This meal began with a series of nibbles. Laverbread crisp was topped with mussel puree, a refreshing combination. A little foie gras terrine came with mead jelly, quickly followed by muntjac dumplings with mustard fruit, which had excellent flavour balance. Warm, comforting steamed brioche topped with black truffle concluded the amuse-bouches, which were top notch. Some starred restaurants seem to regard this stage of the meal as an after-thought, but not here (18/20). Beer sourdough bread was supplied from the Bread Factory. It was good but this is an area where making the bread on-site would improve things a notch.
Cured red mullet came with carrot and clementine mustard, a lovely dish with enough bite from the mustard and acidity from the fruit to work with the fish (17/20). I was impressed with candied beetroot that had been baked in clay, wrapped around smoked and dried eel and garnished with caviar from, of all places, Exmoor. The eel and beetroot was a lovely combination, and the texture of the beetroot was unusual and excellent (18/20).
This was followed by the signature flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard and shiso (perilla). As ever, the mustard and the vinegar from the pickling process beautifully complemented the inherent oiliness of the fish (easily 18/20). Bantam egg was surrounded by shaved celeriac,, dried ham and chestnuts. This was an enjoyable winter dish, the earthiness of the celeriac working nicely with the ham and egg flavours, a little truffle adding a touch of luxury (17/20).
The only slight letdown of the meal was roast cauliflower with lobster, Parmesan and basil. I love cauliflower, and the basil worked well with it, but the lobster felt like a bit of an afterthought and the Parmesan was subdued, so predominantly the flavour was eating a simple baked cauliflower. This was pleasant enough, but was not a dish to get the pulses racing (14/20). An example of how the humble cauliflower can be made more exciting was shown at a recent meal at The Girl and the Goat in Chicago, where wood-oven roasting and pickling enlivened things.
Red ruby beef from the set lunch menu was slow-cooked and served with root vegetables, bone marrow and truffle butter. This was a very good use of relatively humble ingredients, the beef having plenty of flavour and working well with the earthiness of the vegetables (just about 17/20). I preferred muntjac with red leaves and quince. Various parts of the muntjac were used, and I particularly liked a superb sausage of the deer; the beetroot and leaves were a pretty and appropriate accompaniment (18/20).
A whipped buttermilk pre-dessert came with rhubarb, the latter’s acidity a clever pairing with the gentle buttermilk. On the side was olive oil shortbread (18/20). We finished with the signature burnt sugar tart with stem ginger ice cream. The tart was lovely and the stem ginger was a perfect pairing, lifting the flavor of the tart (18/20).
Service was as slick as ever, and the bill came to £146 a head including wine. Four courses here were £85, but the set lunch was just £50, a bargain for food of this level. A typical cost per head ordering a la carte with moderate wine might be £120 a head. This meal confirmed to me that the Ledbury offers one of London’s top dining experiences.