Saturday 14 May 2011

Lunch at the Ledbury

We had visited the Ledbury before and we absolutely loved it, but because I was 5 months pregnant, there were restrictions on what I was and wasn't allowed to have (no undercooked eggs, no soft cheese etc etc...). Throughout the meal, I was staring at the cheese trolley wistfully and my husband promised me then that we would go again and do the tasting menu with the cheese trolley! Lo and behold a few months later, we take the brave step all new parents have to take eventually and left our little 16 week old for a few hours. OK, so not all parents leave their babies to go to the Ledbury, but a promise is a promise!

Initially I thought I would struggle, worry too much and not enjoy the meal at all - especially as she started crying 2 minutes before we left the house... In any case, I convinced myself that all babies cry, she was in great hands, she wouldn't remember this in a few days time and I will have to leave her every now and then anyway! So we got to the Ledbury and the staff and chef started working their magic.... I stopped worrying about Missy and started enjoying myself - just like in the old days! So much so, that I am afraid I am guilty of forgetting to take pictures of all the courses, AGAIN! I remembered half way through, so I have pictures of half the tasting menu! So sorry everyone!

We sat down, negotiated for a few minutes and we both decided that it was going to be the tasting menu indeed! In the meantime, a little canape of fried breaded chicken arrived. It was crispy on the outside, moist in the middle and served on top of little pine tree branches, which allowed for the flavours of the pine to infuse slightly into the crust. Could have eaten a whole bucket of it! Then the bread arrived. Warm bread, served with delicious creamy, soft butter. They had sourdough, malt bread and bacon and onion bread. All amazing, though the winner for me was the malt bread - as shown in picture!

Next came the amuse bouche of cured salmon, watercress jelly over a ewe's milk curd. The salmon tasted absolutely fantastic and all the textures worked really.well. The first course was a 'Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish'. There isn't much I could say about it, other than the fact that I asked my husband whether it would be bad etiquette to mop up all the food with my bread! The scallops were great and the frozen horseradish, a pleasant surprise.  

'Flame Grilled Mackerel with Avocado, Celtic Mustard and Shiso' followed. I think this was my favourite course. I have often found mackerel too fishy, but this tasted so fresh and delicious! The skin of the mackerel had a fantastic 'flame grilled' taste and it was so crispy! The avocado was a perfect accompaniment and the most perfect of surprises was a little package of cucumber jelly, stuffed with mackerel tartare! Dreamy!

After that we had the 'Salad of Spring Vegetables with Hazelnut Oil and a Warm Mallard Egg Rolled in Truffle'. On paper it doesn't really excite me, but on the plate it was great! Each vegetable had such depth of flavour and they were each, individually, the best vegetables of their kind that I have tasted (carrot, asparagus, white asparagus, peas). The poached egg was delicious and perfectly runny, but for me the star of the show was the combination of a Parmesan mousse with the white asparagus and the truffle! This is when I realised I hadn't taken any pictures and I started with taking one of the finished plate:

The fish course followed: 'Roast Cod with Mousserons, Onion and Ash Puree and Potato Gnocchi'. This is the other contender for my favourite course! The mushrooms and the onion puree complemented the cod perfectly, and the Parmesan gnocchi gave the dish that little extra substance. Hopefully the picture will convince you if my words haven't .

The main course would have been lamb, but as I 'm not the biggest fan, we asked to substitute it for the 'Loin of Muntjac Baked in Hay with Beetroot, Bone Marrow and Malt'. Once again everything on the plate complemented each other perfectly - including the bonus venison sausage! I got so excited, I started cutting into the venison and moved the crispy potato, before taking a picture. Thankfully I remembered before I put anything in my mouth...

We then had one portion of cheese to share. I will not even attempt to remember the names of the cheeses we had. I know there was an English blue, two soft french cheeses and a hard sheep's cheese. Served with walnuts, grapes and crackers. Mmmmm cheese...

There was a pre-Dessert of wild strawberries with frozen blackberries and a cream of some kind. It was absolutely delicious, fresh and bursting with fruity flavours. The garnish of fresh mint really brought out the strawberry flavour.

Finally the dessert of 'Pave of Chocolate with Milk Puree and Lovage' arrived. The pave of chocolate was extremely rich and chocolaty, the lovage ice cream was strange and new to me, but actually worked well with the chocolate! The milk puree didn't really taste of much, but it was pretty to look at...

The meal finished a little abruptly, when we realised what the time was and decided it was probably time to get back to our baby. Petit fours were bought to the table without us even having to ask for them. They were served in an old tin sweet box: mandarin jelly, biscuit with praline filling and salted caramel dark chocolate. All in all a perfect way to finish a fantastic meal.

This was by far the best tasting menu we have had, both in terms of flavours, as well as quantity. I am sure he does not need me to tell him, but Brett Graham knows what he is doing - fresh flavours, great textures and interesting combinations. I can't wait to go back - once I have saved for a few months, or years!

The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London

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