"The" top ten, top fifty, top hundred, they are all subjective. One critics number three is another gourmands number fifty, such as my stand out experience at Hibiscus far and beyond blew Per Se out of the water. Rankings aside last Saturday was all about the bloggers and the critics favourite, and in brackets number 34th best in the world, The Ledbury.
The food hails from the talents of Aussie born chef Brett Graham and team, who have embraced the classic techniques of the French, conquered then contorted them using the best of British and also stretching to further in the continent. With regular flourishes of own shot partridge to hand picked edible flowers, delivering the best is in the veins of the team who have mostly been there from the beginning or are returning alumni.
A swift exchange of coats and warm smiles later we were settled into a comfortable corner of the moodily lit and luxuriously draped room, ready for the show to begin. First up was our second welcome and the menus, shortly after one of the two amuse bouches; a wafer thin saucer of black sesame pastry filled a tart jam encased in foie gras, a little mouthful of pure sumptuousness.
Once we had navigated our way through the menu and placed our orders we were treated to a delicate quails egg which oozed onto the truffle shavings and pushed its way through the angel hair casing. Our appetites were well and truly whetted, we watched fervently on at the other tables as their murmurs quietened as new rounds of dishes were brought out to gleaming eyes. Never fear, the bread basket arrives, and we happily tuck into some melt in the mouth mini brioches with bacon pieces.
We were dining en force, three bases covered out of the five potentials and each as individual as they looked. The flame grilled mackerel had such a pure taste which was complimented further with the dressing of Celtic mustard and shiso, another clean pocket of flavour came from the parcel of smoked eel with translucent pickled cucumber skin.
I opted for the breast of partridge which was super tender and sweet but served as textural and flavour contrast to the salty confit leg. Whilst in the mouth both were mellowed by the silken chestnut puree and as you delved in deeper sunflower seeds added a crunch and pops of intense savoury came from the slither of Iberian ham.
The column of rabbit lasagne stood proud but was only one pierce away from its contents cascading into the toasted hay froth and swirled puddle of girolle pureé below, the meaty nuggets and glorious jus were to flavourful too be contained by the fragile pasta partition. As with all the dishes and mouthfuls so far we were astonished at how defined each flavour was, how each element on its on was stunning but the sum of all of them was pure culinary harmony.
I love the theatrics of fine dining. Each dish is elaborately introduced and then received with as much excitement and wonder as a first born being presented to its new family. In the case of the main of the cheek and jowl of pork it clocked up a double round of admirable coos. Firstly it was brought out as it was cooked, speared with licorice and steeped in spice, then whisked away to be reassembled to an edible work of art for a well deserved second round of admiration. Perhaps in another establishment this may have been seen as a pretentious act however there was not a whiff of snootiness instead it was a sincere display of the chef's eagerness to please the crowd and to give an insight into his craft from his side. But as with all that exits from Graham's kitchen meticulous attention to detail only starts with the appearance, the true beauty comes from the cohesive mix of flavours and textures. For example the decagon carrot slices add a delicacy to the dish visually but also serve as a juxtaposition to the intensity of the black pudding. Altogether you get succulent pork, exquisite crackling a hit of deep dark crumble, a kiss of sweet carrots and soothing spiced cream.
Pork 1: Soaked and cooked with spices and speared with licorice
Pork 2: Cheek and Jowl with Young Carrots and Black Pudding Crumble
With turf covered by my starter I went for supreme surf for my main, in the form of native Lobster with broccoli stems, natural yogurt and Indian spices in brown butter. Four generous pieces of the king crustacean was everything to be expected, succulent and flavourful, added warmth and roundness of flavour from the pepped up butter but what did take me by surprise was the broccoli. The power of expert hands can make the most pedestrian of ingredients stars of the plate, and this is said with no intention of belittling the florets of green. The stems were exceptionally juicy yet still fibrous and the deconstructed tops were deep fried and scattered to add another textural twist - never could I have imagined broccoli to steal the limelight.
The Lamb like all previous protein based dishes was a plate of two tales, cleverly proving that despite being from the same beast one cut is never the same as another. What separated the shoulder from the loin was twenty five hours of slow cooking, resulting in the highest degree of tenderness and lusciousness. The roasted aubergine had candied skin and a velvety inside, but the green tomato juice cut through all the richness with its unadulterated concentration of freshness.
Pre sweet sweet came in the form of a dainty tumbler filled with surprisingly light olive oil panna cotta, mango and white chocolate granita. Gone in two swift mouthfuls. Other treats included a caramelised banana galette with passionfruit, peppered with peanut oil and salted caramel. True to form I dived straight for the chocolate option which was in the form of an intense pavé with a subtle milk purée and lovage ice cream that tasted like the sort of iced treat a grazing sheep may enjoy, fresh and punchy, just what was needed to break up the dark chocolate. Finally, we come to the brown sugar tart, unlike the name it was not overly sweet but echoed caramelised smoky notes, served with muscat grapes and creamy stem ginger ice cream. An unlikely hero of the meal, but it was a true triumph, displaying a masterful balancing of flavours whilst not overtly decadent but certainly moreish.
I always think it's a bit of a faff to book months in advance for a meal but for restaurants it acts as a good indicator for how in demand they are, besides it also gives me time to find the perfect eating dress! I booked our table back at the start of summer which was proof of how loved this restaurant is and continues to be, with extremely good reason to be. There have been countless rounds of applause for all at the leafy Notting Hill corner, for their ideas, execution and continuous efforts to redefine their best and from my experience all well deserved. From the very first bite of the black sesame cup piped with foie gras to the last of the petit fours, a home made salt caramel the Ledbury team, front of house and kitchen delivered a flawless service and the pitch perfect fine dining show. Bravo!
|Nothing sweetens up your mood when the bill arrives |
than a box of petit fours in a vintage chocolate box!