Having run out of money, I have been unable to supplement your needs for a humorous, well written review of late. So when my 18th birthday came around, I thought hard of what I would ask for. Being a momentous year, I took the charity route; I would go out to eat and this would feed all your appetites for an Alex’s food review (how generous I am!)
First up, The ledbury
We didn’t so much opt, as we were forced to have the tasting menu, having changed their policy, meaning that Friday and Saturday nights that is all they would be serving; this only came to light after we booked – in for a penny (easy for me to say, when I’m not paying!)
Even before the amuse bouche, we were brought some canapés – the amuse before the bouche if you like. A small oat cake topped with foie gras and with a spot of blood orange mousse. Having previously not enjoyed my first encounter with foie gras, and of course very much against the process behind it, this was pure delight, (all my morals seemed to escape me in an instant). Almost sweet enough to be a dessert and then savoury notes from the foie gras pulled it back, lovely.
The amuse bouche itself was a courgette soup with lobster and shellfish custard. Pleasant as it was, I felt it was a bit lacking in seasoning and the depth of flavour, you expect from a soup at a 2 Michelin starred restaurant, wasn’t quite there.
Ceviche of scallop with frozen horseradish and seaweed oil followed, was a touch disappointing. I felt the oil gave a slight bitter taste and the horseradish was not to my particular palate The scallops themselves were nice enough. After 2 average courses, I was slightly concerned the meal would not live up to my high expectations … (that’s the hook, you can’t help but read on to see the fate of the rest of the meal now….imagine the music from Jaws!)
Next, Flame grilled mackerel with cucumber, a dish I hear Brett Graham considers a bit of a Ledbury signature dish. Mackerel is one of my favourite ingredients and it was left to speak for itself, and what a lovely voice it had. The pockets of cucumber gave a refreshing pop in between bites from the the char grilled skin. A very well crafted dish, good stuff.
We were then served white asparagus with morels, truffle and duck ham. While I felt the asparagus had an ever so slightly bitter aftertaste, the combination of all the ingredients amalgamated into a fresh, healthy tasting combination. The star of the plate was the duck ham. Having been deprived of the pig variety my whole life, in that instant I started to weigh up the pros and cons of eating bacon and eternal damnation, (if this is what they are serving in hell, book me in!) Bacon or hell, Bacon or hell ……
Sea bream with toasted quinoa and broccoli stem was next. Perfectly cooked fish worked wonderfully well with the broccoli and the nutty quinoa added the texture to complete a wonderfully simple, yet tremendously effective dish. The broccoli stem itself was wonderfully tender and tasty and came as a surprise as I didn’t know it could be used.
I interrupt this food report, to bring you some very important news, regarding the Ledbury’s lavatories. Over the course of a ten course meal, spanning 3 and a half hours, I felt like I knew the Ledbury’s toilets like the back of my hand (which I know fairly well). They were nice enough, without being spectacular.
Now, on to the real stuff, as my dad put it – MEAT! Quail with parsnip, pear and walnuts. This along with the scallops was the biggest disappointment of the meal for me. It lacked seasoning and I was left feeling a bit, meh. The parsnips were a touch dry, almost like a packet of vegetable crisps that have been left out for a while. Its saving grace was the pear – the sweetness of which lifted the quail above mediocrity.
The last of the savoury courses was beef with a very clever potato thing, celeriac and bone marrow. The beef was beautifully cooked, pink all the way through. The salt level was just right. The potato thing was perfectly crunchy and an innovative interpretation on using a potato. The celeriac was sweet and perfectly tender. It was simply perfect.
Our pre – dessert was a lemon verbena cream, burnt meringue and something else (forgive me). Fresh, zingy, light and other such words could be used to describe this dish (but I don’t have commitment to think of more, so that’s all you’re getting). It was an absolute joy to behold, perhaps the best dessert of my life – and my mum’s lemon Pavlova takes a lot of beating, oh and Gordon Ramsey’s Royal Hospital Road’s famous Assiette de l’abuergine, of course.
As it was my birthday, along with the main desert of brown sugar tart with stem ginger ice cream, I was also presented with pave of chocolate with lovage ice cream .You can send your hate-mail to my address (or if you don’t know it, simply follow me on twitter and send me abuse – a follower’s a follower!)
The brown sugar tart was wonderfully silky and the crunchy base was its perfect partner. The ice cream was pure delight, although having been called ginger ice cream, you (I) expect a bigger ginger punch, not that I felt this detracted from the dish. Again, a simple dish, left to speak for itself and what a lovely voice it had (I’m aware I’ve used this before, but I’m now struggling – it is the ninth course to be fair).
Perhaps ironically, my ‘free dessert’ was the biggest portion of the night. It was a very rich chocolate, almost too much so, but the accompanying components balanced the dish well. Three of the finest desserts I’ve had and probably my favourite section of the meal.
The service hit the balance between professionalism, friendly and attentive perfectly. Each dish arrived at a time that meant the meal was very well paced. The maitre’d spent a good amount of time talking to us at the end of the meal, in the middle of a busy service. It is touches like this, along with the ‘free’ dessert and petit fours (the best of which was a blood orange biscuit) that made the evening so special and why the Ledbury is thought of with such regard.
Some dishes were so good that they were slightly aggravating, that there was not more of it and I think highlights the pitfalls of tasting menus in general. Fewer, higher quality, bigger dishes, for me would be more preferential to their current tasting menu. On the other hand, the variety does add a sense of drama and excitement which does add to the overall experience.
Food – 8.5/10
Service – 10/10
Value – Not really for me to say!
All the dishes were presented masterfully, definitely the best looking food I’ve had.
Thank you for reading.
As I say, I’m in a very charitable mood, so I will have reviews of Roagnic, HKK and William Curley’s dessert bar in the coming weeks and months – you’re very spoilt you lot!
Thanks again, keep well everyone.
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