Sunday 7 November 2010

The Ledbury, Notting Hill

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.

Root vegetables

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.

Roe deer

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)

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon


  1. Never been to The Ledbury before, thanks for the heads up! The roe deer looks good, pity about its lack of of favour but hey, the marrow rides to the rescue. That reminds me of a humble street fare back home (can't remember its name), which is essentially a couple of lamb tigh bones filled with marrow and nothing else. :)

  2. I went on Saturday - favourite London restaurant. Loved that vadouvan/broccoli dish. If you order it on the lunch menu it comes with a fillet of seabass. That sweet brown sugar tart though. Wow! I want me some of that. Then again, I want to eat everything that ever comes out of that kitchen ever ever.

  3. Never been to this one but somewhere thats on my "list", always looks fantastic and those Petit Fours look great!. Anyone that can make root vegetables look that good is a genius to me :).

  4. We want to return to The Ledbury with

  5. London Chow - It's fantastic - such a great place.

    Helen - Ha ha, I totally agree. It's hard to fault anything really. The seabass would be lovely with the broccoli dish.

    Matthewsfoodblog - There was a white chocolate petite four in particular that was incredible. Mmmmm....

    Zoe - Hello lovely! Aww, I have been thinking about our last visit to The Ledbury so much this week - why didn't we go again before you left??!

  6. Really MUST visit, STILL haven't!

  7. What a great restaurant and a great night - absolutely loved it.

  8. Kavey - you must!

    Gourmet Chick - Hear hear!

  9. Wow, looks brilliant. As I just said on Gourmet Chick's site, West London was wasted on me when I lived there and now I miss out on all these places as it feels too far to travel very often. At least I can see what I'm missing!

  10. Wow looks like a fab night and a great dinner! I've been meaning to go for ages but being skint has stopped me a little. I agree with you the lunchtime 3 course sounds like the perfect way to try it, really good value. I've heard The Ledbury is the best Michelin starred resto to visit in London.

    Anyway lovely post. Am hungry again and just ate lunch! x

  11. Sarah - It's nice to have an excuse to make the trek for a special occassion!

    Sasha - Ooh, do try. After your recent travels, the lunch might be a nice "welcome back to London" gift to yourself!

  12. What a fun night that was! It was great to see you again, and we need to catch up soon and errr "discuss cameras" ;)

  13. Glad to have stumbled upon this one review on the Ledbury: it is among the few tables I am planning to visit on an eventual trip to the UK. It is actually my first choice there along with Le Gavroche (with all due respect to Ramsey's and Blumenthal's restaurants, I have, up to now, preferred both the Ledbury and Le Gavroche). I just hope that Brett Graham will be behing the stoves if I happen to dine there

  14. Catty - We still haven't had that brunch with our cameras!

    S Lloyd - You are clearly a person of taste! I absolutely love Le Gavroche too - although it is very different in style to The Ledbury. Actually, Brett wasn't in the kitchen on the night of my most recent visit to The Ledbury, but he clearly has such a great team that it was just as fabulous as usual. I also urge you to try The Waterside Inn (another Roux family restaurant) when you visit the UK - it's wonderful (I reviewed it recently if you want to see some pics etc).


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