There wasn’t a lot of movement in the Michelin Guide in 2010, but a notable winner was The Ledbury which secured its second star. I’m not a huge Michelin fan but two stars is usually denotes something about the experience will be superlative. The most famous 2* in the country is probably Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, certainly a very special place, but perhaps more for the building, grounds, ambience and service than the food which I would describe as unspectacular.
A friend did the donkey work and booked Sunday lunch for 8. This immediately made me nervous, Sunday usually being a difficult day for restaurants, only marginally better than a bank holiday Monday. And a table of 8 puts stress on a kitchen with cuisine at this level, trying to bring out all those perfect dishes at the same time.
Some reports on eGullet mentioned cramped table spaces and aggressive table turning at the Ledbury. Not uncommon after getting a bump in Michelin when presumably bookings go mad. But this meant a high state of nerves when I found several in our party were running 45 minutes late – the fault of London Transport who had helpfully shut virtually every tube line this weekend.
But nerves were quelled by a good glass of manzanilla and very relaxed front of house that were friendly and quite unperturbed that it was a good hour until they could even bring the menus over. In fact, the service was exemplary: warm, friendly, unfussy and efficient. Throughput the meal none of the waiters felt it necessary to try and interrupt our chatter with unwanted and forced explanations of the food. There was none of the attention-seeking some high-end restaurants seem to insist on.
So to the food. Everything was top-drawer. It is too tedious to relate each dish so the pictures will have to suffice. But my Hereford snails in a herb moussline with pickled white carrots, accompanied by an unctuous oxtail sauce was great, every element bursting with flavour (even the herb mousseline sung – this could so easily have been a flat note). Hannah had the celeriac “baked in ash”, accompanied by a “kromeski of wild boar”, again bursting with flavours, the wild boar deep-fried in Panko breadcrumbs.
My main course of sika deer came with roast beetroot and smoked bone marrow “and malt”. There was also an unadvertised artichoke puree. As you would expect the deer was cooked to perfection. This meat is still too gamey for Hannah but it was extremely satisfying for me. Feminine requirements were catered for by John Dory with blood orange, accompanied by “asparagus on toast”. Orange and fish is always a dangerous area, reminding me of a terrible Granadian salad we recently endured (a melange of orange, raw onion and the odd scrap of salt cod). The Ledbury is a class act and pulled it off triumphantly. Our muslim friends were well catered for in terms of Halal dishes including a tremendous loin of lamb served with artichoke.
Puddings were also good. The highlight being a meticulously constructed banana galette with salted caramel. My chocolate dessert was most notable for the accompanying chocolate madelines, served in a cacao half-bean on a bed of coco nibs. Cheese was absolutely beyond reproach and I was happy to see a few decent British cheese (Stichelton and Berkswell) holding their own against some impeccable French selections.
The price was an exceptionally value £40 per head. A 2007 riesling from Trial Hill, Eden Valley weighed in at £34/bottle.
No props at all to the dreadful Beach Blanket Babylon bar down the road which wanted £44 for a round of drinks for 7 people, studiously ignored us, had terrible toilets and were quite rude when we came to pay. I suppose it serves us right for drinking in Notting Hill, but please, sort it out.