The Ledbury is one of those restaurants that we have had on 'the list' for years. We even booked in about a year ago, only to change our minds and go elsewhere. I had no doubt that anything hailing from Brett Graham's kitchen would be world class, it was just lacking something. I'm looking for that sparkle: the thrill of the ride, the promise of some unusual creation, or tales of glee from another diner. The Ledbury sat in the shadows. Dormant.
Then we remembered. Every year we avidly watch the World's 50 Best Restaurants. The Ledbury had always been there, but it served as a reminder that one of the world's top 15 was on our doorstep.
We had a late reservation on a warm, muggy evening. We thought it was a great idea at the time of booking, but truth be told we were already flagging after enjoying a rather large lunch at Little Social earlier that afternoon. We strolled down the rose bedded avenues of Notting Hill, wondering who lives in a house like this...?
The decor is simple with muted tones, white linen, glittering glasswork and natural table decorations. The restaurant is bright (which is great for pictures), and tables are well spaced. We were given both the á la carte and tasting menus, but we were always going for the tasting option, despite it being half past nine in the evening. Madness.
Canape - squid ink and crisp with smoked turbot roe and apple jelly: Smooth and zesty and all kinds of wonderful. We were hoping this was a sign of things to come...
Bread: Jeepers this was good. First comes the cloth wrapped granary style loaf, which is still warm from the oven. Not long after there were smaller rolls of caramelised onion, and tomato and olive, both equally warm and delicious.Amuse bouche - chilled courgette soup with lobster caviar: This was fresh and sweet, and I'm not ashamed to say I mopped up the very last scraps with some bread. You can take the girl out of Horwich...
Ceviche of hand dived scallops with Tokyo turnips, seaweed oil and frozen horseradish: Here's a little story. I hate scallops. Personal preference, but I never mention it when they are on a tasting menu, I just make my husband eat them on the sly... But when Sam asked whether I enjoyed it, I crumbled! I told him the horrid truth. From this point forth, all the overly fishy items on the menu were replaced with stunning alternatives. Brilliant service! Oh and the scallops? My husband reported they were perfect, and had no qualms about scoffing a second portion.
Flame grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard and shiso: This was the first course I had replaced, but my husband went ahead with the restaurant's signature mackerel dish. I must admit, it looked quite tasty! Highlights included the crisp skin and the tart picked cucumber.
Salad of green beans with new season's almonds, nectarine and grated foie gras: This was my replacement. A wave of horror came over me. I'm not a fan of foie and I find green beans an odd texture. By jove, I loved it. The foie gras was actually frozen, and subtly melted away as it was eaten, and the beans were stunning. Converted.Hampshire buffalo milk curd with Saint Nectaire, truffle toast, and a broth of grilled onions: The combination of broth and toast were a match made in heaven. This dish may look refined, but had all the bold flavours and textures of home made comfort food.
Wild salmon with peas and asparagus: I didn't have this dish as salmon is one of my mortal enemies. However, my husband reported that it was excellent. He particularly enjoyed the complimenting asparagus.
Cream Jersey Royals, morels cooked in Earl Grey tea and wild herbs: This was my replacement, which I chose from the á la carte menu. I love Jersey Royals: the texture, the buttery taste and the colour. Could not resist. Considering this is glorified mashed potato, it was an absolute stormer.
Jowel of pork with apricots, girolles and almonds: This was the point I can safely say that food fatigue started to set in. Small portions with bold flavours. Psychologically this knocked me for six. A slap across the chops with, well, a jowel.
Fillet of Galloway beef with celeriac baked in juniper, wild garlic and bone marrow: This was outstanding. Pity by this point I was actually nodding off. I was destroyed by this wonderful array of food. I knew dessert was just around the corner (which naturally perks me up), but this delicious little dish was the straw that broke the camel's back.Pre-dessert - lemon meringue: Christ on a bike. This is one of the best things I have ever eaten. Soft meringue, sharp lemon and colder than cold granita. Ten minutes earlier I could have happily never eaten ever again. After eating this, I could have snaffled another three.
Apricot mille feuille: This was a little extra that came with our main dessert. I'm sure they were trying to kill us. Rustic but tasty, this had the perfect balance between rich pastry, creaminess and fruit.
Brown sugar tart with poached grapes and stem ginger ice cream: This was the second brown sugar tart we had eaten that day, the first being at Little Social. This was much richer than the first, and had almost a concentrated quality to it. It was an absolute dream, as were both of the accompaniments. I could eat that ice cream every day (if forced/given a spoon).
Petit fours - truffles and jelly: There was no way we were in any shape to eat petit fours. It was around midnight, and I'd been flagging since the pork dish. Sam didn't even ask. He just kindly packaged them into little boxes so we could taken them home. Very kind.
The Ledbury exceeded my expectations. I'd got to the stage where classical french was starting to bore me a little: same scenes, different stage. The Good Food Guide describes the food as modern french, but it's more than that. It has personality, as do the staff who serve you. It's not the most exciting meal I've ever had, but it was very enjoyable indeed.