|Roast cod, truffle puree, cauliflower, parmesan gnocchi & sea vegetables|
Within a few weeks after we first moved to London 4 years ago, The Peanut Gallery was researching London restaurants for my birthday dinner. The man does not hold back when it comes to restaurant research, and he hit on a place in Notting Hill that sounded like the goods. And so it was that The Ledbury set my benchmark for London fine dining.
It's still my favourite place for a posh lunch or dinner. I've been back twice since - once with friends for the great value set price lunch (at £33.50 for 3 courses) - a terrific way to experience the brilliance while the sun flirts in through the huge surrounding windows. The second revisit was just last week to catch up over dinner with Aussie food blogging friends, Gourmet Chick, Catty and Vintage Macaroon as well as the lovely Claire from Australian wine maker, d'Arenberg. What better place to meet than over the fine food of Australian head chef, Brett Graham, drinking terrific Australian wines kindly contributed by D'Arenberg (thanks Claire) and Katnook Estate (thanks Jo).
Jo (who couldn't join us in the end) made contact with Brett Graham, who put together a special tasting menu for us, tweaked to match our wines.
|Deep fried quail egg|
Over a bottle of champagne well chosen by the sommelier to meet our request for something reasonably light and crisp, we start with the pretty, mousse-like foie gras canape followed by the amuse bouche - a deep fried quail egg with Jerusalem artichoke puree and shaved truffles.
|Our waiter called it "broccoli on toast"|
Firm broccoli stem with natural yoghurt and tiny, sweet Falmouth Bay prawns in brown butter and vadouvan (a mixture of onions, shallots and garlic with Indian spices) is one of my favourite courses. This dish highlights the kitchen's dexterity for textures and combining vivid flavours in well balanced harmony. Basically, it's clever, and it tastes brilliant. Who knew broccoli could be this good?
We drink the 2009 Katnook Estate Sauvignon Blanc from Coonawarra - a Sauv with body and lots of zesty citrus and apple.
|Hampshire buffalo milk curd, Saint-Nectaire & grilled onion broth |
(Truffle toast not pictured)
A shallow soup bowl is presented next. Across the base is a thin layer of Hampshire buffalo milk curd with uncooked French cheese, Saint-Nectaire. Small clusters of grilled onions and mushrooms are dotted around the plate. At the table, an aromatic, delicate broth of grilled onions is poured over the top and, on the side, waits a toasted brioche topped with large thin disks of earthy black truffle and puree. Again, there are delightfully balanced layers of flavour at work - just gorgeous.
With this, we drink d'Arenberg's 2008 "The Last Ditch" Viognier from McLaren Vale. It's exactly the type of wine I love. It's been aged for 6 months in French and American oak, and has a lovely, big honey and cream character.
Next up, a colourful arrangement of root vegetables, a nutty, sweet and earthy mix, baked in salt and clay with roasting juices, hazelnuts and Lardo di Colonnata (the silky pork fat from pigs having spent their lives feasting on acorns and chestnuts in Tuscany). Oh my. What better way to turn vegetables into pure, indulgent gluttony? Our accompanying 2005 Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has rich fruit and tannin, but is light enough so as not to overpower this dish.
A plump, moist fillet of roast cod glistens beside a mellow truffle puree, cauliflower, parmesan gnocchi and, for some extra umami, sea vegetables. Again, it looks pretty and it's a perfectly executed delight to eat.
Finally, the loin of roe deer is baked in Douglas fir (coniferous tree) with beetroot and malt. There's an accompanying venison sausage, which is rich and gamey. The loin is tender and, although I think it lacks some flavour, it's topped with an oozy blob of rich marrow which adds depth.
We accompany it with the 2002 d'Arenberg "The Dead Arm" Shiraz. This is a big, gutsy Aussie Shiraz, with intense fruit, chocolate and spice. It's a gorgeous match for our rich, autumnal game dish.
|Brown sugar tart|
Before dessert, we cleanse the palate (ok, any excuse) with a tart passion fruit concoction in a shot glass, before finishing with a fantastic, sweet brown sugar tart. It looks like a long slab of foie gras and, praise the lord, is almost as rich. It comes with muscat grapes and a stem ginger ice-cream.
Coffees and teas at the end are matched with our choice from a delicious selection of jellies, merigues, macaroons and chocolates.
Although we didn't try it, the cheese trolley - or, more accurately, the smell of the cheese trolley - deserves a mention. Fantastic. When it moves about the room, it's like you just wandered into the cheese room at La Fromagerie with your nostrils fully flared. Save room.
Service was, as always, professional, knowledgeable and friendly without a shred of stuffiness or irritating fuss. Brett Graham wasn't in the kitchen on the night we ate (he was shooting in Scotland), and so our fantastic meal only goes to show what an all round strong team this is. Even the loos are good - mainly for featuring my favourite (Melbourne based) Aesop geranium leaf hand wash. It seems I'm bound to love this place right down to the finest detail.
Together, with service, water and corkage of £50 (which amounted to £12.50 per bottle) our bill came to £102 per head. The standard dinner tasting menu (6 courses plus amuse bouche and pre-dessert) costs £85 per head (or £130 per head with matching wines) and there's also a vegetarian tasting menu for £75. The set lunch menu is £27.50 for 2 courses or £33.50 for 3 courses. And, of course, the a la carte options are always available.
At just 30 years of age, Brett Graham has obtained 2 Michelin stars at The Ledbury and is part of the collaboration behind the 1 Michelin starred pub, The Harwood Arms in Fulham. That alone is enough to make you sick. But even more impressively, at The Ledbury, he has created a consistently excellent restaurant, brimming with easy going confidence, originality, finesse and food which is a joy to eat. It deserves all the praise it gets.
The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AQ (Tel: 020 7792 9090)