I have written about the Ledbury on numerous occasions, so we won’t repeat ourselves here anymore. The only thing that can be said is that Brett’s cooking is progressing quicker than that of any other London chef. He is moving so quickly, that one can eat here twice a week and be served a completely different menu on each occasion. That is something not many chefs can say do, even fewer if the food is of a consistently high quality. Autumn is probably one of the best seasons to eat here, as Brett’s game dishes are stunning. So, all I can say is that this continues to be London’s best restaurant, and only keeps on getting better.
Posts Tagged ‘The Ledbury’
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.
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.
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.
The Ledbury was never really a restaurant that attracted me in London. Somehow I didn’t feel any rush to go there. However, recently a few people have had very good meals there, and a few dishes on the menu caught my attention. So, when came to Notting Hill, I didn’t really know what to expect. Michelin gave it a rising two stars rating this year, and in most other guides (British ones), it ranks amongst the best in town. Price-wise, the lunch menu is £24.50 for three courses, whilst dinner is £60, and the tasting menu costs no more than £70. The wine list offers some very good wines, at fair prices, although you won’t find many older vintages on it.
The room is somewhat similar to the Square (which is partly owned by the same person), and is rather elegant. Tables were well spaced out, and neatly dressed. The service throughout was fantastic: each and everyone was motivated, interested and seemed rather happy to work here. That’s the way it should be!
To kick things off, a glass of Billecart-Salmon rose was most welcome, to go with it, I was served a macaron of beetroot and foie gras. This is reasonably close to the macarons one finds at Ledoyen, Arnsbourg or other places, and has got not much to do with a macaron. However, the present version was a particularly fine example, with great intense creamy foie gras parfait, and a lovely, airy shell. A fine start indeed.
After adjusting the tasting menu and adding a few things here and there, I was ready to start. Bread is made in the restaurant, and one type is bought-in. On choice were three types: Bacon brioche, multi-grain and a pain au froment (I don’t know what that is in English). All of them were very good and easily ranked among the finer breads in London’s top restaurants.
The first course was already a masterpiece: Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish. Served with a most interesting 2006, Vin de table de France, Originel from Julien Courtois (son of well-known Alain), this course was brilliant. From a visual point of view already, it was a winner, but the amazing thing here was the exact balance between the individual elements. The scallops, topped with frozen horseradish, and a few slivers of marinated kohlrabi, surrounded by a cordon of herb oil gave an unusual but fantastic combination. This was a dish that would not have been out of place in a very good 2* (if not more). There was the textural interest, a game with temperatures, and a number of contrasting and coherent flavours. The incredibly dry and mineral wine worked beautifully with the dish. Outstanding. I was quite startled at this point, the meal, still in its youth seemed to be most promising…
Next up was a classic of the house: Flame Grilled Mackerel with Cured Mackerel, Avocado and Shiso. This was served with 2007 Riesling QBA, Sybille Kuntz from the Mosel. This was again a highly interesting plate of food. Visually it was unlike anything I have seen recently in other restaurants. The flame-grilled mackerel came with a cream of avocado, cured mackerel wrapped in some jelly, pickled cucumber and a little broth/marinade. The mackerel was of very fine quality (as most products tonight) and was cooked with great dexterity. The skin was beautifully crispy, whilst the meat remained incredibly moist and barely cooked. I am no real fan of cooked mackerel, but this was very good, and the combination with the other elements worked beautifully. The wine was, again a very good match for the dish. Very good.
