The Michelin Guide results were posted last week, and The Ledbury was hotly tipped to receive their second star. They succeeded, and I was glad that we booked a table for lunch the previous week. At £27.50 for three courses from a set menu, it would be silly not to.
The room is high ceilinged and decorated in brown and cream. I was greeted warmly and I took my seat. An amuse bouche of confit salmon, seaweed butter and salmon roe was served warm; the salmon was obviously of high quality with none of the fattiness you can sometimes get. An excellent start to the meal. A warm bacon-studded, light-as-a-feather brioche whetted our appetites.
As always, I was watching the budget and so decided to go with the set lunch menu, while my companion went for the a la carte. On ordering, our server asked me if I liked celeriac, which my friend had ordered. He told us he'd organise smaller plates, so we could try a bit of all of it. Firstly, this ceviche of scallop with kohlrabi discs, seaweed oil and frozen horseradish snow, from the set menu, came out. I had wondered if the horseradish would overshadow the delicate sweetness of the scallop, but happily it didn't. The fish was silky, the seaweed oil heightened the flavour of the sea, and the horseradish snow melted creamily and luxuriously into the the dish. I tried my best to eat it slowly to savour the flavours and it was hard not to lick the plate.
Next, we were presented with the celeriac baked in a salt crust. It looked like a big pastry and carved at the table, it revealed a steaming, ash-stained round of celeriac. Just as I was about to grab the piece and pop it in my mouth, it was taken back to the kitchen for plating. That could have been embarrassing.
The wild boar kromeski was as good as I rememebered from last summer; paired with the celeriac it tasted vaguely Chinese to me. There was a hint of 5 spice, and reminded me of a beef and mooli stew I sometimes make. The dish smelled tantalisingly of truffle and hazelnut.
A whole roast tail of monkfish was served on the bone. Delivered at midnight from Cornwall, it was as fresh as possible. Squid tentacles were crisp and crunchy, and seaweed made another appearance in a mound of inky puree. The dish looked large but I made light work of it - the fish flaked beautifully off the bone, though I thought the solitary cauliflower floret was superfluous.
Our plates were cleared, and this cheeseboard was wheeled to our table and left with us for a few minutes, to "see if we can tempt you". Well, it worked. The cheeses were well kept, and a warm raisin brioche were apt vehicles.
Vanilla crème brulée was fruity and light - it was almost like a panacotta. The sugar crust was crisp and the hibiscus and rhubarb was well balanced with tartness and acidity. Just as we were about to get stuck in, we were given another dessert - a lemon and date tart with vanilla ice cream, as it's the head chef Brett Graham's speciality.
I thought it was pretty good, but as soon as I tasted the lemon tart, the crème brulée fell by the wayside. Buttery pastry encased a glossy, wibbly-wobbly lemon custard filling, the date paste running along the bottom of the custard sweetening it up nicely. I didn't think we could finish three desserts between us, but we managed just fine.
We finished our 3 hour lunch with big grins plastered across our faces and vowing to come back for a blow-out dinner. We felt really well looked after; the service throughout the meal was exemplary, being just the right side of informal. Some places can make you feel like a second class citizen with choosing the cheaper set lunch deal but this was certainly not the case here, as we were generously given both starters chosen without any extra charge. What I thought would be a 3 course lunch turned into 5 courses, 6 if you count the amuse.
I liked that I could hear our main server softly humming himself a happy tune every time he walked past and there was no stuffiness in the room. The sommelier, having been given a budget of £30 picked a wine that was one of the cheapest on the list but also matched our food well. He was quite charming, and insisted I try it, unlike some places that ignore the lady entirely. I'm starting to gush a bit now so I'll leave you with this - go, go go.
127 Ledbury Road,
London W11 2AQ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090