The Ledbury has quite a reputation. They hold two Michelin stars and were recently voted the world’s thirteenth best restaurant in a poll which saw The Fat Duck come only thirty-third.
Australian head chef Brett Graham has been in residence since 2005 and has overseen the restaurant’s meteoric rise. I’ve heard people suggest that a third Michelin star might not be too far away and on this evidence, all of Brett’s accolades are well deserved.
This was the first time we’d eaten two-starred food and The Ledbury had been on our wishlist for quite some time. We’re not made of money so although we eat out lots, evenings like this are a rare treat. This time we took the plunge to celebrate a special occasion and I’m very glad we did.
The restaurant itself is actually closer to Westbourne Park than the millionaires’ rows of Notting Hill and is a decent walk away from both stations. Inside it’s luxurious yet understated. The tables are cleverly spaced out, offering a feeling of privacy. I must say too that the service was first-class from the moment we walked in the door.
We decided against the tasting menu (£105) and instead went for three courses (£80). We were tempted to push the boat out and go for the pricier option but it was only a weeknight. When we told the waiter that we intended to share our meal, he offered to serve us each course on two plates. We declined because we’re used to swapping, but it was a very kind gesture all the same.
We didn’t have to wait long for the food to start arriving. First up were squid ink crackers, topped with garlic puree and fish roe. Once we ascertained which bits you could actually pick up, they were really enjoyable and further raised our expectations for what was to come. We were also brought a mini loaf of freshly baked, still warm sourdough. This was so tasty that it was a struggle to stop ourselves from eating it all.
As if that wasn’t enough, we had the pleasure of eating a final pre-starter of poached quail egg wrapped in kataifi pastry and pea puree. It tasted every bit as good as it looked and would’ve made a noteworthy starter in its own right, if there were a couple more things on the plate.
My first starter was flame grilled mackerel with avocado, celtic mustard and shiso. It had a distinct Asian flavour, which was unexpected but came as a lovely surprise. The pickled cucumber added freshness and the mackerel skin was crispy and a pleasure to eat. There was also a gel parcel filled with mackerel tartare and avocado, which was delicate and tasty and rounded off the dish superbly.
Our other starter was roast quail with walnut milk, mousserons and pear. It was tasty enough and would probably have been a star dish in any other restaurant. However, it was a little too simple to stand out here.
Both main courses were seriously impressive. Our favourite dish of the whole evening was the aged fillet of belted Galloway beef with celeriac baked in juniper. It was perfection on a plate. The beef was a juicy medium rare, incredibly tender and full of flavour. The portion size was also pleasing as we got two pieces of fillet, whereas a lot of top restaurants would only have served one.
Both pieces of steak were topped with unusual looking white discs. On first inspection, I thought it might be roasted garlic. However, it was actually a piece of smoked bone marrow. It was the tastiest thing on the plate and really made the flavour of the beef come alive.
Almost on a par with the beef was the roast breast and confit leg of pigeon with red vegetables and leaves, foie gras and rhubarb. This was presented on two plates because they knew we were sharing. They also gave us an extra confit leg so that we could have one each.
Alongside the confit legs there was a skewer with pigeon heart, liver and a de-boned confit wing. I was delighted to see this as I really like offal, but the Hog isn’t so keen. Nevertheless, he still enjoyed his half of the skewer. The pigeon breast was perfectly cooked and had quite a gamey flavour. The confit leg was soft and slightly salty and the meat was literally falling off the bone. On the downside, I felt that the beetroot was a little overpowering, but that’s only a very minor niggle with what was a stunning plate of food.
Unsurprisingly our desserts were of a similarly high standard to what had gone before. First came the pave of chocolate with milk puree and lovage ice cream. The main thing the lovage offered was colour. Aside from the bright green hue, it was really just a creamy, smooth quinnell of excellent ice cream. We also enjoyed the brown sugar tart with grapes and ginger ice cream. The tart itself had the texture of firm set custard and went really well with the spicy ginger infused ice cream.
When we were first seated, we were asked if we were celebrating a special occasion. We said “yes” and didn’t think any more of it. That was, until we were presented with a complimentary passion fruit souffle. It was perfectly executed, sweet and soft inside and a fitting way to end the meal. It’s little touches like this that really made the difference.
Another example arose when the Hog thanked the sommelier for his wine recommendation. He then reappeared moments later with the name of the wine written down on a card and even told us where it was from and who stocks it. Talk about service!
Our meal was undoubtedly the best we’ve ever had and the whole dining experience was really special. We’ll definitely be back, that’s for sure.
The tasting menu is a tempting proposition, but at £105 per person it’s absolutely one for another special occasion. If you want to try their food, the most cost effective way is to go on a weekday lunchtime when the set-menu costs just £35 for three courses. For this standard of food, that’s an absolute bargain.
Our dinner for two with drinks came to £218. This may seem pricey, but when I think of some of the meals we have had that cost just a little less but were nowhere near as good, this is undoubtedly good value. You really do get what you pay for here. London’s finest.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090
Address: The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