Moving on. I was approached with an interesting creature, a Crapaudine Beetroot Baked in Clay with Smoked White Balsamic Emulsion, Goats Curd and Herbs. With this was poured another unusual wine: 2008 Pais, Clos Ouvert from Chile. Pais is one of Chile’s most popular grape varieties, but is hardly exported. This was another very natural wine, which alone did not have much of an interest, but paired with the dish, it worked well, and got another dimension. The beetroot was freed tableside, but taken back to the kitchen for plating. The finished plate was again beautiful, highly interesting and unusual. Now, I’ve spent a few days at l’Arpege’s kitchen, where the famous salt-baked beetroot (also a crapaudine by the way), was invented. This version however was more interesting for me. The slightly smoked balsamic emulsion gave it a little acidity, which was complemented by the elderberries. With it came a feuille de brik filled with goat’s cheese and finished off with olive powder. All in all, I found this dish surprisingly good. At first, I wanted to change it, but was more than happy that the Maitre d’hotel insisted on keeping it. The combination of flavours was not unusual, but the way they were paired was much more successful than, say at Mirazur (where I had also eaten a beet/balsamic/goat’s cheese course). Here, there was real punch from the beet, and it’s intense taste was fantastic. Again, this was a very good dish.
Next up was another classic: Celeriac Baked in Ash with Hazelnuts and a Kromeski of Wild Boar. On this dish, the pairing was the least successful of all. The Medium Dry Amontillado from Fernando de Castilla was much too sweet for the delicate dish, and overpowered it completely. Apart from this, the sommelier’s choices were all very well paired with the dishes. The piece of Celeriac is coated in ash, enclosed in bread dough and baked for a good while. After being released on the table (with a beautiful fumet rising up into the air), this plate is finished in the kitchen too. It is absolutely amazing to see what kind of texture and taste the celeriac develops, when cooked in this fashion. It is absolutely outstanding. The hint of ash gives it a completely new dimension, and paired with the crunchy hazelnuts and velvety mayonnaise, this dish is really unique. However, one element should not be forgotten: the kromeski (or cromesquis in French) of wild boar. This is another deep-fried parcel of heaven, as it is tasty, crunchy, rich, and quite simply terrific. With the scallops, this was my favourite dish. So far. Fantastic.
After a little break we were back on track with a Terrine of Foie Gras, teal and Fig with Toasted Poilane Bread. The wine was a 2006 Syrah TBA from Steindorfer in the Burgenland. This was a most pleasant wine, although I always find it a pitty to drink such incredibly rich wines at a tender age. The foie gras was of excellent quality, and masterfully prepared. It was perfectly cleaned, creamy, tasty and well-seasoned. The addition of the teal was hardly noticeable, and the bird could have been a more prominent partner here. Apart from that, the dish was another winner, even though it was more classical, and thus slightly less interesting compared to the others. Very good.
The restaurant ran out of cod that evening and served turbot instead. I certainly won’t complain, as the Roast Cornish Turbot with Grilled Leeks, Hand Rolled Macaroni and Truffle Puree was one hell of a dish. Here the pairing was interesting again. A 2007 Gevrey Chambertin, made by a friend of the sommelier, Mark Haisma (the friend, not the sommelier), was very successful, if one takes into account that it was the producer’s first ever vintage. I wasn’t too sure, if it was the perfect wine for the dish, but it certainly drank well. Back to the food though. The turbot was a great piece of fish. Despite coming from a small fish, it was very tasty, and most importantly had the beautifully firm flesh I adore. Without doubt, it was one of the better turbots I have had recently, and was cooked to perfection, again. The grilled leek was great too, as were the macaroni with the truffles. Obviously, summer truffles lack the punch and flavour of their black or white cousins, but they were rather tasty for summer truffles. The harmony in this classical combination was incredible. Each element came incredibly close to perfection, and worked marvelously with each other. An outstanding dish.
I was waiting for this one: Stuffed Pigs Tail with Creamed Potato, Suckling Pig Belly, Chestnuts and Cepes. This was served with a 2005 Vin de Pays du Gard, Roc d’Anglade from Remy Pedreno. We were back on track, as the pairing was one of the most successful ones of the meal. The pig was glorious. Even if the belly did not rival that of the Sportsman, which is my benchmark, it was great. Cooked in an oven at 75C (no boiling in the bag here) for 8h, it is then crisped and goes down very, very well. With it came the stuffed pig’s tail, which was the real star for me. This was the finest “sausage”, I’ve had (if I dare call it one). It was unctuous, rich, flavoursome, and simply great. With the shaved chestnuts, and pan-fried cepes and button mushrooms, the dish was an absolute delight at this time of year. A perfect dish for a cold evening, like there are so many at this time of year. Excellent.
