The Ledbury- Summer 13
Scores: 2 M*/ GFG 8/ Z 28/ H 1
The Ledbury is generally consider to be one of London’s very top restaurants as well as the ratings listed above it features at number 13 in this year’s World’s 50 Top Restaurants list. It also is rated as the number 3 restaurant in London on Tripadvisor which shows that sometimes TA can actually give good restaurant advice. I think I have been to the Ledbury at least once a year since it first opened in 2005. During this time I have watched it turn from a very good local restaurant to its current place on the global food map; some things have never changed like the onion & bacon brioche while others, such as the ability to walk in on a Saturday afternoon, have.
One of the reasons why I continue to go back to the Ledbury, apart from the food, is the atmosphere which is fairly casual and laid back. Although no longer a true ‘neighbourhood restaurant’ it retains some of the charms of one. We got off to a bit of a bad start. Having booked in for a Saturday evening, when the menu was handed to us, we found that the tasting menu (at £105 a head) was the only option available to us, A bit of a shock when we’d been planning on 3 courses. I quickly checked the website, (using my phone under the table, it feels rude to be googling at the table in a restaurant like the Ledbury and discovered that it now only offers tasting menus on Friday and Saturday evenings (from April 1st 2013). This is featured on the contacts page of the website so is fairly easy to miss, although no doubt I overlooked it somewhere else as well. At this point I was really glad that at the last minute I decided to have sushi rather than a burrito from Whole Foods for lunch! See my rant on tasting menus here.
The amuse bouche were a squid ink cracker with and a small piece of marinated fish in a sauce- these were good but not that memorable. The fish also came with a slight slip-up as our server did not tell us what it was, although the next table were clearly informed. However, in general the service over the evening was as one would expect of a restaurant of this calibre, the staff were friendly as well as being attentive and knowledgeable. The first dish was in many ways the best one as it was looked good and tasted great, having a slightly unusual but perfect combination of flavours. This was a salad of green beans with fresh almonds, white peach and grated foie gras. The green beans were perfectly cooked and the finely grated foie gras gave an incredible rich favour, which was enhanced by the fresh sweetness of the peach while the almonds added some lovely crunch that added great texture to the dish- a stunning plate, and I’m not really fan of green beans.
Next came the flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, mustard and shiso. This is a signature dish of the restaurant and one I have had several times before. This is a great dish with the oily fish grilled to perfection and the shiso and mustard adding bite and fragrance. Steamed asparagus with duck ham, morels and spring truffle was a lovely summery dish which was a simple marriage of some great ingredients. The Cornish turbot with crab, fennel and elderflower was another top dish, the other favours complementing the perfectly cooked turbot.
Roast quail with peas, black pudding and girolles was a great combination with really excellent quality, tender quail. Short rib of ruby red beef with celeriac baked in juniper and bone marrow was slightly disappointing, I found it to be a tiny bit too rich with nothing to help cut though the intensity; maybe it was just too much after the previous 5 dishes.
There was a palette cleansing mango based pre-dessert that was thankfully followed by another reasonably refreshing dessert: whipped ewe’s milk yoghurt with English strawberries and lemon verbena. This was based on some lovely strawberries and the combination was fresh and tasted of summer. We accompanied the meal with a bottle of Saint-Aubin 1er Cru which was a good complement to most of the dishes and offered reasonable value as well as two glasses of Napa Valley Merlot (som. recommended), which were rather good despite Merlot not being my favourite grape. There is also a wine paring available at £70 a head.
Overall I found the tasting menu to be well balanced and it did not leave me feeling too stuffed; just take it easy on the bread- especially the onion & bacon brioches (also it may be best to avoid large lunches such as burritos!) Looking at the tasting menu a month later it has been updated and now contains 5 new dishes, enough to make me want to go again.