London: The Ledbury (**)

20 Jul

The Ledbury was my big ticket meal this trip. It holds a coveted 2 Michelin stars and has been constantly raved about by reviewers online. It does a unique blend of Modern European cuisine with a slant of Asian Fusion. I must say I enjoyed my the tasting menu here more than the one at Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road which I tried last year (which happens to be one of the two 3 Michelin starred restaurants in London).

We started with complimentary bread of onion and bacon brioche and the requisite sourdough. The former was hands down, the best bread I have ever had in any fine dining restaurant. It was full of caramelised onions and bacon bits and had a very good texture for a brioche. I swear I could have eaten another three pieces if I didn’t have a whole tasting menu to go through.

The first complimentary amuse bouche of foie gras mousse on crisps were very dainty and quite tasty. The crisps were super thin and delicate!

The second complimentary amuse bouche of sous vide quail egg in a nest on green pea puree was a very pretty plate and when sliced open, exposed a perfectly runny egg yolk. I was surprised by how pleasant the green pea puree tasted, as I normally abhor the green peas that come in a frozen bag.

The first course of hand dived scallops with seaweed, herb oil, kohlrabi, topped with frozen horseradish looked like snow on a plate, and set the tone and standard of the dinner to come. The light Japanese-inspired flavours married the sweet and fresh scallops sliced carpaccio style, well. The dish was creative, refreshing and simple.

The second course of hampshire buffalo milk curd with saint-nectaire, truffle toast and broth of grilled onion was in contrast, quite rich for my Asian stomach especially with the two types of cheeses. But the mix of flavours was quite complementary and I love anything with truffles. The toast was also served on a piece of driftwood and accompanied with ferns; I loved the rustic presentation.

This was my dining companion’s third course – frog leg beignets with pureé of jersey royals, girolles and broad beans – but I had opted for something else as I personally don’t eat frog. She did like it and the frog leg was very crispy. Can’t say much else as I didn’t eat it myself.

My third course was the flame grilled mackerel with smoked eel, Celtic mustard and shiso. It is one of Ledbury’s signature dishes, and the mackerel was very fresh without a hint of fishiness at all. The spicy mustard and minty shiso flavours probably also contributed to that. At this point, the restaurant had actually wrongly delivered two servings of this, and when we notified them of the error they asked us if we would like to keep the second plate to try. But since my friend doesn’t like fishy flavours, we returned it. I thought it was quite gracious of them to offer.

Our fourth course was Cornish brill with wild fennel, girolles and elderflower. This was a simple, well cooked fish dish and my first time trying brill, which is a flat white fish with fine and a slightly sweet flesh.

Our fifth course was pork jowl roasted with spices, paired with pumpkin pureé, liquorice and Pedro Ximénez wine. This was definitely the highlight of the meal, as the crackling was the best piece of pork crackling I have ever had, and I have had some pretty good ones prior to this. The piece of meat was also succulent and flavourful, and I also did like the accompanying sweet pumpkin pureé and dessert wine sauce.

After our amazing previous dish, it seemed quite hard to be able to find something that could top that. The sixth course of short rib of beef with onions cooked in ash, pickled walnut and crispy potato was definitely very competent with the fork tender beef, but still paled in comparison since the crackling was just out of this world. But I really did like the crispy potato that was moist and soft on the bottom yet potato-chip-crispy on the top. Amazing how both contrasting textures can be found in one small item.

If the meal had ended now, I would have been very pleased. But there was still dessert to go. We were served a pre-dessert of apricot and olive oil panna cotta. I personally do not like panna cotta and apricot, but even my dining companion who is neutral thought it was just passable too. And I could not taste the olive oil at all, which I thought would have made it much more interesting. What was more disappointing was that some of the other tables were served fresh summer berries with mascarpone cheese. We would have much preferred that!


As for the proper dessert course, the pavé of chocolate with milk purée and lovage ice cream was also a let down as the lovage ice cream tasted like celery (but a more bitter version) and did nothing to complement the chocolate. I’m a vegetable lover but even I couldn’t really stomach it, let alone my dining companion who doesn’t eat many vegetables. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise stellar meal! [Edit on Feb 2012: I am happy to report that looking at the current menu online, The Ledbury has replaced lovage ice cream in this dish with a more conventional chocolate malt ice cream. Guess the lovage ain’t getting them love?]

The complimentary petit fours – a bon bon, a jelly and a macaron – were served in a rusty vintage tin can that would not seem out of place of your grandmother’s cupboard.

I liked the casual ambience of The Ledbury. It felt a lot less stuffy than the other fine dining establishments in London that I have been to. When we first arrived, the doors were also open as London had just started to warm up so it felt semi al fresco. Service was unsurprisingly good, but also friendly. Our house wines by the glass were also of fine quality and there was also a decent range to select from.

While I liked the creativity and fusion flavours in the menu, unfortunately my could be perfect experience was marred by the sub par dessert courses. I would have also preferred if there was also one less savoury course which could be replaced by one more dessert course to showcase the restaurant’s well-roundedness. I think in the aspect of not having any disappointing courses, Gordon Ramsay delivered though the Ledbury definitely had more peaks. If the price is a deterrent, do go for the more affordable set lunch menu.

Price: $$$$-$$$$$ (depending on lunch or dinner, tasting menu as of June 2011 was £95 per pax before taxes and wine)
Location: 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090
Website: theledbury.com (make reservations here)

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