05 January 2018
At The Ledbury everything from beginning to end is effortlessly smooth and classy with an easy professionalism that other restaurants could learn from. The welcome is properly welcoming, the dining room exemplary with the right amount of space between tables to ensure comfort and inspire a pleasing ambience, the food is uniformly top-notch throughout the meal and full of the wow-factor with the little touches that can lift the dishes above and beyond what one might expect simply from the description in the menu, and the wines chosen to match the food are superior to those found at other venues supposedly on a level with The Ledbury. Every single member of the staff is enthusiastic and well-schooled, recognising the merits of their place of work and instinctively knowing just what to do and how to do it to ensure the diner feels relaxed yet respected, and they all glory in the opportunity to give the customer a marvellous, complete dining experience. The kitchen was certainly in the great form we expected, from the terrific canapés, guinea fowl mint jelly, cheese puff with game jelly and muntjac ball with pho-style brioche and crispy shallot, to the excellent petits fours, including a super light cinnamon cigarette. These little wonders parenthesised a superlative series of dishes which emphasised the chef’s skills, balancing ingredients, tastes, textures and creative presentation to leave the diner wanting to start the meal all over again. The combination of sea bream tartare, oyster Chantilly and grated English wasabi and wasabi leaf was simply outstanding, as was the Cumbrian veal tartare with its grilled artichoke oil, horseradish, and beef fat on toast with truffle sprinkle. We love smoked eel, and serving it with clay-baked white beetroot and English caviar was a master stroke, which was followed by a very special version of a cooked breakfast in the form of a bantam egg with dried ham, celeriac, truffle and a hint of Arbois. The first of the main dishes provided a real surprise, as it was the first time we had ever had monkfish with orange, which, with the superb pumpkin and shellfish purée, made for a completely new and utterly delicious variation on one of our favourite fish. Another favourite of ours, the hen of the woods mushroom, was cleverly barbecued and accompanied by some superlative pork temple and crackling and completed with potato emulsion and finished with rosemary. The saddle of Chinese water deer, surprisingly sourced from Norfolk, with smoked bone marrow, pickled beetroot cream, beetroot, quince and red leaves was sensational, and we finished our brilliant meal with an incredibly light Christmas tart wallowing in what seemed to be a Glühwein sauce and orange and cardamom ice cream. Anywhere across the Channel, The Ledbury would have three Michelin stars.