The Ledbury - London, UK

Dinner - Monday, September 29, 2014

Over a decade since I was last in London, and only one night (a Monday, at that) to take in its burgeoning dining scene. I have been keeping my eye on The Ledbury for some time - chef-patron Brett Graham has a cooking voice that resonates with me. We had to visit. We made the short trek from our hotel by Paddington station to sleepy Notting Hill in the dark of a chilly Autumn night - what we ate certainly warmed our cockles.

Prawn crackers
Wonderfully delicate texture (a filigree, if you will), yet so intense. A powerful, shrimpy first bite. I can imagine this being too much for some diners.

Sunflower crisp, artichoke purée
Foie gras puff, meat jelly
Steamed brioche, onion
The last snack was quite a highlight - soft, moist brioche topped with salty onions and cheese. Like a fine-dining amalgamation of myriad guilty pleasures.

Artichoke salad
Muscat grapes, hazelnut, grated foie gras
It is apparently possible to make foie gras powder taste good - I have always been disappointed, until this dish. A few buds of sorrel kept the palate entertained in between the creamy bites of artichoke and foie. A really well thought-out dish.

Flame-grilled mackerel
Pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard, shiso
Wow. The mackerel (sourced locally, I assume) was fantastic - clearly oily but not unpleasantly fishy as they can get when grilled this way. To contrast, a "dumpling" of mackerel tartare paired with Celtic mustard was clean and of excellent quality. A smear of avocado puree modulated the textures of the fish, and cucumber provided snap.

Hampshire buffalo milk curd
Wild mushrooms, broth of grilled onions
Poilane bread, St. Nectaire, truffles
Almost like a chawanmushi, the curd was surprisingly mild, becoming a textural component in the face of the heady onion broth. We were instructed to dip the toasted bread into the soup - cheese on cheese, with a dressing of Australian truffle. Umami, umami, umami. Easy to go overboard, but it did not feel so - our dish of the night.

Cornish turbot, brassicas
Sake veloute, chopped oyster, green olive
Aged pigeon, confit leg
Dried blackcurrant, treviso, beet
The restaurant is supposed to do meat and game quite well, and this course validated that. The minerality of the medium-rare pigeon breast was something else (although the skin was a little flaccid). The surprise, however, was the wedge of beet - somehow, some way, it is the best beet we've ever eaten. A very, very good dish.

Dexter beef, slow-cooked shortrib
Marrow, salt-baked turnips, padron
A selection of English cheese with London honey
Sweet clove custard, frozen plum, crushed meringue
Tart and spicy, but offset by the light yet creamy custard - the perfect palate cleanser.

Blackberry tartlet
Star anise cream, lovage ice cream, Muscat grape sorbet
A delicate, pretty dish. The cream did not overpower, yielding only a hint of anise to match the sweet blackberries. The lovage ice cream, in particular, was excellent - obvious but not overly vegetal. Again, mastery of balance here.

Cocoa-rolled coconut ice cream, gin/lime/juniper bark, hazelnut-cocoa bonbon
This meal was on point. A thoughtfully curated menu (the menu changes slowly, with the mackerel and buffalo milk curd being signature dishes), great product and careful cooking combine to put The Ledbury solidly in 2-star territory. In some sense, it felt slightly conservative compared to equivalent restaurants stateside, but those establishments would be hard-pressed to match the consistency of this kitchen (why is that such a problem?). We would happily return.

The Ledbury
127 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill, London
United Kingdom W11 2AQ
Phone: +44 (0) 20-7792-9090