A professional kitchen
As you may have realised if you have been reading my blog for a while, I have been to the Ledbury maybe 6-7 times. I always find it to be a very surprising experience. Usually in the form of a little unexpected but altogether very much welcome extra. This visit was not to disappoint.
Upon sitting down, I found the table ornament to be extremely interesting.
I did wonder if the feathers of that particular bird (you will have to forgive my lack of fauna knowledge here as I am unable to identify what bird this comes from) ended up in some dish.
Maybe it was from the bird which graced the covers of the menus.
But in any case, onwards to what you come here for, to read about the food. First up the amuse bouches.
A lovely brioche.
Foie gras jelly on puff pastry.
Mussels on seaweed.
The brioche was soft and airy with a light dusting of something crunchy on top. I think it was onion? Next down was some foie gras jelly. Not bad but a bit too light for my taste. I do love my foie gras but am used to its heavy, cloying taste, uncultured barbarian I am. Lastly, blended mussels on reconstituted seaweed. A lovely amalgamation of the sea. You will have to forgive me here as although the intricacies of the amuse bouches were explained to me in depth by our waiter, I was too interested in savoring the food with my sight and smell senses to pay attention. My hearing tends to turn off when I am distracted you see, much to the dismay of my friends. Which leads me to my most useful phrase when queried for my opinion after long monologues by friends. “That’s interesting”.
A beetroot and eel salad. I am usually not a fan of beetroot. It brings up childhood memories of trauma of that awful purple (why was it always purple) vegetable that I pushed around my plate as a kid. Thankfully, this white beetroot tried valiantly to address my unconscious fear about this root vegetable. It provided an ideal contrast to the lightly smoked and dried eel underneath. The beetroot’s crunchy firm texture complemented the delicately soft eel underneath in the same way that the more bland beetroot served to highlight the taste explosion of the eel. The eel reminded me of my times in Japan eating unagi, eel, a delicacy in Japan. They would have restaurants that only served eel, letting you savour every part of this sea animal in numerous combinations. Blended, in soup, fried, steamed and with a multitude of sauces.
Like when I live my life in Japan. See the full post here.
Returning back to my Ledbury adventure, the next course was scallops with celeriac and black truffle. The celeriac was expertly diced into risotto sized bits. On top of this bed was a perfectly cooked scallop which was then surrounded with a black truffle emulsion. A very interesting dish as I was used to my risotto being made out of grains. Celeriac based risotto provided an interesting twist which helped to heighten the scallop and truffle flavours. Although I expect cutting the celeriac into risotto sized grains might be regarded as punishment duty for the chef who did something bad or annoying, much in the same way as in those old movies about ships where the cabin boy would be relegated to potato peeling for his misdemeanors.
House bread and butter. I do love my bread. The bread was not bad. Although I did bemoan to my lunch companion about the demise of the bacon bread I had eaten here on previous occasions. I think the waiter obliged by bringing me more than was wise on said occasion. My entreaties were, at least for my mouth, thankfully received. My stomach on the other hand was not so happy to be stuffed full of so much bacon bread!
You can find the full post on my bread epiphany here.
I still do on occasion dream about the bacon bread in all it’s porky goodness, when I have been on a bit of a pork diet. For me, if I were to pick one animal that I couldn’t do without eating, it would be our friend with the four trotters and upturned snout. People talk about how many ways they can skin a cat but I prefer to discuss how many ways you can cook a pig!
Hare loin. Dressed with artichoke, cabbage and walnuts. I used to think that hares were the same as rabbits but although they are related, they have one significant difference.
The hare puts up a bit more of a challenge to catch. You have heard the expression, fast as a hare. There is definitely some truth to that saying! Here is a close up view of the dish as the hare wasn’t able to run away this time. Hare, due to its exercise regime no doubt, has a meatier, gamier texture. Which was carefully paired with a selection of vegetables which did not detract from the central star of this dish.
