127 Ledbury Road, Ladbroke Grove, London, England, W11 2AQ, United Kingdom

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Chef interview

Brett Graham is the chef/patron of The Ledbury. He is also part owner of the gastropub The Harwood Arms.

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Since the Ledbury reopened, Brett Graham is still running the overall operation, but with head chef Tom Spenceley (formerly of Sat Bains, Kitchen Table and Typing Room). Tom was not around today but Brett was in attendance. The tasting menu was priced at £225 or £200 at lunch, with a slightly shorter six course menu at lunch only available at £180.

The wine list had 521 labels and ranged in price from £35 to £9,000, with a median price of £135 and an average markup to retail price of 2.8 times, which is quite fair for London. Intriguingly, the markup levels have come down considerably since I wrote my first review of the Ledbury in its new form in 2022. Sample references were Brauneberger Juffer Weingut Fritz Haag 2018 at £65 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £28, Blankbottle Smaug the Magnificent 2020 at £80 compared to its retail price of £31, and Yabby Lake Shiraz 2017 at £90 for a wine that will set you back £42 in the high street. For those with the means there was Sine Qua Non Grenache Stein 2012 at £495 compared to its retail price of £403, and at the superb Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut 1999 at £875 for a wine whose current market value is £1,090. There were 34 wines below their current market value, so it is worth researching the list if you want to find value. There were 69 bottles under £75, and 34% of the list was under £100. 55% of the list was from France, but there were offerings from as far afield as Georgia and Luxembourg.

The meal began with a sequence of canapes. An Iberian pig from Shropshire produced ham, in this case a loin of ham and leg of pork as well as salami. There was also a little chestnut flour biscuit with duck liver, Seville orange and confit pine cone, which was nicely balanced. A rye flour pancake had saffron, celeriac, smoked eel and myoga (Japanese ginger) jam. Eel and celeriac is a good flavour combination and the ginger was a nice touch; for me the texture of the pancake was a touch soggy. The remaining two canapes were the best. Lobster jelly with N25 caviar and seaweed worked well, and a little Isle of Mull scallop with a topping of seaweed mustard was my favourite of the canapes (average 16/20).

At this point there was some tableside grating of wasabi from Devon. This was sawa wasabi (water wasabi; there is also hata wasabi, where the leaves and stems are eaten), grown in flowing water kept at a constant temperature. Personally, I prefer the imported Japanese wasabi in terms of flavour, but this is certainly a pleasant and local ingredient. This was used with a dish of cured trout Chalk Stream trout with hibiscus, frozen raspberries, jalapeno and salted cherry blossom. I am not a fan of farmed trout – though sea trout can be lovely – but I have to say that this dish made the most of a somewhat average main ingredient. The blend of textures and the gentle hint of spice of the wasabi combined with the acidity of the raspberries worked nicely, with the cherry blossom adding a pretty visual touch (17/20).

Next was sea bass from Cornwall cured with sake, along with a Carlingford oyster emulsion, bottarga, Wye valley asparagus, preserved kombu seaweed and cucumber, elderflower and buttermilk sorbet. There was a final garnish of borage and kinome (sansho pepper) flowers and zest of sudachi, a relative of lime, originally from Tokushima prefecture in Japan. The sea bass had nice flavour, the asparagus a little lacking in flavour for me but of course this was very late in the season for it (16/20).

Bread appeared at this stage, a choice of rye sourdough and brioche flavoured with tomato sofrito and black honey. The brioche was particular enjoyable. Veal sweetbread from Marches des Chefs in Deptford came with vin jaune, aged beef sauce, chives, kohlrabi with mint oil, English peas, vadouvan spice mix, cultured yoghurt, and English pea veloute with kaffir lime and coconut. There was a lot going on here, which is something of a recurring theme of the menu, but this dish worked quite well, the sweetbreads quite light and fluffy and the gentle vadouvan spice just lifting the dish, with the peas bringing a contrast to the richness of the sweetbreads (17/20).

Wild turbot from a 5kg fish was cooked over charcoal and smoked with chamomile tea, Scottish girolles, green peaches, yuzu juice and new season black truffle from Australia. This was a pretty dish, with the turbot having the acidity from the peaches as balance and with the earthy girolles as a contrast, the excellent quality black truffles adding a pleasing fragrance (16/20). Native lobster came flavoured with Cheshire saffron (from the Delamere Forest), morels (from Canada), lemon verbena and kimchi. The lobster was tender, the morel large though not having particularly great flavour, but the lemon verbena worked nicely with the shellfish (16/20).

The next dish was shiitake mushroom that was braised and grilled, served with watercress emulsion, buckwheat koji ravioli of wild garlic and mushroom, caramelised cep puree with Jersey Royal potato and a garnish of black truffle. This was pleasant enough, but shiitake mushrooms have quite muted flavour, and with the potato the overall flavour profile was quite bland. The truffle helped but it was hard to get excited about this dish, especially if I compare it to genuinely exciting mushroom dishes such as those at Regis et Jacques Marcon (15/20).

Whitley Farm Iberian pork from Shropshire was the final savoury course, served with English cherries, beetroot, caramelised black olive, liquorice and shiso. The pork had very good flavour and the sharpness of the cherries was an excellent foil for the richness of the meat. There was also a little dumpling of pig’s head, which had very good flavour though the dumpling might have been crisper in texture. Still, it was nice to see pork on the menu of a serious restaurant (17/20).

Pre-dessert featured French wild strawberry (gariguettes) with balsamic, yoghurt crisps and nasturtiums. This was refreshing, and the gariguettes had nice flavour (16/20). The main dessert was poached Italian white peaches with fresh almonds, jasmine and vanilla custard flan, white peach and sake sorbet, fig leaf ice cream and a tuile of seaweed nori flavoured with matcha. The peaches were ripe and had good flavour, the flan provided a pleasant textural contrast and the sorbet was smooth and refreshing (16/20). Coffee was from speciality roaster Dark Woods in Huddersfield and was very nice indeed. This came with petit fours of canele with brown sugar, rum and passion fruit, fudge sea salt and white chocolate, a choux bun with chocolate and hazelnut and lime caramel, and finally a jelly of Amalfi lemon and local honey from with rapeseed oil jam. Service was excellent, our American waiter Jeremy being patient and professional. The bill came to £350 per person including wine, with the food element £200. If you ordered the £180 menu and shared a bottle of modest wine then a typical cost per person might be around £240 or so. Overall, this was an enjoyable meal, and definitely better than the first meal that I had here under the new kitchen regime. The kitchen has a tendency to never use three ingredients when six or more will do, but the dishes today were nicely balanced and the technical execution was good. The excellent service certainly contributes to the overall experience.


Further reviews: 25th Mar 2022 | 13th Jan 2017 | 13th Jan 2016 | 03rd Sep 2014 | 09th Jan 2014 | 07th Nov 2012

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