|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."
"Our previous dinners at The Ledbury have set the tone for our appreciation of meals in other restaurants, and we thought that it would be hard to beat what we had already enjoyed here, but we could not resist taking advantage of a half-price offer from a hotel not too far from Notting Hill just to confirm. All-round excellence is a recurring theme in our reviews of The Ledbury, yet somehow, almost unbelievably, this time it was even better than before, with Greg Austin making Brett Graham's absence from the kitchen virtually imperceptible. As before, the service, so ably led by Darren McHugh, was a step up from the vast majority of top restaurants with the diners' preferences and previous meals noted and acted on, genuine personal recognition adding to the feeling of being not just a valued customer but almost a welcome friend, and slick and professional waiting on table. And, of course, on top of all this you get totally brilliant food. Over our glass of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, we debated whether we ought to do a mix and match selection from the à la carte or stick to the tasting menu. We explained our quandary to Darren who promptly offered a "tailored" tasting option giving us more white wine possibilities, and, in particular, lobster rather than langoustine, a further example of how to make your diners happy. We have commented on the wow-factor coefficient at the Ledbury in our previous reviews, and once again we were treated to a succession of first-class dishes and carefully matched wines which produced suitably modulated oohs and aahs from us. It is impossible to find enough superlatives to properly describe our meal, so we have settled for a list of the dishes making up our menu and the wine flight: we luxuriated in canapés of Mirin-cured sea bass with apple, sunflower crisp with artichoke and cauliflower cheese tart which complemented our champagne perfectly; the steamed, light sourdough bread was so moreish it required a great deal of self-discipline not to wolf it all down and perhaps spoil our appetite for the rest of the meal; foie gras grated onto white peach, with fresh almonds, the occasional toasted almond, and runner beans, all with an almond oil was an example of how to provide a counterpoint of textures (Prüm Riesling); an enormous slice of of mild Bull's heart heritage tomato, with tart olive, tomato sorbet and a curd cheese cylinder which was a picture on a plate (Ostertag Sylvaner); some amazing truffle toast, buffalo milk curd (presumably from Laverstoke), Comté cheese, sweet onion, fresh peas and a wonderfully decadent onion broth (Côtes du Jura, Macle); a generous portion of beautifully sweet Cornish lobster coddled in shiitake, cooked cauliflower and raw shavings with fine bread crumbs sprinkled on, pine nut gel and sea purslane with its natural saltiness was sheer perfection (Argyros Assyrtiko); sumptuous poached (no water bath here!) wild salmon with Chardonnay butter, courgette, tomato purée, basil purée and a sprinkling of immaculate crayfish (Montegrossi Rosato); impeccable roast quail breast and confit leg, girolles, mushroom purée, black truffle and sweetcorn (Moutere, Neudorf and Montlouis, Taille aux Loups); juicy, tasty Muntjac, beetroot, chicory, intense blackcurrant, marrowbone, baked celeriac and amazing sauces with black garlic and juniper (Les Terasses, Alvaro Palacios); vanilla cream, apple and elderflower granita, yoghurt meringue which was the epitome of a pre-dessert to prepare the palate for the final course of gorgeous raspberry sorbet tart, fresh raspberry, redcurrant, pink pepper, basil ice cream (Late Harvest Mad, Tokay). With coffee we were also presented with a taster of 1967 Quinta do Noval port. This was a masterpiece of gourmet cuisine, with every element in every dish in perfect balance, and every dish in our tasting menu in perfect balance with all the others. The Michelin Guide rates restaurants "taking into account the quality of ingredients, creativity, mastery of techniques and flavours, value for money and consistency". We can vouch for the fact that all these factors are at the forefront here, and, by comparison with the three restaurants that are already graced with a top ranking that we have been to, The Ledbury clearly warrants a third star."
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