It is now over a decade since the Ledbury opened its doors in 2005, in a location that at the time was regarded as daring for a fine dining restaurant. Ladbroke Grove has changed markedly over the years. In the early 1980s when I first lived in London it was the kind of area where even the Alsatians went around in pairs. Under the leadership of Brett Graham in the kitchen, The Ledbury gained a Michelin star in 2006 and a second in 2010.
The tasting menu was priced at £140, with a la carte at £115 for four courses, and a set lunch at £70. The wine list has deep coverage of Burgundy but ventures much further afield too, even offering some German red wines. Domaine Pelle Menetou-Salon Morogues 2015 was £57 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £14, Breuer Riesling Momtosa 2012 was £75 compared to its retail price of £23, and Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2011 was £90 for a wine that will set you back £30 in the shops. There are grander offerings too, such as Ravenau Chablis Les Vaillons 2007 at a bargain £175 compared to its retail price of £144, and Lafon Mersault Charmes 2005 at a reasonable £380 for a bottle whose current retail value is £306.
A series of nibbles appeared at the start of the meal. Laverbread crisp with mussel puree were pleasant, but I preferred a foie gras puff with mead jelly. This was excellent, the liver flavour combining nicely with the jelly, the texture of the puff suitably light. Steamed and grilled brioche with truffle and pumpkins was also good, but my favourite was muntjac dumpling with fruit de moutarde, the spicy fruit and mustard preserve. The dumpling had deep flavour, the bite of mustard and the acidity of the fruit creating a lovely balance with the deer (18/20 average, more for the muntjac).
My first course was white beetroot baked in clay with eel in both smoked and dried form, with a garnish of English caviar. This was unusual and interesting, the beetroot sliced very thin, the smokiness of the eel and the tang of caviar working nicely with the earthiness of the beetroot (17/20).
A pair of scallops came next, served with a selection of brassicas. The scallops had lovely inherent sweetness, cooked lightly, and paired well with the delicately cooked brassicas (18/20). John Dory came with Jerusalem artichokes and lemon and mushrooms. The fish was accurately cooked and the lemon provided some freshness (17/20).
A pre-dessert of rhubarb buttermilk with olive oil shortbread was pleasingly refreshing, and set up the main dessert nicely. This was the signature brown sugar tart with stem ginger ice cream. This was a fine dish, the pastry delicate, the filling’s sweetness balanced by the distinctive flavour of the ginger (19/20).
Service was excellent, the staff attentive and helpful. The bill came to £169 per head, with a few glasses of wine. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a realistic all-in price with coffee and service would be around £160. The Ledbury sails on, retaining its position at or near the top of London’s restaurant scene. It combines inventive and appealing food with silky smooth service and a relaxed atmosphere, which is why it is probably the toughest reservation to get in the capital.