The Ledbury offers an evening of indulgence – something my body would be unable to sustain on a daily basis, but for a special occasion then it is hard to beat. We had booked a month or so in advance and as we had an early table I was surprised to see it fill up very quickly. Many a grand family gathering was there, a nervous prospective son-in-law with his fiancée’s parents, a birthday gathering for a senior member of a large family – with the mystery of a sizable present to unwrap, a group of very civilized dapper young men who appeared to be at the very beginning of an up-market bachelor night that was inevitably going to move on to somewhere darker and louder in a couple of hours. There was an expectant buzz about the place.
So, the scene set and sipping a very refreshing Mojito we perused the menu. It didn’t take us long to establish that we liked far too much on offer to have just a few courses so it was going to have to be the Tasting Menu for us. There were some intriguing components, Pickled Carrot and Herefordshire Snail? Or how about Hand Dived Scallops with Frozen Horseradish anybody? Very pleasant, but not particularly horseraddishy. Certainly a few interesting plates to come, the following courses (eleven including cheese) that came to our table were all unique and very accomplished in execution and appearance. There were a few wobbly moments. I felt that the Flame Grilled Mackerel with Avocado, Celtic Mustard and Shiso, a herb similar to mint, did not work its magic on me. The whole plate was totally devitalised by the Mackerel. Serving it with the subtlety of Avocado was a mistake – it had no chance at all, which is a shame, as it looked beautiful. Contrastingly there was a Roast Fillet of Cod with Cauliflower, Parmesan Gnocchi and Truffle which was so explicit in its balance I just wanted much, much more of it. There were others of course that were good and some excellent but one of the standout stars was Loin of Roe Deer with New Season Beetroot, Pinot Lees and Malt. I couldn’t taste anything like Malt but the Roe Deer was luscious and lean. Perfect to my palate.
There are, naturally many intervals with such a grand affair. Our stomachs were grateful, don’t get me wrong, but what the attentive staff delighted in doing was presenting us with a basket of simply excellent Bacon and Onion in-house baked bread. This should have been a course in its own right as I kept on eating it thinking bread really doesn’t get a lot better than this, it really doesn’t.
The prospective son-in-law had loosened his collar so to speak and I noticed that their table had gone for the tasting menu as well. This seemed to lighten the atmosphere somewhat. It’s tough going, working your way through the tasting menu, when the in-laws want to know what you taste like.
So we ploughed on to the cheeses, which were very well kept, my favourite being a Bavarian Blue. Then a Pre Dessert tease and the main event, Caramelised Banana Galette with Salted Caramel, Passion Fruit and Peanut Oil Parfait. This was, as it sounds, complex, beautiful and gorgeously tasty. A wonderful meal which left everybody’s dignity intact – for those who had to run the gauntlet of potential in-laws there still seemed hope, those who ate too much were rewarded with a sated feeling that lasted into the next day, those who drank too much had their comeuppance later in the form of an expensive night club and even more expensive taxi ride in the early hours no doubt. For me the right tone was set by the extended family, passing on an enormous gift to the guest of honour who opened it with grace and smiled as she admired her new painting as all applauded quietly. All this, and food too came to a little over a hundred pounds per head without wine, a small price to pay for such a rich evening.
127 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AQ
020 7792 9090