I’ve waited for years to go to The Ledbury. One of the best restaurants in the world – it is always in the top five or ten of all the key global listings. But you rarely see the head chef Brett Graham on TV as you so often do with other ‘successful’ chefs. There’s no need for any kind of self-promotion. He is just quietly getting on with creating outstanding food, consistently, year after year. And that’s enough.
My dining companion for such an epic and much anticipated lunch was Andy P, self-proclaimed as ‘the brunette’ and my foodie, ex toy boy. We were once meant to go there when were together but could never get a table (I should never have left such an important task to him). Now that I am not limited to weekend evenings and neither is he, we managed to nab a table one Friday lunch. I had cleared the day and evening as, knowing Andy P, this lavish lunch may end anywhere. We started with a half bottle of Paul Bara, Bouzy Grand Cru, Brut Rosé – at £52, a bargain for such Grand Cru quality. This was rich and structured enough to hold up to both the canapés and first course.
Often the canapés and amuse-bouche in Michelin starred restaurants can be a bit ‘meh’, but here they were full of promise. A lava bread crisp with mussel puree, a foie gras puff with mead jelly – both delicious. The amusebouch of Muntjac (a type of deer) dumpling with fruit de moutarde turned out to be a small meaty doughnutty thing of joy. Warm, rich and comfortingly sweet.
My starter was violet artichokes and walnuts with foie gras cream. Light and delicate, the crisp, tart vegetables balanced with the gloriously silky foie gras cream. Andy chose beetroot baked in clay, English caviar, smoked and dried eel. Again, a light dish but full of intense flavours. Delicate white beetroot – smoky and light – working well with the fi shy flavours of caviar.
The second course was perhaps my favourite. A warm Bantam’s egg, celeriac, arbois, dried ham and truffle. The perfectly cooked egg yolk oozed over shaved and pureed celeriac, shavings of mushroom, scattered with the sharp and salty crispy ham and covered in wonderful earthy truffle. Such a simple dish and utterly sublime. Andy’s choice of grilled cuttlefish, garlic and cracked wheat worked well to evoke flavours of the sea, and all the elements perfectly cooked.
Oh I forgot to mention the bread! We were presented with a huge hunk of warm sourdough with an oat crust that provided a pleasing oaty crunch. The accompanying home-churned whipped butter was sprayed with molasses, and made the whole bread and butter thing completely addictive. This bread was delicious on its own but also provided the ideal tool to unashamedly wipe our plates clean on several occasions.
Onto mains. I chose the Anjou pigeon. A masterpiece of confit leg and pan-roasted breast offset with sweet prunes and a rich jus. Andy’s Chinese water deer, smoked bone marrow, quince and red leaves could not be faulted.
We drank a half bottle 2015 Chinon, les Granges, Bernard Baudry – a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc (£22) A light, bright red full of fresh red fruit and a light nuttiness. This good value choice matched well with both mains.
For dessert we chose to share the signature brown sugar tart, something I had not had before – what a revelation! A caramelised rich custard encased in a tart and accompanied by stem ginger ice cream, which balanced well with the rich caramel.
I immediately regretted not ordering two of these instead of the second choice, the more ordinary chocolate and clementine dessert which turned out to be various chocolate and orange bits and bobs, none of which stood out. I would return just to have the brown sugar tart (it is second only to the amazing Zabaglione at Sartoria). The pre-dessert was an enjoyable and interesting concoction of apple sorbet and walnut cream.
Finally the petits fours – soft rich chocolate truffles – such a joy in their simplicity. So often petits fours can be boring bits of fudge or dried up pieces of brownie. Here, as much care had been taken to create these heavenly morsels as every other element of our experience.
And the service? It was totally spot on. And this isn’t a given. Often in two Michelin starred venues service can be overly attentive or stuffy. Here it was friendly, relaxed and just attentive enough. And that’s not easy to pull off. I am known for my dislike of having my wine poured for me and this is predominantly because waiters have a tendency to either overfill or leave me empty (or both).
Here my glass was topped up always just in time and not excessively. The glassware was also beautiful (Zalto – my favourite). Just as we were starting to ponder what we would have after our champagne, the sommelier appeared with the wine list.
This intuitive service is what separates the best. Not once were we interrupted to be asked if everything was OK (another of my bugbears), because they didn’t need to, they were paying attention.
So after years of waiting to dine here, the wait was totally worth it. In my last column I talked about how I had tired of Michelin venues. The Ledbury is an exception. And what of the rest of the day? Well, it involved my favourite bar in London, plus a few others and a two-day hangover. Andy P is a very, very, bad influence.
Lunch £115 for four courses. Our bill came to £320 with pre-lunch drinks, wine, dessert wines and coffee.
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090