The Ledbury << World’s No.14 best restaurant of 2012
Before I begin, I shall digress with a few photos of the beautiful suburb The Ledbury is located in: Notting Hill. If and when you do visit (of course you must) it is worthwhile spending some time exploring Portobello market. It is full of antiques, interesting knick knacks, excellent cafes and loads of fresh produce.
I intended on writing this post whilst it was tangibly fresh, but have put off writing it for quite some time, much in fear of not being able to adequately communicate the extent and sheer greatness. Where does one begin? No words can describe the anticipation and recurrent episodes of hyper-salivation after scoring a table only several weeks before arriving in London.
Headed by Australian born Brett Graham, this Notting Hill restaurant of only 7 years has managed to achieve 2 Michelin stars, and climb to dizzying heights of world ranking 14 on S.Pellegrino’s top 100 restaurants in the world, up from 34 last year. The tasting menu comes at a price of £155 per head with matched wines. You would not be able to dine at Vue De Monde in Melbourne at that price, and no way in hell with matched wines. A bargain? Relatively yes!
Old school elegance, with crisp muted shades between white and black, certainly nothing overly pretentious or flamboyant.
Amuse bouche – potato crisp, grilled cheese, black olive. A tantalising little bite of punchy notes to get the taste buds salivating.
The bread is actually incredibly standout. It is baked fresh in-house, brought out warm, flaky or crusty, and just so aromatic. I was in bread heaven. If there were not 8 courses on its way, I would’ve had several baskets of this stuff – absolutely addictive.
Quail egg, polenta and truffle – was a heavenly ooze of gooey yolk, wrapped by a golden nest of flaky kataifi pastry. The polenta lent a velvety texture and subtle creaminess that helped bring together the umami’s of yolk and truffle. This reminds me of the Poached egg, white polenta and black truffle from the former The Point at Albert Park, but only much much better. Licking your lips yet?
Cornish oyster chantilly, tartare with horseradish and dill. This was a two part course. First up, a martini glass of oyster paired with a kick of horseradish ice, and a zingy tartare below. Part two was that of a deep fried oyster, piping hot and full of juice and still sea fresh!
Wine: Terlaner 2011 (German) had a subtle acidity with a crisp warmth.
Flame grilled mackerel, radishes, shiso, celtic mustard. I wouldn’t say I am normally a mackerel fan, with its usually unpleasant ‘rawness’, but the brittle crispy skin, moist flesh with its clean sea flavours were the antithesis to my scepticism. The shiso-pillow of cucumber jelly and pickled cucumber wrapped in a petite parcel provided the needed acidity and crisp balance.
Wine: 2010 Lossterrassen, gruner veltliner (Austrian) imparted a necessary element of peppery pizazz to the dish.
Hand rolled macaroni, stuffed with lobster and herbs with green asparagus and yellow tomato. This dish spoke of warm summery colours with a divine union of scallop, lobster and mussel infused amongst the perfect bites of macaroni. It was delicate, with subtle textural contrasts, yet so vibrantly flavoursome. The foamed broth was no less incredible with white wine, lobster and subtle notes of parmesan.
Wine: Eric Morgan (Savennieres, France) – provided a countering dryness and ripeness.
Hampshire buffalo milk curd in broth of grilled onions, with truffle toast and saint nectaire . Everything is brought together in such brilliant perfection. The savouriness of the grilled onion and consommé – sitting atop a layer of rich curd that is velvety and soft like tofu – sings a melodious rhapsody alongside the creamy truffle toast, which is practically drenched in deep truffle flavours. It is sublime.
Wine: Giant steps Chardonnay 2008 (Yarra Valley, Australia) refines the edges on this rich course with the smokiness and aroma from French oak.
Jowl of pork with scorched pear, fresh and dried dandelion. Below the beautifully glossy and brittle skin lie a thick layer of fat and a thin slither of meat, all of which is cooked for no less than eight hours. The whole jowl is presented to the table before it is cut up into smaller pieces for serving and plating. The crackling is to die for with a slightly sticky pedro ximenez glaze. The slither of meat is incredibly tender with just the right amount of (*ahem artery clogging) fatty, gelatinous layer of juiciness remaining. There is a trace of bitter-sweetness from the scorched pear and dandelion to offset the pork.
Wine: Le Soula, vin de pays des cotes catalanes 2008 (South France). A light, fresh and cool wine that helps melt through the pork and refresh the palate.
Roasted breast of pigeon with red vegetables and leaves, foie gras and rhubarb. This was a beautifully haphazard plate scattered with slithers of pigeon heart, wing and breast. The caramelised skin, slightly pink and exquisitely succulent flesh, left ones palate bursting at the seams with a rich creaminess, intensified by the foie gras. A scent of liquorice, sweet bites of rhubarb, and slightly bitter leaves, brought about a perfect marriage of food chemistry.
Wine: 2009 Syrah (Mullineux, South Africa). The deep red wine had a lasting trail of spice and slight astringency.
Pre dessert of passionfruit jelly and foam – was a cleansing concoction of light foam and layer of passionfruit both sharply acidic and mildly tannic.
Parfait of dried flowers with wild strawberries and warm tapioca with vanilla – was a floral celebration of spring arriving, with a base block of fragrant violet ice cream at the centre. The aromas of fresh berries, dark chocolate and berry puree daubs, and scatter of desiccated petals provided a gentle perfume. I understand the intended temperature and textural contrast provided by the warm vanilla tapioca, but for me it just seemed to fall out of place, leaving this course probably the one and only slight decrescendo relative to the sky-high benchmark.
Wine: Muscatel Ariyanas dulce 2007 (Spain). Acidic, sweet and cool in the mouth.
After 3 hours of dining and wining at The Ledbury, I was left completely exhausted after such an enduring crescendo, one high note followed by the next.
Brett Graham demonstrates a refined but not overly avant-garde technique that brings out the essence of each ingredient’s flavour. He harmonises the dishes to such perfection, and yet knows when to pull back when enough is enough. The front of house is also exceptional, with a team full of enthusiasm and attention to detail, but retains an air of calm.
This two michelin star Notting Hill restaurant was an absolutely contemplative experience and worthy culinary highlight during my Eurotrip this year.
Where: 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London.
Contact: 020 7792 9090
P.S. for more Notting Hill pictures, see here.