I've been a bit tardy on the blogging front recently. And what's the reason I haven't written up my fresh restaurant visits? Well, I've been too busy, er, going to restaurants. Hard life, isn't it? Anyway, gastronomy's probably a cheaper hobby than many others, like learning to fly a helicopter or collecting Faberge eggs. In between large, wallet busting meals out I subsist on Weetabix and apples. Never mind. On with some words about food and the provision thereof.
Last Sunday, Ben and I had supper at The Ledbury in Notting Hill with five other foodies from the Opinionated About forum. We'd heard good things about the restaurant, not least from Andy, a fellow diner who had had a stint in the kitchen there - purely out of interest, in real life he's on his way to being a barrister. Ian had arranged with the Ledbury for a special tasting menu, showcasing the majority of the a la carte menu, to be provided. He and Steve had been at the afternoon's Arsenal match and were in good spirits.
It became apparent from the moment we arrived that service would be significantly above average. The staff, knowledgeable and personable, are perfectly choreographed. Of course, we were there on a Sunday, so the room was less than a third full and the front of house also knew we were talkative foodies. It's hard to say if the service might differ for a normal punter on a busy Saturday night. I'm fairly confident that the Ledbury's attitude is thoroughgoing though. There was some disappointment when it became apparent that Brett Graham was not in the kitchen, but rather on the way to his Australian homeland.
Once everyone had arrived canapes arrived: foie gras on crispbread. A gluten intolerant diner had a gluten-free, taste-free alternative. There were also pastry crab straws.
The amuse bouche was a chestnut soup with pheasant and cepes, the solid components arrived in bowls and then the frothy veloute was poured at the table. This soup was silky and rich, light enough to start a meal but substantial enough to announce a challenge to the Winter outside. This was matched with a dry Amontillado Tio Diego from Valdespino. Perfect match I'd say - a balance of sweetness, richness but also musky dryness.
Next came a signature dish of The Ledbury, loin of tuna wrapped in basil with a salad of radish and soy. The tuna was perfectly competent but somewhat unexciting in my book. The salad was interesting and tasty - without this the dish would not have worked. The wine here was very good, a 1998 Riesling Schwarzhofberger Kabinett from Mosel by Egon Muller. This had a lengthy lime flavour ending in a dusty note somewhat reminiscent of apples-wrapped-in-paper-kept-over-Winter (at least to me). Lovely.
The next dish was the star of the night. A oyster, deep fried in bread crumbs was presented skewered and in its shell, carefully balanced on the rim of a transparent dish. Nestling inside the dish, a twofold delight: a pale disk of oyster bavarois alongside a loose mix of oyster tartare with a seaweed jelly. As an accompaniment and to add crispness and a concentrated salty punch were potato crisps and caviar. This dish was exciting and tasty, satisfying both intellectually and sensually, providing a range of complementary tastes and textures. Steve inserted an upgraded Chablis here.
I was looking forward to the next dish, a terrine of pork cheeks, Iberian ham and foie gras. This was pretty good, though a step down from the oysters. It was presented in an attractive extended cube and was, again, rich but light - a feature of this menu. The accompanying salad was very good. The wine here was 2004 Essenzia by Pojer and Sandri from Trentino Alto Aldige. This wine contains no less than five types of grape, but was, I felt, basically too sweet for this dish.
Next, we had John Dory with king prawns, pumpkin gnocchi and ginger. The prawns had replaced some previously advertised scallops and the latter were sadly missed. It was all a bit Chinese takeaway like. Delicious gnocchi though. Steve had swapped the suggested Saumeuy Blanc for an excellent bottle of 2004 Pieropan Soave La Rocca, crisp but robust and with interest, not your typical Soave from this non-DOC producer.
The last savoury dish was Pyrenean milk fed lamb, baked in hay with creamed potato, celery and truffle. The lamb was incredibly tender with a ring of fat carrying a detectable hay flavour, the potato was almost too robust for the delecate lamb though and overall the dish lacked enough flavour interest, especially after the earlier more pronounced dishes. Here Steve had replaced the suggested Austrian red with a 2000 Alain Voge Cornas Vielle Vignes, a wine with beautifully clear and direct fruit and though definitely smooth perhaps a bit too much for the lamb - though probably most things would be.
I'm suffering from memory loss as regards our pre-dessert but I'm sure one of my fellow diners will spill the beans in the comment section below [come on, please, everyone]. How was it? Well, unmemorable, for me, anyway . . . this might have been down to the volume of wine consumed thus far.
Finally we had 'assiette of desserts'. Actually several assiettes. In fact, I think we had one dish of every single dessert on their menu. These were pretty well received - the consensus was that the best bits were the chocolate souffle and the chicory creme brulee with coffee ice cream . . . but again, my memory may be fuzzy here and was made fuzzier by something fizzy, a Bosco di Gica Adami prosecco = a good choice when faced with a range of desserts. I'm sure someone else will fill in the details here.
An enjoyable marathon of a meal, mostly more competent than exciting though certainly with points of notable refinement and occasional innovation. Probably what you'd expect from a one star Michelin restaurant, which is exactly what it is.
The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill W11 2AQ 0207 792 9090