I try the newly re-launched Launceston Place

Saturday, April 12th , 2008

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Launceston Place was a favourite haunt of mine about a decade ago, a cosy neighbourhood place in Kensington. I remember eating there one evening when Salman Rushdie popped up at the next table; this being the fatwa period there were plenty of people gulping through their desserts and skipping coffee that evening, I can tell you. Sadly it declined and eventually I stopped bothering to go. Now it has been entirely revamped, and has stuck to a British cooking theme. This being a young trendy chef, there are plenty of modern touches, but technique was excellent and there was even some flambé action (pictured). If anything went wrong they would at least have plenty of coriander foam to put the flames out with (perhaps I shouldn’t joke about this in a week that the River Cafe had to close due to a fire). A very enjoyable experience.
The Devonshire continues to defy the rather bitchy reviews it received on opening, and continues to pack in the locals despite its distinctly back-of-beyond location just off the A4. It is Chiswick, but only just, rather in the way that World’s End is Chelsea. The food doesn’t take any chances but that is hardly the point. Best this week was an excellent leg of rabbit with grain mustard sauce, a lot better than a rather ordinary home-made pork pie. 
At long-time favourite The Brilliant we had excellent tandoori prawns, tender and very nicely spiced, as well as the usual reliable tandoori quail. Aloo chollay has tender chickpeas, and I have noticed the vegetables dishes such as aloo gobi getting a little firmer in texture recently; perhaps it is my constant nagging. Romali roti is superb, and now that Tamarind have stopped doing it is one of the very few places in London you can get this lovely bread.
I also went to a private function at The Dorchester’s pretty roof terrace. It was a bit nippy on this unseasonably cold evening but you get a fine view over London before dashing inside to warm up. The private dining is not provided by either by the excellent kitchen at the Grill Room or that of the Alain Ducasse dining room, so I won’t say much about it, other than they need to ease back on the cooking time of their shellfish.  At the function was Albert Roux (hot foot from the preview evening at the new Maze Grill) and I asked him what his favourite restaurants in London were. Le Gavroche was a fair enough answer I suppose, but the others might surprise you: Zafferano and Zuma. These seem pretty smart choices to me, from the man who was the first chef in Britain to gain three Michelin stars.