The Ledbury closed at the start of the Covid pandemic but reopened in early 2022, with Brett Graham back in charge. Running day to day operations is head chef is Tom Spenceley, who was formerly head chef at Typing Room and at Kitchen Table. The menu now offers a tasting menu only at £180, with wine pairing at £120 extra.
There was an extensive wine list, of which more anon, but there is good news and bad news if you want to bring your own wine instead of choosing from the list. The good news is that they allow corkage; the bad news is that it is £75 a bottle. Seriously - £75? So, let’s consider the extensive list offered. The wine list had 572 full bottles plus a number of halves and magnums, and ranged in price from £40 to £9,000, with a median price of £125 and an average markup to retail price of 3.96 times. This may not be a record for London (Nobu has the highest markups I have ever seen) but it is a close-run thing, and a far cry from the fairly priced list at other restaurants owned by Nigel Platts-Martin, such as La Trompette. This list was 52% from France but had a generally good selection from elsewhere, with even a Georgian wine listed. However, in this day and age it seems bizarre to not manage a single sparkling wine from England amongst the 42 such wines, yet have space for one from Austria. On the positive side there were actually ten wines (mostly very expensive ones) below their retail price but on the other hand there were nine wines more than eight times their retail price, which seems to me utterly unjustifiable; one was 12 times its shop price. Sample references were La Syrah à Papa, Domaine de Monteillet 2016 at £58 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £16, Spätburgunder Schulen Weingut Ziereisen 2015 from Baden at £90 compared to its retail price of £18, and the excellent Assyrtiko Cuvee Monsignori Estate Argyros 2017 from Santorini at £85 for a wine that will set you back £31 in the high street. For those with the means, there was Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes Domaine Leflaive 2009 at £475 compared to its retail price of £420, and Sine Qua Non Grenache Five Shooter at £600 for a wine whose current market value is £168. We drank the Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Schloss Schönborn Riesling 2003, which had aged spectacularly well. This was priced at £95 and is tricky to compare to retail price as this vintage is currently unavailable; it was utterly gorgeous, however.
The meal began with a series of canapes. Cod roe with oat crisps was pleasant, and I enjoyed some ham from Iberian pigs raised at Brett Graham’s farm. A waffle was topped with brown butter and artichoke, and julienne of black truffle from Spain; this was a good combination of flavours and textures. Also nice was caramelised cod with seaweed, the slight sweetness of the cod balanced by the briny seaweed (16/20 nibbles).
The first course was lovely: crab with cultured cream and frozen citrus on a base of lemon jelly. The crab was high quality and the acidity of the other elements nicely balanced the sweetness of the crab. This was a pretty dish with excellent balance and with a high-grade core ingredient (17/20). This was followed by cured mackerel with kombu and white beetroot, horseradish and Granny Smith apple, garnished with nasturtium leaves. The horseradish was subdued to the point of invisibility. Overall, this was decent enough, though the mackerel left a slightly bitter aftertaste. It did not compare at all well to the previous signature flame-grilled mackerel dish on the menu prior to the closure and reopening (14/20).
Cauliflower royale with bonito was decent enough in itself but was topped with Exmoor caviar, a cheap product that to me has a rather muddy taste with limited salinity; I am not sure this was even the best that the supplier offers, as I had a better oscietra from them the next day. To me this caviar just tasted of disappointment. I would actually have preferred the dish if it had no caviar at all, and I am puzzled as to why a restaurant of this standard and price point would choose such an ordinary product. Ignoring this, the cauliflower was fine but at best this was a pretty ordinary dish (14/20). Chicken wing came with shallots, mushroom prunes, Spanish black truffle and parsnip sauce. This was a decent enough dish, but chicken wing on a very expensive tasting menu seems to me to be pushing things unless something spectacular has been done with it. Was this a chicken from Bresse or the Landes, bursting with remarkable flavour? No, it was not (14/20).
Next was barbecued turbot grilled over embers, with trout roe Hollandaise sauce and white asparagus. The turbot was from a small 3 kg fish, which in itself would suggest that it would have limited flavour. Worse, had a rather mushy texture, though the asparagus was fine and the sauce was nicely made. Still, this was not a good dish due to the distinctly ordinary quality of the main element (13/20). I preferred a simple dish of mushrooms that had been grown in a cabinet downstairs. We had hen of the woods, grey oyster, king oyster and shiitake, cooked nicely. The mushrooms had decent flavour, perhaps more which have often been sitting around for a few days in transit, whereas these were picked for service today from their downstairs cabinet home. Still, I would have preferred some wild morels at this time of year; it is hard to make shiitake mushrooms thrilling (14/20). The final savoury course was Pyrenean milk-fed lamb, the shoulder and leg presented with wild garlic and morel stuffed with sage and lamb, as well as a cylindrical potato crisp with olive powder, with braised lamb shank served on the side. The lamb had excellent flavour and the morel was lovely, the potato crisp providing a nice balance of texture (17/20).
Pre dessert was meringue with clementine leaf ice cream and blood Clementine jus with finger lime. This was simple but refreshing (15/20). The main dessert was rhubarb millefeuille. This had excellent delicate pastry; I would have liked a little more rhubarb tartness but this was a very good millefeuille (16/20). Coffee was a Colombian speciality coffee from a company called Kiss the Hippo and was very nice indeed. Service was charming throughout and the bill came to £358 per person, with the food being £180 of that.
This was certainly an enjoyable meal, but it did not seem to me to be at the level that the Ledbury was in its pomp, despite the significantly higher prices. Given the £180 menu I would have hoped for more luxury ingredients than cod and chicken wing, even though the crab and the lamb were excellent, but there were some quite ordinary dishes in amongst the good ones. I imagine that the menu will develop over time as the kitchen has only been open a couple of months in its new form, but I had deliberately left it some time to visit so as not to go in the first couple of weeks, when things might be bedding in. My dining companion had a better meal a few weeks ago here, but two more experienced diners that I trust had disappointing meals here in recent weeks. This level of inconsistency is not something that is desirable at this very challenging price point.Book