|Last Orders||10.15 pm|
"Once again the Ledbury experience showed that what we have been advocating for some time is right on the ball. In France this restaurant would unquestionably have three stars, so why not in England? The food is outstanding, creatively and technique-wise, the front of house strikes the perfect balance between traditional formality and correctness and a modern more casual approach, and the atmosphere and the setting both reflect and amplify this, and the matching of wine and food is exemplary. The amuse-bouches set the tone for a memorable lunch - delicate foie-gras puffs with apple jelly, lava bread crisp and smoked roe, and intriguing braised shoulder of muntjac dumplings with fruit jelly on top making a brilliant introduction. We then luxuriated in complex oyster chantilly, the amazingly subtle oyster coordinated to perfection with creamy tartare of sea bream, cucumber cubes and restrained English wasabi. We sat back, sighed with satisfaction and nodded at each other. There was no need to put anything into words, that comfortable feeling when you know you are in the presence of the great was with us both. Could they keep it up? No problem. The following masterpiece was, to a meat eater, a dish that would have been a great temptation to any vegetarian - a visual/taste/texture mix of the highest quality, featuring violet artichokes, grated frozen foie gras, grapes, thinly sliced duck ham, and hazel nuts, all on a sweet sauce. Brett Graham, a genial genius, then wowed us with a sensational extra, his ingenious take on ham and eggs: a rich, warm pheasant's egg dish enhanced with slices of truffle, dried Parma ham, celeriac, toast and an Arbois sauce. This was matched by another sign of top-notch service - an updated copy of the tasting menu to include the added plate was printed out for us. Fish came in the form of soft, steamed cod finished with butter, topped with fragrant Katsura leaf and supported by white asparagus, a favourite of ours but not easy to find outside of Harrods and Fortnums, a well-balanced anchovy cream, and olives, each of the four main ingredients individually terrific and combining to produce yet another perfect whole. Three meat courses followed, the first some unbelievably tender and marvellously tasty pork jowl cooked in (Australian) beer, lovely crunchy crackling, a sprinkling of cracked black pepper, roasted hop shoots, juniper and a tongue-tickling cep marmalade. Tastes and textures par excellence. The second was some of the best venison we've ever tasted; melt-in-the-mouth fallow deer with chicon, olives, sweet beetroot and a beetroot smear, deliciously accompanied by a crazy venison mini-sausage and sensuous smoked bone marrow. Finally we were treated to a perfect Herdwick lamb chop with pressed lamb shoulder, salt-baked turnip, padron pepper and wild garlic flowers. A picture on a plate and a Spring feast on the palate. Gariguette strawberries may be pretty well ubiquitous in the fine dining world, but they are a natural pre-dessert/palate cleanser, and in this case served with good light cream and biscuit crunch they are still most welcome before a more serious sweet finale, which on this occasion was a luxurious pavé of deep dark chocolate presented with a nod to Japan in the form of pretty cherry blossom leaves and a soaking of sake insinuating itself progressively as we consumed the pavé. There was just room for gourmandises with our coffee, and we agreed, without prompting, that this was our best lunch ever."
"The inventive British cooking is some of the best in London. Pigeon especially good."
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