many) highlights of the night. A masterpiece.
Next up were Hereford Snails in a Mousseline of Herbs with Pickled White Carrots, Cepe Marmalade and Roasted Oxtail Juices. I don’t particularly like snails, they are often a little tough, and don’t really get me all that exited. Normally I don’t. Here however, the story was a very different one. The snails were as tender as it gets, and the surrounding mousseline gave them an additional unctuous, rich texture, which accompanied them greatly. A little cep powder gave some texture as did the slightly crunchy white carrots. The full-bodied oxtail braising juice boosted things up even more, and one was yet again completely won over by this course. Excellent.
The next course’s smell reached me before the plate did: Raviolo of Potato and Egg Yolk with Black Truffle, Onions Cooked in White Beer and Grated Vacherin. A large raviolo was filled with a runny egg yolk and mashed potatoes, to make a tasty, rich base for the black truffles. This was a great dish, but unfortunately, the lack of salt left it a little pale. Usually the food here is nicely seasoned, but here, they were a little too careful with the salt. Not that it was a massive problem, as salt and pepper stand on the table, but the first bite is that little less overwhelming, when the seasoning is not spot on. Once I gave it a pinch or two more however, the truffles suddenly woke up. Now the combination worked, even though there might have been too much egg yolk for the truffles, as the former overpowered the (very good) truffles a little bit. This being said, this was a very fine course, be it less memorable than the rest. Very good.
Roast Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Wakame Brown Butter. A simple dish: Just a little puree, some scallops and seaweed butter. Does one need more to be in paradise? Probably not much, as this was stunning. The scallops, whilst not overly big, were perfectly cooked, and of stunning quality. This was serious stuff, and the combination worked beautifully again. The iodine flavours of the seaweed gave the scallops that little kick that made them shine even brighter. Excellent.
Unfortunately we had to go to the meat course already: Calves Sweetbread Roasted on Liquorice with Carrot, Verjus and Chanterelles. First of all, the accord with the Valmur was unreal in this course. When drunken with this course, the wine suddenly was even more complex, rich and fruity. The meat itself was perfectly prepared: Crunchy on the outside, delightfully creamy on the inside, these sweetbreads worked beautifully with the other elements, and made for another simple, but excellent dish.
The second main course was a Shoulder of Pyrenean Milk Fed Lamb Cooked for Twenty Four Hours with Baked Jerusalem Artichokes and Winter Savory Milk. Atop crushed navets sat a rectangle of slow-cooked lamb shoulder, which itself was topped with crunchy Jerusalem Artichoke skin. The meat’s texture was really interesting on this one: It was cooked at a low temperature, simply wrapped in plastic foil, not braised. This gives it a tender, but at the same time less mushy texture than braised meats have. One still had a little bite to the meat, which was great. The Jerusalem Artichokes made for a very successful accompaniment, and we had yet another excellent dish.
A little cheese was needed to finish the red and white wines, before going to dessert, and the small, carefully chosen board remains my 2nd favourite in London (behind the phenomenal one in the Greenhouse). Oatcakes and another type of bread a freshly baked, and one is offered grapes, and other little things to go with the cheese.
Now, Brett knows that I do like my desserts, so when Hayley came up to us and said that there probably wasn’t enough space on the table for all of the desserts they were about to unload on it, I was smiling like a little child that sees the Christmas tree. We were served the integrality of the dessert menu, which was absolutely great.
To start, I tried the Raviolo of Rhubarb with Buttermilk and Hibiscus. This was essentially a re-worked version of the pre-dessert I’ve eaten at my last visit, and was very good. The only slight drawback here was the jelly, that served as the skin for the raviolo: It was a little too jellified, and hence tasted a little unpleasant. Otherwise, this was a refreshing, light dessert, with some very fine doughnuts on the side. Very good.
Next up was the Passionfruit Souffle with Sauternes Ice Cream. Now they make a very, very good soufflé here, and dare I say, it beats pretty much all of the other London soufflés by quite a margin. With the ice cream, it is a refreshing, perfectly balanced soufflé, that makes this absolutely perfect. Excellent (not to mention how this eats with a bit of Yquem on the side).
Caramelised Banana Galette with Salted Caramel and Peanut Ice Cream was the dessert I didn’t quite enjoy when I first came to the Ledbury back in November. This time, the bananas were caramelised, cooking and making them crunchy at the same time. This resolved the problem of them being nearly raw, and lifted the dessert up by quite a margin. The ice cream with this was stunning. Very rich, with a noticeable salty background, and delicious crunchy caramelised bits of peanuts, I can’t praise it enough. Excellent.
Date and Vanilla Tart with Cardamom and Clementine Ice Cream. A very pretty presentation for a great dessert. Basically, a little date puree is topped with a custard, and the whole thing sits on a normal short-crust pastry. With it comes a very refreshing ice cream, which makes things look a little lighter, and gives the otherwise quite sweet dessert the needed acidity. Excellent.
The Bergamot Lemon Tart with Assam Tea Ice Cream was a rare treat. These lemons have a very short season, and are quite hard to get. I was grateful to Brett, to let me try this, as I know Bergamot only from tea, and have never tasted it in a dessert or dish for that matter. Again it was a great combination, perfectly executed, although the Assam tea ice cream was perhaps not the best accompaniment for the whole thing, at least for me. Excellent.
The mignardises are always spot on, and I finished the meal with a glass of Billecart Salmon Brut Rose.
Wow! Brett and the whole brigade blew me away again, for the third consecutive time. This really is a special place, that needs to be visited by any serious foodie in London. Right now, I believe this address to be the finest in the city, as the food is technically at the same level as that of Herland and Howard, or Bonnet but seems even more exciting, bursting with energy, and freshness. Alongside the stunning service, one feels more than comfortable here, and I can confidently say that the second star is more than well deserved.