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Launceston Place, London - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 93.
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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Note: Chef Tim Allen left Launceston Place in August 2015.

Launceston Place in South Kensington is part of the D & D Restaurant group, who own over 25 restaurants and bars scattered around London. Since February 2012 the head chef has been Tim Allen, who trained with British chefs Martin Burge (at two-star The Dining Room at Whatley Manor in Malmesbury) and John Burton Race, first at two-star l'Ortolan in Reading and later on at two-star The Landmark in London. Just eigth months after the arrival of Tim Allen, Launceston Place was awarded a Michelin star, which it retains to this day.

Launceston Place is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday till Sunday (no lunch on Tuesdays). The restaurant offers an a la carte 'Market Menu' (3 courses £52), a tasting menu (7 courses £70), a set lunch menu (3 courses £30) and a special Sunday Lunch menu (3 courses £35). Friday and Saturday evenings are tasting menu only. I had lunch with my husband at Launceston Place on Sunday 20 April 2014 and we both ordered the tasting menu.

First we were served three excellent and very pleasing appetisers: fresh crab, grapefruit and chives served on a tapioca cracker; a crisp mini tartlet with a filling of beetroot, balsamic jelly and fromage frais; a Parmesan cheese and truffle cream sandwich.

First course of the tasting menu was fresh Cornish mackerel tartare topped with mini, marinated cucumber balls and a horseradish and buttermilk snow, garnished with borage flowers and fresh dill. Poured around the tartare  was a refined cucumber gazpacho. A wonderful combination: the tartare had a nice creamy texture, the gazpacho was deliciously pure and refreshing, the dill gave the dish a nice herby finish. When some of the horseradish snow blended into the gazpacho, it added a nice sharp kick.

This was followed by an indulgent but refined dish of green Yorkshire asparagus (grilled on the Big Green Egg), served with some wonderfully juicy morel mushrooms, a green aspargus puree, a crisp sourdough soldier, leek salt, and soft Duck egg yolk, placed on top of some wilted wild garlic. The Big Green Egg had given the asparagus a lovely smoky touch, which enhanced their sweet and nutty flavours. Nice, delicate garlic flavours from the wilted wild garlic and its elegant bitters helped cut through the richness of the egg yolk.

Third course was exquisitely cooked, tender and succulent quail (breast and confit leg). The breast was covered with sweet and soft braised shallots and was accompanied by a soft quail's egg wrapped in crisp and golden potato string, placed on top of sliced Morteau sausage. Then there were halved, mildly sweet Moscatel grapes, green beans, a beautifully pale and creamy cauliflower puree, a barbecued cauliflower floret and a some intense Sauternes syrup. A well-constructed dish built around a variety of sweet flavours: gamey sweetness of the quail, refreshingly sweet grapes and elegantly sweet and sticky syrup. The beans and cauliflower provided a nice contrast to these sweet flavours and the sausage added an extra, salty flavour dimension.

On to the fourth course, a quite sublime combination of a beautifully caramelised and juicy hand-dived scallop and a savoury truffle cassonade, confit chicken wing, strips of green apple, compressed apple and finished with a drizzle of browned butter and some freshly grated truffle. The cassonade had a wonderful, light and creamy texture and lovely, delicate, earthy flavours. A dish with delicious, intense flavours, the richness was freshened up perfectly by the green apple, and the earthy flavours really complemented the sweet scallop.

The main course was a very flavoursome combination of veal rump and 'tête de veau'. The rump was lovely and pink and the rectangular shaped tête de veau was gorgeous and rich - as it should be. Also on the plate was a wonderful Madeira sauce, smoked Grelot onions, fresh peas, truffle and cream cheese ravioli and a smooth, clean-tasting pea puree, the latter adding a nice sweet note to the dish. A hefty main course with rich flavours, balanced out beautifully by the acidity of the cream cheese ravioli.

Time for dessert. First up was a pre-dessert (no photograph) of buttermilk panna cotta, mini cucumber balls and a wonderfully refreshing cucumber and mint granita.
This was followed by a fantastic strawberry 'delice', in this case comprised of a lusciously pink strawberry mousse and a clear strawberry jelly, accompanied by Yorkshire rhubarb, caramelised white chocolate ice cream, a white chocolate shard, fresh Gariguette strawberries and deliciously sweet strawberry jelly cubes. The strawberry mousse had a wonderfully light and airy texture and was full of flavour, as was the strawberry jelly. Lovely ice cream too: by caramelising the chocolate, the ice cream gets a nice, warm finish. A perfectly conceived and executed dessert, the rhubarb delivering just the right tang against the sweetness of the strawberries.

Final course and last dessert was gloriously caramelised pineapple, golden and sticky on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside, complemented by a fabulous lime and bourbon cheesecake, pineapple sorbet and a pineapple caramel flavoured with Jack Daniels. A splendid dessert with a wonderful synergy of sweet, caramelised flavours, the pineapple sorbet adding just the right amount of freshness.

Tim Allen does not strive to impress with overcomplicated dishes, but his cooking shows excellent technique and attention to detail. With seductive flavours, he strikes a wonderful balance between comfort and sophisticated elegance I have rarely encountered outside Britain. His refined food is not trying to push boundaries, but the flavours are expertly balanced and Allen's skill and experience shine through convincingly. This is beautiful cooking on all levels, with both a distinctive Britishness and clever, creative touches. The atmosphere in the elegant dining room is relaxed and the service was very competent, attentive but unfussy. The extensive wine list offers a wide range of affordable choices but also some reassuringly expensive labels for those who wish to push the boat out (the Château Latour 1959 is a relative bargain at £2,350). This was an excellent experience that exceeded my expectations with ease and flair.

Posted 18-05-2014


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