|Last Orders||9.45 pm|
"The Ledbury It is really reassuring to know that you can rely on some restaurants to deliver an inspiring dining experience, and The Ledbury, which has long been on our elite list, will continue to be so while it achieves such a high level of gourmet satisfaction, and manages to keep the damage to its customers’ bank balance to a level which is very reasonable by comparison with certain other two-star undertakings in London, something that was mirrored by the fact that it was full to overflowing and even turning tables, and this on a Wednesday evening in a dead month like January. The utterly charming welcome was a foretaste of the ultimate in relaxed professionalism typical of the front of house staff so ably directed by Darren and Sam and well backed up by Seamus, the knowledgeable new sommelier, and Martin, our waiter. The one problem with The Ledbury is trying to pick a favourite dish. Take the canapés, for example - the guinea fowl puffs with mint jelly and the smoked mussel crème with perfect crackers were both top-notch, but the muntjac dumplings were just hot venison heaven. Then the natural sweetness of clay-baked candy beetroot slices was modified by the amazing Exmoor caviar to become an ideal match for the smoked, dried eel. Our ravings about that dish were then cut short by stunning Chinese artichokes combining with ham and grated foie gras in a wonderful grape sauce. How could we choose between the two? No time to dwell on such things though because the next dish was Brett Graham’s take on ham and eggs, which was redolent of truffle as it came to the table and the super tasty bantam’s egg was transfigured in conjunction with its celeriac and truffle partners. Then, when we thought it couldn’t possibly get better, came another memorable winner - soft, flavoursome lobster tail wrapped in Shiitake with sea purslane and pine nuts bathing in a wonderful lobster and sherry vinegar sauce, simply delicious; the second helping of lobster was a really clever dish of pulled claw meat contrasted with roasted cauliflower and a light parmesan crisp which went perfectly with the lobster. Even the set-up for the main was a joy with mushroom shavings giving off a terrific nose and prunes with a lovely partridge and foie gras stuffing, and crunchy bacon providing a just level of texture. We were still mulling over what to choose as our favourite dish as the muntjac was put before us, a feast of perfectly pink venison, the two generous cylinders of meat prominent on the plate amid our preferred baby beetroot, unbelievably delicate smoked bone marrow, muntjac sausage, and red leaves completing an artist’s palette of a dish. And there was no let-up; where some restaurants can allow standards to drop a bit with the desserts, here the pre-dessert was a delight, a quenelle of basil ice cream and the lightest little bergamot doughnut in a palate-cleansing passion fruit sauce, and the honey and thyme buffalo milk ice cream with sherry sponge carried on the level of excellence, only to be outdone by the gorgeous malted banana in its warm chocolate tartlet - a real knockout to finish. The whole evening was a seamless sequence of pleasure, possibly the best we’ve had at The Ledbury, which continues to outshine most of the other two-star restaurants we’ve dined in over the last year."
"Stunning food exquisitely presented. We even had an extra course thrown in for free after we raved about the previous dishes. Our fish eating friend had a superb array of courses too. No detail too small."
"One dish too salty for our taste. Service slow to get started. Had to ask for an aperitif."
"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."
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