As I was a little early to my lunchtime meeting at The Ledbury with an old friend, I dashed in looking for some respite from the cold. They seated me immediately, poured me some water and offered me a magazine to read. It was a very good start. The service was wonderful from beginning to end of the meal, as is to be expected from a restaurant with two Michelin stars; the dining room is absolutely gorgeous too and it almost felt quite special sitting there. But that’s not to say that what was going on in the kitchen, led by Brett Graham, was’t wonderful either. With so many positive reviews of the restaurant online, I was really looking forward to our lunch together, which we booked what seems like ages ago.
I was warming up nicely when my friend arrived and we settled down to decide on lunch. While we were still making our choices, a waiter came over with an amuse bouche for each of us – a delicate, bite-sized foie gras mousse tartlet that melted in the mouth.
We both decided to order off the set lunch menus (priced at £27.50 for two courses and £33.50 for three courses) and we both started with the Raviolo of Beef Shin with Truffle Consommé and Celeriac Cream as the other option was of beetroot, not exactly our favourite root vegetable. Inside the thin pasta sheet was a wealth of delicious tender beef shin and I also found myself spooning the consommé rather furiously into my mouth. The cream was quite tasty alongside but I can’t say it looked particularly appetising dolloped on top (by the waiter, not in the kitchen).
It’s at this point that I must mention the breads. When the choice of bread is between sourdough, chestnut and bacon and onion rolls, I think it’s pretty obvious which one I wanted. That bacon and onion roll was chock full of bacon and caramelised onion and I could have eaten just three or four or five for my meal alone. When they came around with the bread basket again, I tried the chestnut roll and I was not to be let down – it was studded with lots of chestnut chunks.
For mains, we did differ in our choices. My friend chose the Skate Poached in Brown Butter with Creamed Potato, Smoked Eel and Sorrel. The fish itself was served off the cartilage and I think he enjoyed it, especially the cubes of smoked eel on top (I heard they tasted a bit like bacon). The creamed potato though could have done with a bit more butter in it (we’re spoiled, I know).
I went for the Shoulder of Heritage Prime Hogget with Artichokes, Winter Savory and Herbs. It came out looking like quite a picture on my plate. Three pieces of extremely tender and falling apart at the touch of a fork hogget were strewn on the plate along with half a fried artichoke, the maggoty-looking crosnes (also known as Chinese artichokes!), various root vegetable purees and the thinnest crisp of hogget skin. It was all absolutely gorgeous and I’d love to return just to have that dish again.
It was sometime between our getting the menus again to decide on dessert and our receiving our desserts that we noticed something happening around the room. Quite a few tables had ordered the most spectacular looking soufflé to share for dessert and the parading of these soufflés around the room certainly caught everyone’s attention. We made a pact between us – if we could still fit it in after dessert, we’d order one of those soufflés!
The dessert on the set lunch menu that caught both our eyes was the Chocolate Pave with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Chocolate Malt Ice Cream. This incredibly rich slice of chocolate ganache with a crumb base matched perfectly with the light maltiness of the ice cream – why are chocolate malts not popular here? The ice cream tasted like a sophisticated version of the cups of chocolate malt ice cream I used to buy in Canada as a kid (from 7-11 – does anyone remember the name of them?).
And afterwards, surprise, surprise, we found space for that soufflé. It was a Eucalyptus Honey and Spiced Bread Soufflé with Thyme Ice Cream (£8.00 on the a la carte menu), not extortionately priced, as you can see, and oh boy, oh boy, were we ever looking forward to it!
And then it arrived.
Oooooooooooooh! We hastily snapped photos before poking in our spoons. The soufflé had the most extraordinary fluffy and light texture (now I realise mine are too heavy – I need to lighten up on the custard base) with a good flavour of spiced bread (think gingerbread) but unfortunately not enough of a honey flavour. The thyme ice cream was an extremely successful pairing here; previous thyme bits and pieces in desserts always seem to fall short or feel out of place to me.
The meal still wasn’t over yet – along with our espressos, a tray full of petit fours was brought over and we each asked for one of each to sample them all. There were a white chocolate and hazelnut truffle, an earl grey macaron, a violet marshmallow and a mandarin jelly. Of these, the best were the marshmallow with its subtle violet aroma, not too strong that you feel you’re ingesting perfume, and the jelly which was a vibrant orange with a strong, sharp flavour to match.
It was lovely catching up with my friend over a most delicious and excellent lunch. I now can’t wait to go back and take Blai with me!
127 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AQ