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The Ledbury - 2 Michelin stars (2013 review)

Rating: 94.
Rating index:
Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
Very good to Excellent (89-92)
Above average to Good (86-88)
Below Average to Average (80-85)
Avoid (below 80)
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Even though he keeps a low profile, Brett Graham has become one of London's most celebrated chefs and The Ledbury keeps making waves in the international dining scene. The Michelin guide, often criticised for being 'dated' or 'out of touch' was among the first to recognise Brett Graham's talent and awarded him a Michelin star within a year after the Notting Hill restaurant had opened its doors. A second star followed in 2010, the same year in which the restaurant won the National Restaurant of the Year award for the first time. It repeated this feat in 2011 and in October 2012 The Ledbury received this prestigious award for the third year running. The Ledbury hasn't gone unnoticed by San Pellegrino's World's 50 either. The restaurant was the highest new entry in 2011 at number 34 and last year The Ledbury won the highest climber award at the World's 50 Restaurant Awards, climbing 20 spaces from 34 to 14. Other British restaurants featured in the World's 50 are Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London (9) and The Fat Duck in Bray (13).

The Ledbury is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week (no lunch on Monday). The restaurant offers a set lunch menu (2 courses for £30, 3 courses for £35), a Sunday lunch menu (3 courses for £50), a tasting menu (7 courses for £105) and there's the a la carte menu. I had lunch at the Ledbury with my husband on Thursday 31 January 2013 and we both ordered the 7-course tasting menu.

We started off with two amuse bouches. First a jerusalem artichoke crisp with soft and creamy braised jerusalem artichoke, crushed sunflower seeds and bay leaf milk cream. This was followed by a soft-boiled quail's egg in crisp Greek Kataifi pastry served with a smooth celeriac cream, an earthy and sticky-sweet cep marmalade and some grated truffle. Two excellent amuse bouches with great textures and precise flavours.

First course of the tasting menu was 'Ceviche of hand-dived scallops with kohlrabi, seaweed and herb oil, frozen horseradish'. Fantastic fresh and creamy scallop ceviche accompanied by thin slices of dill-marinated kohlrabi and a marvellously intense and pure seaweed oil. The frozen horseradish on top of the ceviche packed a real punch. Some apple and lime 'caviar' added freshness and acidity. A great first course with a beautiful balance between delicate and intense flavours.

Second course: 'Flamed grilled mackerel with radish, Celtic mustard and shiso. A superb piece of meltingly soft fatty mackerel served with some crunchy pickled cucumber with a nice touch of dill. The mackerel also had wonderful chargrilled flavours and it  was served on some creamy and smooth jerusalem artichoke puree. Also on the plate was this beautifully thin apple jelly cylinder filled with a raw mackerel salad, some very flavoursome dried shallot and sweet and sour shiso juices. The drizzle of Celtic mustard added depth and sharpness to the dish. A perfectly balanced dish with the right amount of richness and acidity; the creamy fatiness of the mackerel really envelops the palate.

Next up was one of the Ledbury's signature dishes: 'Hampshire buffalo milk curd with Saint-Nectaire, Iberian ham on toast and a broth of grilled onions'. Lovely, creamy and well-set milk curd with a nice hint of rosemary, served with some chopped wild mushrooms, onion marmalade, dried onions and braised onion. Fantastic onion flavours; the different preparations and textures captured all the characteristics of the onion: fresh, pure, rich, sweet and comforting. The curd was accompanied by a piece of buttery and crispy toast, covered with a Saint-Nectaire bechamel and strips of Iberian ham - absolutely gorgeous. A wonderfully moreish yet sophisticated dish.

Fourth course: 'Fillet of turbot with mussel butter, romanesco and seaweed'. Excellent piece of translucent and tender turbot, served with a deliciously rich and garlicky mussel butter. Also on the plate was this absolutely stunning watercress emulsion. The fresh, natural watercress flavours really lifted the dish and were a perfect counterpoint to the rich mussel butter. A very clever and refined dish with a beautiful balance between old world and new world flavours.

The fifth course was 'Breast of grey partridge with malted rye, celeriac and truffle'. Beautifully cooked tender partridge and very flavoursome celeriac cooked in truffle juices. Paradoxically the malted rye provided a wonderful touch of lightness, as did the roasting juices. An indulgent yet light dish with a very well-judged use of truffle.

On to the sixth course, 'Roe deer with red leaves and vegetables, bone marrow and rhubarb'. After I had finished the partridge dish I was told that the kitchen also had woodcock on offer that day. Which was I to choose? It was suggested to me that I might have some of each. So roe deer and woodcock it was. The lightly smoked fillet of roe deer was phenomenal and the woodcock was equally perfect. The fillet of roe deer had been masterfully smoked, as was the bone marrow. The smoky flavours were wonderfully subtle and elegant. The woodcock was traditionally served, including the brains therefore. On top of the woodcock fillet was some crunchy sweet beetroot. Lovely sweet tartness from the rhubarb. A brilliant dish with beautifully balanced rich flavours but first and foremost a display of craftsmanship and understanding of game.

After the main course we ordered the optional cheese course. With this lovely selection of well-matured cheeses we enjoyed a bottle of Taylor's 1970 Vintage Port. A tasting note of this port can be found here.

Next we were served a pre-dessert. Citrus curd, lemon verbena ice cream, mandarin granita, meringue. A lovely invigorating pre-dessert with a great build-up of textures and a wonderful balance between sugar, creaminess and acidity.

Last and seventh course: 'Brown sugar tart with muscat grapes and stem ginger ice cream'. A delicious brown sugar tart with lovely warm caramel flavours and a nice buttery base. The ice cream was nice and refreshing with good strong stem ginger flavours. Also on the plate were dots of balsamic reduction and some lovely marinated grapes.

It had been 18 months to the day since I last visited The Ledbury and it was a very convincing performance once again. I was very impressed to find that it not only has maintained its high level of cooking but has managed to improve it even further. At this level, improvement does not come with leaps and bounds but with very small steps and it requires meticulous attention to detail and constant development and evolution. Compared with 18 months ago, the dishes in my tasting menu had been fine-tuned further and showed even more finesse. There were familiar elements and new ones and if I am not mistaken, Brett Graham works with a number of conceptual blueprints for his dishes that are a basis both for consistency and for innovation. The cuisine at The Ledbury is vibrant, inspired and distinctly seasonal. The tasting menu is well constructed, it alternates light and more sumptuous dishes and all are very well conceived and perfectly executed. The mackerel and the main were both exquisite; top quality ingredients that were treated very well. The desserts on the other hand however could perhaps do with a little more complexity and attention; I do not find them as outstanding as the savoury courses. Service at The Ledbury is excellent; relaxed but very knowledgeable and attentive. The Ledbury is a two-star restaurant at the top of its game.

More Ledbury on ElizabethOnFood:

2011 review

SLIDESHOW of my lunch at The Ledbury on 26 June 2014

Posted 22-02-2013


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