Almost two years had passed since my last visit to The Ledbury so it was time to save some pennies and splurge again at what I think is one of the best restaurants in London. This time I ate at the Ledbury with five other amazing ladies – all Aussie girls living in London and blogging about food or writing about wine. The glamorous girls were Catty, Greedy Diva, Claire and Vintage Macaroon. Some of us had never met each other so we decided on a special dinner to all catch up and where better to eat than The Ledbury where the head chef, Brett Graham is Australian. The last time I ate at The Ledbury was for MTV boyfriend’s birthday…
It was a special occasion, MTV boyfriend’s 30th birthday. What’s more we were headed to The Ledbury which is a special occasion in itself. The Ledbury has one Michelin star and consistently garners rave reviews for Australian boy wonder chef Brett Graham. So in honour of the birthday and the restaurant I pulled the Manolos out of the cupboard and tottered down the street.
Update: The Ledbury now has two Michelin stars, and watch this space for announcement of a third.
We had a glass of champagne to toast the occasion (£12 a glass but this was one of those nights that you do not look at prices) and a starter of lavache topped with foie gras was ferried over. We opted to eat off the a la carte menu rather than the degustation and to be honest, three courses essentially became a degustation as so many amuse bouches were proffered. As soon as we had ordered, the next arrived, a delicious chilled courgette soup topped with Parmesan foam. Bread came next and it was very good: sourdough, olive studded wholemeal and ham and onion brioche. So good that I had to almost physically restrain myself from just eating bread for the meal.
On this visit once again we started with champagne and an amuse bouche of a foie gras tartlet. However, instead of dining a la carte we ate a special tasting menu for £65 a head paired with Australian wines from d’Arenberg and Katnook Estate. A true celebration of Australian food and wine!
Our first course was described by the waiter as “broccoli on toast”. What arrived was certainly the most sophisticated version of broccoli on toast that I have seen. Buttery soft broccoli stem was dressed with yoghurt and tiny prawns from Falmouth Bay. We drank a dry and crisp 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from Katnook Estates to start off our meal.
Our next course was the highlight of the meal for me. A bowl filled with creamy buffalo milk curd was served and then, at the table a light broth of grilled onions was poured over the curd and served with a square of thick toast topped with earthy, decadent truffles. It was an incredible dish that really captured my imagination and my taste buds. The dish was paired with d’Arenberg’s “The Last Ditch” viognier, named because the vines grow in an actual ditch in the d’Arenberg winery and because this was the winemaker, Chester Osborn’s, last attempt at growing a grape successfully in the part of the vineyard. The wine was light with a subtle taste of peach, complimenting rather than overwhelming the delicate broth.
For entree, MTV boyfriend had ordered the grilled mackerel served with avocado and shisho. Neither of us were quite sure what shisho was, apparently it is a Japanese herb, one of quite a few Asian references in Graham’s modern European menu. I chose the special of a half grilled lobster with gnocchi. There is always a winner and a loser in ordering and my lobster was clearly the superior dish, poor MTV boyfriend it was his birthday and all. The lobster was served minus its shell surrounded by leeks and some pan fired pillows of gnocchi. Everything was skilfully executed and delicious.
The other dish that really stood out for me was the loin of deer, this was the same main course I had two years ago but this time the deer was baked in Douglas Fir and teamed with beetroot, dripping bone marrow and a rich game sausage. We drank some amazing d’Arenberg, The Dead Arm, shiraz which was hearty enough to stand up to the robust flavours of the game.
My main course was equally impressive. It comprised a loin of roe buck deer which was served with wild mushrooms and sweet potato puree. This was a dish with a lot going on, but it all worked. I also appreciated the fact that it was unnecessary to order sides. MTV boyfriend’s main was also amazing pairing lamb roasted in balsamic with miso glazed aubergine. Again there were echos of Japan in this take on Nasudengku, but somehow it perfectly complemented the buttery soft lamb.
Given that we clearly had not eaten enough, a ‘pre dessert’ vanilla panacotta with blackberry granita was served. Slippery and seductive the panacotta was smooth and creamy while the sweetness of the blackberry granita was the perfect foil. To finish I had the date and vanilla tart with cardamon and orange ice cream while MTV boyfriend gamely tackled three mini creme brulees. A lesser man would have been defeated, but it was his birthday and he managed them all. It was such a shame that we were to full to even contemplate the incredible cheese trolley (really the best I have seen) that was wheeled from table to table.
I loved The Ledbury for the sheer effort and care that clearly went into each dish. I am also a sucker for amuse bouches. At times service was not that attentive and you had to do the old “catch someones eye to try and order your wine”, which was somewhat unexpected but perhaps we just got a waiter on an off night. Overall, it was a memorable meal and certainly worthy of the Manolos.
The Ledbury just seems to be getting better and better. The food is even more complex and awe inducing, while at the same time not sacrificing flavour. Any small issue I had with service on my last visit was non-existent, the staff were a crack team with fastidious attention to detail. My last visit was on a Monday night, this time visiting on a Friday evening the restaurant had much more buzz about it and a real celebratory atmosphere. For special occasions, or however you can manage to wangle your way there, The Ledbury is a must visit.
Details: 127 Ledbury Road, W11 (Notting Hill)
Damage: Budget Breaking (Our bill came to £250). On this visit our bill for five came to $525, however we only paid a corkage charge for some of the special wine Claire and Jo from D’Arenberg and Katnook Estates brought, so that reduced the price.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of The Ledbury’s sister restaurant, The Square or if you are in Notting Hill and looking for a less expensive dining experience try nearby gastro pub The Cow.