The Ledbury, London
Experiencing a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant is a dream for any serious foodie. This is particularly so for us here down under, as dining a la Michelin necessitates overseas travel: the guide has so far snubbed our southern shores.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in a ‘star quality’ restaurant. Would it be comparable to the widely accepted Fairfax ‘hat’ system? Surely some of our local joints would be worthy of such accolades if a Michelin guide were to exist here?
London’s The Ledbury, headed by Aussie chef Brett Graham has received a number of accolades including two Michelin stars and a place at number 10 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
I’d read a number of reviews praising the Ledbury’s apparent laid-back, relaxed ‘Aussie’ dining style. Naturally, this piqued my curiosity.
We opted for the 8-course tasting menu (£110 each). We were able to secure a booking for a Monday night around 4 weeks out from the date.
Tartare enclosed in a thin apple ribbon presented on a salt brick was cool and refreshing, preparing our palates for the meal to come. Crunchy, tender pork croquettes and crisp wafers topped with aged gruyere provided a rich, savoury follow-up.
Soft steamed brioche was reminiscent of Chinese mantou, while onion cream and crispy bacon bits added a touch of guilty pleasure.
The cured duck was not unlike prosciutto in texture: soft, with a slight chew. Grated foie gras melted at the touch, forming a buttery dressing over the salad of artichoke, sweet grape and roasted hazelnuts.
This is the Ledbury’s signature dish, which always stays on the menu.
Perfectly flaky mackerel with a charred, caramelised crust was contrasted with raw fish, cucumber and coriander wrapped in gel – an interesting take on ‘fish two ways’. The challenge with such dishes is walking the fine line between the two ways being an interesting contrast and being too divergent; I feel that more often than not, they tend towards the latter and thus have a strange sense of disjointedness about them, as though two separate dishes have been presented on one plate. The Ledbury’s offering was a shining example of how it should be done, with the Asian-inspired flavours bringing the two components together nicely.
This was a rather peculiar dish. Custard-smooth buffalo curd, mushrooms with aged comte, and crispy onions were presented in a bowl in three separate mounds, upon which our waiter poured a roast onion broth from a teapot. This in conjunction with the accompaniment of cheesy truffle toast sent our tastebuds into umami overload.
The foot was taken off the accelerator slightly for the next dish of sea bass with cauliflower and sake velouté; it almost felt like a health food, thanks to the inclusion of crisp wafers of that trendy vegetable du jour, kale.
We headed back towards stronger savoury territory next, with chicken mousse-stuffed morels served alongside creamy mash with butter and chives.
Lamb. Not my favourite word to see on a menu.
Here we were served both loin and neck; the former, cooked nicely rare, was quite acceptable, while the latter was intensely gamey and verged on unpleasant for my personal taste. Thankfully the roasted onion and garlicky salt-baked turnips provided a little relief.
Custard with tart blood orange granita was a light and cleansing pre-dessert. The secret meringue hidden in the custard was a delightful surprise.
I have to make an admission here.
Bob proposed to me immediately prior to this course, so I unfortunately I have an uncharacteristically poor recollection of what it actually tasted like. I remember that it was a chocolate and banana tart with a centre of honeycomb ice cream… that’s about where it stops. I do remember enjoying it, although my emotions at the time may have been slightly affected by other things.
Okay, the petit fours were a bit of a blur as well. There was a chocolate… thing… and some other… thing. Yeah. I apologise.
I have to say I didn’t observe it to be particularly laid-back or relaxed, although my fine dining experience is basically limited to Australia. Perhaps overseas, higher levels of stuffiness are the norm? I did observe a few patrons wearing jeans, maybe that’s what everyone was talking about.
I know it may seem a little biased, given the personal significance of the occasion for me, but I couldn’t really find fault with the Ledbury. Well deserving of its number 10 ranking, I say.The Ledbury 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill London, UK