This week I revisit the Ledbury and the Sportsman

Saturday, June 06th , 2009

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I had a particularly good meal this week at The Ledbury. It was a very appealing, summery menu, with an excellent starter of flame-grilled mackerel (pcitured) that has stood the test of time. Poulet de Bresse had that wonderful taste of chicken that you essentially never find in a chicken from England, while a passion fruit soufflé was superbly made. This was a 7/10 level meal; I have retained the current 6/10 mark for now, but will consider an upgrade if this level of cooking continues.  
I had another fine meal at Tangawizi. As before, the strengths here are the tandoori cooking, the vegetable curries and the breads. On this visit I had superb tandoori prawns, fine aloo gobi and rich, tasty methi chicken bursting with fenugreek flavour. The naan breads, soft and supple, are a case study in how these Indian breads should be cooked. This is a restaurant that is operating at the top of its game.
The Sportsman produced another truly superb meal.  The tasting menu featured a number of dishes that I have written about before, and I will not repeat these, such as the terrific crab risotto. I would, however, point out a dazzling dish of pork belly, with pork loin and crackling served with superb broad beans from the kitchen garden, that had remarkable depth of taste. The crackling was perfect, the pork belly had superb flavour. I simply cannot recall a better pork dish anywhere (easily 9/10). Also magnificent was a fillet of turbot, cooked simply with seasonal asparagus and vin jaune sauce. The turbot was landed the day before we ate it (turbot, like Dover Sole, tastes better a day or two after it is landed) and again had lovely flavour, the hint of smokiness from the Jura wine working really well with the firm flesh of the fish. I find each successive meal here to be both impressive and getting better from meal to meal. Stephen Harris’s cooking continues to develop and rests on stunning ingredients which are allowed to show their full potential through his deliberately simplified presentation.
I was particularly grateful for the fine meal at the Sportsman after a few days in Orlando (on a trip clearly not related to food). It is remarkable just how dismal the food is in this part of the world, where a Domino’s pizza would be regarded as the height of culinary ambition. Sometimes it is good to travel to such culinary wastelands, as it makes you realise just how good food can be elsewhere.
In other news, the seriousness of the financial problems that have been facing Gordon Ramsay’s business empire became a bit clearer this week, with an article in the Sunday Times. Gordon Ramsay Holdings apparently breached their banking covenants (i.e. the terms that were agreed) on the loans they had, and were advised to enter administration, though it sounds as if Gordon has put a lot of his own money in to avoid that ignominy (as well as selling off several of the foreign restaurants, where he acts now just as a consultant advising on the menu and staff). It sounds as if the underlying operation may now be profitable, though the true financial picture of the company will be unclear to those outside the inner circle until the accounts get published, which have consistently been very late (incurring a fine from the Inland Revenue) over the last few years. In more positive territory, the site of the new Petrus has been confirmed this week as being at the junction of Kinnerton Street and Motcomb Street in Belgravia, near Knightsbridge tube and a stone’s throw from the old Petrus, which is now Marcus Wareing’s entirely separate venture. Further details will doubtless emerge in due course, as the restaurant is due to open in September, builders permitting.
Next week I head for to the continent for what should be some excellent food.