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|Address:||127 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AQ|
|Tel:||020 7792 9090|
|Price: £76.00||Wine: £30.00||Champagne: £50.00|
|Opening Hours:||Tues-Sun 12N-2pm (Sun -2.30pm) Mon-Sat 6.30-10.30pm Sun 7-10pm|
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There seem to be two sorts of two star Michelin star establishments in London now: the formal, grand ones, often found in big hotels, and the more intimate ones. The Ledbury falls within the latter.
No grand hotel lobbey to fight through, but straight to the front desk, bottle in hand. Yes, a two star Michelin restaurant with a BYO policy. Given how much top end restaurants make from the wine list, it is refreshing to see such a sensible approach being taken. Maybe this is because the Ledbury started as a neighbourhood local or maybe it is becauses the chef is Australian: in Australia, almost all restaurants seem to be BYO. In this country, the concept seems stuck with Brick Lane curry houses. Whatever the reason, I applaud you.
As an added bonus, throughout August the Ledbury has an arrangement with Bordeaux Index that provides for clients of BI to have the otherwise £25 corkage charge waived. How could we resist?
After the obligatory amuse bouche, we started with the snails (from Hereford, of course), enveloped in a herb mouse and wild boar with baked celeriac. Both were gorgeous. The latter was a deep fried disc (a kromeski, no less) of chopped boar, but the theatre was in the celeriac. I have been to restaurants where whole birds are carved at the table, or the cooked fish is presented before being whisked away to be filleted, but I have never before been introduced to a celeriac. Until now. The root, borne to the table on a wooden board, is encased in a salt pastry crust. It looks like a baked potato. This is then sliced in half, and one half of the ash coated root popped out, for the table to inspect. The next time you see it, it is thinly sliced and under the boar. Does seeing how it was cooked add to the taste sensation? No, but it says a lot about the restaurant's style.
Of the mains the suckling pig was probably the least interesting dish that we had. It was a perfectly fine piece of meat, perfectly cooked, with a properly crispy skin and moist meat, but is was somehow a little uninteresting, and lacking in punch that the other dishes had. The lamb, on the other hand, which came in two cuts; one cooked pink, one slow roasted, was superb. Of course both cuts were cooked beautifully, but somehow this dish, coming with a lovely baked aubergine that perfectly complimented the meat, in the same way that white carrots didn't with the pork, just worked in every way.
We could smell the cheese the moment we walked in the door, and it was certainly worth the wait. A small cheese board when compared to some establishments, with a dozen beautifully kept, and wonderfully smelling, British and French cheeses. After the pre-deserts, we finshed with the souffle. This was again a little bit of a miss: wonderfully light and fluffy, but overly sweet, masking both the souffle's taste and that of the thyme ice cream that came with it.
Service is friendly, unfussy, unhurried and unobtrusive. The ratio of waiting staff to diners may not be of three Michelin star standard, but that is far from a bad thing. I don't need somebody filling my water glass up every time I take a sip, followed by somebody doing the same twenty seconds later with the wine. A lot of restaurants could learn from the relaxed way that the front of house is run at the Ledbury.
The only downside seems to be that, in order to cram as many people together in what is a smallish dining room, the tables are uncomfortably close together. I now know, for instance, that one of the ladies on the next door table has a flat mate whose alarm goes off too early, so he keeps hitting the snooze button every ten minutes until he decides to get out of bed; the names of the children of the couple two tables down; and way too much about the sex lives of the trustafarians in the corner.
This aside, the Ledbury is a fantastic restaurant, blending a relaxed atmoshpere, with some wonderful food. Add to that the BYO policy and you have a knock-out hit.