Brett Graham and his brigade have given me quite a lot of memorable moments during the last few months. As a Dutch friend of mine was in London for a few days, we met up for a first meal at the Ledbury for a nice tasting menu.
We let Brett decide what to cook for us, and selected a bottle of 1994 Silex from Didier Dagueneau to start with. This was very interesting. The nose was simply exquisite. Of great complexity, it promised a lot, something the taste could not quite deliver in the same magnificence. The wine had just surpassed its peak, and was less fresh, vivid, and immediately pleasing than younger Silex’s. It wasn’t bad, by no means, rather very good, it just seemed a little different than a Silex of recent years. The next wine was a 2001 Cote Rotie La Barbarine from Yves Gangloff. This was a huge pleasure to drink, and even though my friend wasn’t entirely won over in terms of complexity and depth, we both enjoyed this very well made wine enormously.
To start, we were given an amuse version of one of Brett’s dishes: Lamb shoulder, Jerusalem artichoke (as chip and crushed) with winter savoury milk. This was even more enjoyable than the dish itself, as the proportions in this little bite were simply exquisitely balanced. Alongside were served the classic macarons, about which I won’t have to write anymore I hope. Excellent,
The following dish was a tuna with bonito flakes and a yuzu cream. This was very fresh, and again a real treat, as the quality of the tuna was very good, and the combination exemplary. Very good.
The first course for me was a real treat. A rather impressively sized scallop came roasted with truffles and sea kale. A Simple, yet incredibly efficient and well made dish, every element had its place, and provided pleasure with every bite. The scallop was very fresh and perfectly cooked. The truffle was so intensive that one could smell it directly after the plate was set in front of me. Outstanding.
Up next was the first course which was a notch below perfect. A piece of John Dory was roasted and served with crab and cucumber. Now the dish was pretty close to being perfect, had it not been for a slightly too generous drizzle of lemon juice on the fish, which itself was a bit overcooked. Apart from that it was a great dish, which can be excellent without these flaws. Good to very good.
The next one was reminiscent of Alain Passard’s cooking, albeit a little more complex in presentation and serving. Celeriac spaghetti were served with smoked bone marrow and mustard (from Orleans). This was a very enjoyable, perfectly balanced dish, in which the mustard made things come to life, but stayed within reasonable boundaries. The smoked bone marrow made the whole thing even more decadent. Very good, and at a fraction of the price you’d pay in the rue de Varenne.
Unfortunately, we weren’t served any further fish course, and had to make due with a stunningly nice pork belly. This was just brilliant, with about as much crunchy parts to it as tender pork meat. The accompanying morels were much more powerful than those, we ate a few days later at the Greenhouse, and had enough punch to stand up against the rest of the dish. Excellent.
Now, this next dish was to become one of the very best dishes of the year, if not my life. Both of us had eaten a lot of venison in our life, but this was the crown jewel. Cooked on the bone, it is set on hay, which is then burned. This gives the Sika deer rack another dimension and even more complexity in terms of flavour. The texture was brilliant too, as it was incredibly tender, and juicy. The accompanying elements worked beautifully with it, and complemented it perfectly. This was great, as it is rare to find a main course, which blows your mind away. Outstanding.
After a bit of cheese, we were served a rather curious chicoree crème crulee, which was not bad, but not really pleasant either. There is a reason for which people drank chicoree only after coffee had ceased to be publicly available during numerous wars.
The first dessert was a olive oil panna cotta, served with white chocolate granita, mango sorbet and candied black olives. This was brilliant. I would not have thought that the mango would work with the other ingredients, but it did, and it did so beautifully. Excellent.
The next dessert was fun, as it was pretty much the same (if more complicated) dish, that I had eaten at the Harwood. Rhubarb was served with Pepper sorbet and a few bits and pieces. Fresh, delicious and very well made. Very good.
The last was the classic date and custard tart. Hard to fault, just very good, although one could add an element of freshness in there somehow, as it is a little on the sweeter side of things. This taken apart, its delicious. Excellent.
The brigade here really is on top form it seems, we had the luck to eat a very strong 2* meal, which was lurking into 3* territory. At least for me. Service was great as it always is here, and in addition to the best food in London, the most charming service brigade, one has the most reasonably price wine list in all of the city’s better restaurants.