Cheese here is supplied by La Fromagerie, and was in very fine shape. The board featured a number of interesting choices and I sampled about 8 or so, which were all very good. With it came very good bread, an oatcake and a little fruit. The sommelier poured a dry Tokaiy, whose references I did not write down. Excellent.
Before dessert, a little pre-dessert was served: A vanilla crème-brulee, green apple sorbet and elderberry flower granite were a refreshing intermezzo. This was all well-executed and precise, although not really that interesting.
All good things have to come to an end eventually, so I saw the last course approach: Caramelised Banana Galette with Salted Caramel and Peanut Ice Cream. The 2006 Scheurebe TBA from Umathum, also from the Burgenland was a fine match for this dessert. The dessert was, unfortunately, the least successful dish of the meal. Not that it was bad or even mediocre, but it is quite simply something you can do in no time, at a fairly similar level. The elements were all very well made, but it didn’t really impress like the other dishes did. The caramel, ice cream and tarte worked well, as was to be expected, but the other desserts definitely sounded a little more interesting. Very good.
With the good coffee, I had very enjoyable macarons, and finished the meal with a digestif, the way it should be done.
All in all, I was quite impressed. I came here, expecting a good 1* restaurant, and was amazed by how good every single course was. Out of all, I would say all of them were in safe 2* territory, with some (scallop, celeriac, turbot) being quite simply fantastic. What I really enjoyed about Brett Graham’s cooking was the very natural and highly innovative approach. None of my courses resembled any of the fairly safe food, one is getting used to in a good number of London restaurants. What one has here, is food that has an identity, that might not please everyone, but that provokes emotions, makes you smile here and there (something, which rarely happened to me in London), that simply leaves you wanting to discover more and more of it. A chat with Brett in the kitchen after the meal confirmed my suspicions: This is someone who really is passionate about his food, products, and cooking in general. If the Michelin has some sense of reason (which they usually do have, at least to some degree), I would not doubt the arrival of a second star for the Ledbury in the next year’s edition. Besides the highly interesting food here, the service was great, the wine list offers all one could wish for at very reasonable prices and one could just come back and back. A real gem, hidden away in Notting Hill.
The Harwood Arms is one of the two gastro-pubs, which I actually enjoy. It is, like the Sportsman too, not the usual “gastro-pub”, where one pays way too much for forgettable, unpleasant food. Here, the chef Stephen Williams has worked at the Ledbury amongst other places. The room was as full as ever. Booking should be done a few days in advance, as it gets pretty busy for the weekends, a good week in advance should suffice.
The décor is very warm and cosy, making it a perfect restaurant for a cold winter evening, or lunch. Service is lovely, and happily accommodates pretty much any wish.
To start the meal, we had the obligatory Venison Scotch Egg. A perfectly creamy egg, is surrounded by a layer of venison meat and then thinly breaded. Topped with a healthy pinch of Maldon sea salt, this is pure pleasure. The combination of creamy yolk, crunchy coating, and hearty venison is just as precisely balanced as it can get. To make this classically British dish this well certainly demands a certain level of technical dexterity and a good amount of research. This is without doubt one of the better, or more enjoyable bites in London. Excellent.
Bread was very good today. The sour dough was crunchy, with good taste,as was the rye bread. Butter was also very good, and most certainly not from Bordier, but from Britain (if I’m not mistaken).
One of the starters was a Sweetcorn and thyme soup with Scottish Hedgehog mushrooms and cheddar cheese straws. This was a very thick soup, almost like a fluid puree. The combination with the mushrooms and cheddar sticks was very pleasant. This was precise, and clean flavour-wise, with just the right amount of sweetness, to counterbalance the richness. The soup was a good heart-warmer after a pretty cold autumn day. Good.
