I’m pretty sure we didn’t catch Notting Hill on a good day. The carnival had just finished the day before and the streets were being cleared up, the place looked dirty with a lot of litter on the streets which was in the process of being cleared up. Not that long ago I would never have dreamed of visiting Notting Hill and certainly not to go out of my way to visit a restaurant but one popular movie later and it became a visitor attraction for tourists and had an influx of affluent homeowners.
We like being early to restaurants, especially when were visiting an area for the first time. In this instance my trusty Google maps app didn’t let us down and it took us painlessly to the door of ‘The Ledbury’.
Being twenty minutes early we opted to walk around the neighbourhood. To our surprise just round the corner we almost bumped into Brett Graham, the head chef at The Ledbury, who was out with a brush tidying up the pavement around his restaurant.
The restaurant has a pleasant covered outside area for seating and dining, screened off the road by a tall hedgerow.
The Ledbury’s reputation is second to none in London, being one of the few restaurants in the UK to hold not one but two Michelin stars.
At noon we duly headed to the front door. I wasn’t sure if the restaurant had opened yet for service. It’s plain black wooden door was closed and it didn’t make it an inviting entrance into such a well esteemed establishment, in fact I found it somewhat off putting. But nether the less, having two Michelin stars we were going through the door regardless.
The first thing that struck me was the abundance of staff in the restaurant, service I was sure would be swift, efficient and unobtrusive. Which in this case turned out to be exactly that, an almost faultless service by the front of house team.
Today, time was not on our side with only four hours before our train to Scotland was due to depart, so we opted for the lunch menu, being priced at £33.50 per head for three courses + service charge.
The restaurant itself looked very formal, but amazingly also felt quite relaxed. At the front of the restaurant the windows were large and gave the whole room ample natural light, here there were doors onto the covered area outside the restaurant, these were closed today. The back wall of the restaurant was mainly mirrored, again emphasising space and light in the restaurant.
Today we were expecting something special.
The bread rolls offered before service were still warm, with a choice of plain, onion or malt rolls to chose from. We found the onion rolls to be particularly nice and didn’t really need the accompanying butter.
To start I opted for the ‘Risotto’ of New potatoes with crisp Chicken Wings and Wild Mushrooms. The risotto was beautifully cooked and the chicken meat was moist, nice and tender. The skin were beautifully crisp and gave you an added texture and taste. Overall it was a lovely, light start to the meal.
Jackie ordered the salad of Heritage Tomatoes with Goats Cheese, Dried Olives and Herbs. The dish looked absolutely stunning when it arrived. In the taste stakes it also delivered with a light and refreshing punch. This was possibly the best starter we had ever tasted.
To our surprise the waiter brought us an intermediate course which was unexpected but thoroughly welcome. This course came out of the days tasting menu and was Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Saint-Nectaire, Truffle Toast and a Broth of Grilled Onions. The truffle toast was truly wonderful, the toast had been shallow fried in oil then layered with the curd and truffle. I could eat these all day but my doctor would have a heart attack, most likely when he next checked my cholesterol. Jackie noted that no one else in the restaurant seemed to have received this which we thought was a bit peculiar.
Onto our main course, usually it would be Jackie who would opt for the fish dish but not this time. She opted for the Short Rib of Ruby Red Beef cooked for eight hours with Celeriac baked in Ash, Pickled Walnuts and Bone Marrow. I opted for the Roast Sea Bass with Squid, Radishes and Buckwheat.
Both portions were fairly large, even for the lunch menu, the chef certainly wasn’t skimping on the portion sizes which was nice to see.
I am a meat eater and I must admit, when I first saw Jackie’s course I was very jealous. The meat having been cooked for eight hours was so tender and juicy it melted in your mouth and was very flavoursome. The celeriac was divine, nice and crisp. This was a well balanced and accomplished dish.
Not to be outdone the sea bass was cooked perfectly, nice and moist with a nice crisp skin. The squid slices were arranged around the sea bass. Again the presentation was first class and the dish delivered on all fronts.
Finally we were on to our dessert, quite often the achilles heal of most chefs as had happened the previous night in another Michelin restaurant.
We both opted for the Pave of Chocolate with Milk Puree and Lovage Ice Cream. It was again very well presented. The dark chocolate pave was superb, rich and creamy but not to heavy making it a perfectly acceptable finish to what turned out to be quite a large lunch.
We finished of with coffee and petite fours. The quality of the petit fours were again very good, presented in an old round metal tin. An unusual presentation which although nice, did look a bit out of place compared to what had gone before.
Overall this was an excellent dining experience, I would go as far to say it was a destination restaurant, well worth going out of your way to visit.
Whilst I have never experienced three star Michelin dining, in my opinion ‘The Ledbury’ is right up there with what I still consider to be the UK’s best restaurant, Raymond Blancs ‘Le Manior Aux Quat’Saisions’ in Oxfordshire.
Footnote: I believe the door to ‘The Ledbury’ is only temporary, the door was damaged in the London disturbances a week or so earlier.