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The Ledbury has been named as The BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year 2010, beating off strong competition from a 10-strong shortlist, including the likes of fine-dining aristocrats Hibiscus and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, as well as head-turning newcomers such as Bar Boulud, Polpo and the Dean Street Townhouse & Dining Room.
The award, which coincides with the publication of the Square Meal 2011 Guide, is now in its 11th year. It recognises the restaurant that has most captured the imagination of both Square Meal’s in-house reviewers and the public in the past year, and pinpoints the establishment that offers all-round excellence: top-drawer food, serious wine, good value, service that matches aspirations, plus that elusive ‘feel-good’ factor.
The two-Michelin-starred Ledbury (pictured, below right), a Notting Hill neighbourhood fixture with a glossy, urbane and buzzing vibe, is owned by Philip Howard and Nigel Platts-Martin (pictured, left), the brains and muscle behind Mayfair thoroughbred The Square. Heading up the kitchen is hot-property Aussie chef and co-owner Brett Graham (also pictured, left), who has been with the restaurant since its launch five years ago.
Graham’s cooking is ingeniously inventive without jarring the senses; he emblazons his food with a designer’s flourish, allowing ingredients to shine and applying a brave new spin to some of the old ways. Signature dishes include the extraordinary celeriac baked in ash with wood sorrel, hazelnuts and a kromeski of wild boar, and the triumphant olive oil panna cotta with fig-leaf granita, fig-leaf ice cream and citrus beignets.
Graham told Square Meal he was ‘delighted’ to win the award. ‘Square Meal is a hugely respected guide, it’s very well read, and to be recognised by that guide is a great achievement. I’m proud of all the staff who work here. It’s a credit to our young and enthusiastic team.’
Platts-Martin heaped praise on the chef. ‘Brett Graham is remarkable,’ he said. ‘His food is of the very highest quality and, yes, it’s modern but crucially it tastes good and avoids silliness. The Ledbury is a fun place to be – it’s relaxed and has a real energy about it which customers seem to enjoy.’
Square Meal’s editor, Ben McCormack (pictured, above left), agreed: ‘The Ledbury is a star-strewn restaurant that’s setting new standards when it comes to innovation, excitement, cosmopolitan style and sheer, free-spirited fun. It’s a supreme example of a fully rounded big-city restaurant that plies its trade well away from the capital’s centre of gravity.
‘Factor in staff who are energetic, helpful, keen to please and happy in their work, plus a faultless wine list with a terrific selection by the glass, and you have a restaurant of real distinction – a destination for all appetites and all financial climes.’
Over the past decade, The BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year award has become synonymous with its sponsor. BMW is a brand that epitomises an innate sense of style, innovation, reliability and, of course, value – exactly the qualities we expect from a top-flight restaurant.
Square Meal’s readers and users will no doubt agree with our choice of winner for 2010, having rightly labelled The Ledbury ‘recession-proof’ and ‘a class act’ in their online reviews and feedback. Square Meal is, as always, hugely grateful to these legions of diners, who, having taken the trouble to share their own experiences, give us an invaluable snapshot of the restaurant scene. 2011 will see more prizes heading your way, including bottles of Champagne and Cognac – so keep writing those reviews!