Hare shoulder. Part two of the main course. The hare shoulder. I actually found the shoulder to be more to my liking as it contained more fat. Not as much as the excessively cultivated cows in Japan. Just have a look at the fat marbling here. See my full fat experience here.
Although the hare did not have as much fat as the cow, the trade off was that you could definitely taste its ability to evade the hunter!
Then it was up to a little palate cleanser. Rosemary and apple jelly. The rosemary had more of a surprisingly clean bite than I was used to. Perhaps because of my amateur ways, rosemary usually had a rather strong and cloying taste when added to my home cooked meals. Maybe this might be due to my liberal dumping of the dried herb. In this case, the fresh rosemary helped to clean off the lingering elements of the too-fast-hare for dessert.
Caramelized banana. On top of a puff pastry with passion fruit ice cream on the side. The smooth taste of the banana combined well with the passion fruit ice cream and crunchy base along with the peanuts on the side.
This looked very familiar. Where had I seen this before? Oh yes, in 2011 at the Ledbury.
The day after they lost their door in the Notting Hill riots. See the full post here.
When I noted that I had had the same dish 4 years ago and showed this very picture to the waiter, he seemed quite surprised! And I think his own way of reciprocating this shock was the unannounced but very welcome arrival of a further two unexpected and off-menu desserts.
Stem ginger flan. A lovely smooth under layer combined with a crunchy sugar coated top and biscuit base. Topped off with a lovely dollop of ice cream. I remembered this exquisite dessert fondly as I had shared a bite on a friend’s birthday at this very restaurant and have been raving about it ever since.
Orange chocolate parfait. The new kid on the block or maybe I should say plate. Although this was very delicious, it has still failed to knock the stem ginger flan off the top.
Having almost reached the end of our gastronomical adventure, it was now time for the petit fours.
Shortbread with citrus jelly.
Yuzu ice cream in a crunchy case.
Three petit fours. I loved the ice cream in a crunchy shell much like the deep fried ice cream I would enjoy in Asia. The shortbread brought me back to the UK, which I have always thought of as the land which was the king of shortbread. The fudge lacked any particular geographical nexus for me. A very pleasant end to an excellent meal.
I may have got the actual composition horribly wrong as they didn’t list the petit fours (or amuse bouches) on the menu, unlike the other dishes. So I had to rely on my somewhat selective memory. You know, like that time I couldn’t “remember” where I put the chocolate bar. Oh yah, sorry, I actually ate it.
And to my surprise, we were offered a visit to the kitchen. It was a very pleasant present. Looks like my blogging fame has spread far. Or maybe it is just my good looks.
We shared an enlightening conversation with the head chef, Brett Graham (pictured below – no prizes if you manage to guess which one he is), who like me spent quite a bit of time in Sydney, Australia. His wife apparently helped to create the table ornament I was so fascinated with and he shot the bird from whence the feathers came. I was surprised at how small the Ledbury kitchen was with staff working side by side over a small table and how clean too! A good sign as always. He did bemoan that the restaurant staff would have to perch on the tables/stairs to eat their hasty sustenance between services.
A meal full of many surprises. On my 8th visit here, the Ledbury cements its place at the top of my list as my favourite restaurant in London and this trip only served to place it in an almost unassailable position at the top.
A quiet eating 9.5/10. The ever elusive quiet eating 10/10 will have to wait until the tasting menu but I am saving that for a special occasion.
Lunch (4 courses) was GBP50 excluding drinks and service.
127 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill, London
Addendum – We stopped by for another lunch one fine day. Dishes were as expected excellent. Definitely on the top of the London scene.
Tomatoes, Black Russian, Zebra, Pineapple Ribbed, Green Tomato Juice and Lobster Oil
Roast Scallops, Sweetcorn and Lemon Thyme
Fallow Prickett, Celeriac, Figs, Walnuts and Smoked Bone Marrow
Passion Fruit Soufflé and Sauternes Ice Cream