The most interesting starter on the menu was the Salad of Berkshire wood pigeon with pickled girolles, toasted hazelnuts and game tea. A small wood pigeon breast came nearly cold, dressed with a few radishes and green beans. Paired with one or two small, pickled girolles and hazelnuts, the dish was on the light side, less robust than the previous one. The dressing for the salad was very good,with a well-balanced taste, but to serve the whole thing lukewarm instead of cold would have been perfect. Cold meat is just a little less tasty and tender than warm or lukewarm meat. The game tea here is always great. A warm rush of pure gamey punch, which certainly doesn’t leave you cold. Perfectly clean, this is a textbook perfect consommé, which is better than a number of clear broths served in a few starred restaurants. Very good.
To have a taster of fish, I tried some Roast Cornish cod with a wild mushroom and Jerusalem artichoke tart and English truffle butter. The cod was certainly very fine, but not of exceptional quality. It was cooked well, seasoned correctly and nicely paired with the tarte. The latter was very good, with a potent mushroom flavour and crispy, airy dough. To say the least, it was a most successful fish dish, all the more, if one considers that this is a pub. One that focuses on game. Very good.
I had hoped to find something like grouse, pigeon or some other gibier a plumes, but it wasn’t to be for today. The grouse has to be pre-ordered, and is served for parties of 6 or more (at a very favourable price, if one considers how much these birds set you back in a shop). Thus, I had to make due with something else. The most interesting thing on the menu was the Whole rabbit leg stewed in cider and mustard with smoked bacon, prunes and Swiss chard. A nicely braised rabbit leg came in a creamy cider/mustard jus, served with steamted swiss chard, prunes and a few pieces of bacon. The only annoying thing on the plate was the very generous serving of mashed potatoes, which was good, but not really needed, at least not in such quantities. That probably is a concession one has to make, when cooking in a pub. After all, (some) people will come here to get fed. This dish really was the standout for me tonight. It was hearty, well cooked and perfectly seasoned. The combination was certainly not inventive, but if it is well done, one can’t ask for much more, and eats it with a little smile. Very good.
As I saw one garnish for another dish, which interested me, I asked if it was possible to have a serving of it. The cheese and cauliflower croquettes were most enjoyable. If a little more greasy than the stunning Scotch egg, they had a perfectly crunchy (if nearly too thin) crust, and a centre that was most creamy and pungent. The cauliflower was nicely tamed by the cheese, and thus did not dominate the whole thing. Served with their own home-made ketchup (which was very tasty), this was great comfort food.
Desserts were not on the bad side neither. The first was Caledonian ice with English quince, whiskey and toasted oats. Two nice chunks of whisky parfait were simply served with poached quince and crunchy oats. This was very well made and served without any unnecessary complications. The parfait had a slight taste of whisky, which wasn’t overpowering, and was perfectly creamy. With the slightly acidic quince and crunchy oats, one had everything that makes a good dessert: rich creamy parfait, crunchy oats, slightly acidic, fruity quince and the happy taste of whisky, which rounded things off. Very good.
The second one was the house classic: Bowl of warm Bramley apple doughnuts with spiced sugar and whipped cream. As Andy Hayler wrote, Homer Simpson would have been very happy with these doughtnuts. They are indeed not bad at all. Today they were much better than on the previous visit, where they lacked a little fluffiness and were too compact. The bramley apple wasn’t that present, and could have been a little more powerful, but if dipped in the slightly sweetend cream, this is again, great comfort food. Very good.
The last dessert was a Buttermilk pudding with blackberries and Harwood Arms ginger nuts. Not too different from a panna cotta, this set buttermilk mix was served with some biscuits and a little blackberry jam. Clean, refreshing flavours, very good execution made this a very good dessert. Very good.
The food today was very reasonable in terms of price starters and desserts all are priced around £6, and the mains are more or less in the £15 area. The wine list is fairly priced. However, a meal here will not be a steal neither, as the products used here are of very high quality, and will never be.
Food was great for a pub. I would say that if the cooking here is as constant as I have experienced it on my two visits, it should get a Michelin star pretty soon, as it can really challenge a few of the 1* restaurants in this country. Together with the lovely service, this restaurant is a very enjoyable place to spend an evening, without breaking the bank.