The tasting menu @ The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AQ

So why would you go for a tasting menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant? I’ve asked myself this a couple of times, usually around they time they bring the mindnumbingly-expensive bill (about the same as you’d pay for a new bike, or a full head of highlights and a cut TWICE, or an iPhone 4). Or when I feel so full of food and wine I feel uncomfortable, can’t sleep.

The amuse bouches – foie gras on a ginger biscuit and an exceptionally posh Scotch egg type thing that made me giggle…

So why do I keep doing it? Because it’s bloody brilliant, that’s why. It’s silly and disgustingly overindulgent. You aren’t a regular customer of the restaurant who is on a normal night out that they can easily afford, eating their way through the a la carte menu one meal at a time. You aren’t rich or nonchalant or used to eating like this. You are a mysterious giggly stranger, a normal person wanting to experience something you’ll remember for years to come, dipping your toe in and tasting it’s delights. You probably can’t afford to eat there often so you want to try everything they have on a plate. With the best and most interesting wine they have too. It’s a special occasion – maybe the only occasion that you’ll eat there. It’s a treat.

The starters – raw scallop with horseradish, perfect for huge menu as so light and delicate, grilled mackerel with shisho and cucumber. Cucumber was amazing. Cucumber! And a giant slab of foie gras with apple and Christmas pudding sauce…

And for the restaurant too it’s a treat. They know that you are about to have a spectacular gastronomic experience that will last several hours (over 4 hours at The Ledbury) and they can ham it up as much as they like – the sommelier can tell you about how the grapes match the horseradish, knowing you don’t particularly care and are probably too pissed by the middle of the meal onwards to remember. The waitress will make you feel like kings, hiding the fact she knows you are unlikely to be back regularly. And the chef gets a chance to completely show off - he is a peacock showing you his feathers, a bit of frivolity here, an in-joke there, but most of all you see the full spectrum of what he or she can cook, the measure and essence and all.

The mains: absolutely incredible skate with truffle that you could smell when they brought the plates over, with cauliflower and parmesan gnocchi (my favourite) and shoulder of pyranean milk-fed lamb with artichoke witchedy grub (my words not theirs). Looking at this I can’t believe I ate all this. But there was more…

And so last Wednesday night I took the lovely Chef (who wrote a very nice review of the meal here) to The Ledbury for his birthday dinner. I booked it back in December, a bit of a Homer Simpson present because I’d wanted to go for ages too, and we got a little bit over-excited about the whole thing. Such is the pull of the Michelin tasting menu, especially at a place that many food bloggers have named the best restaurant in London, confirmed by the Restaurant Magazine awards.

The pre-dessert dessert (of course) and pudding of poached pear – the only disappointment of the meal, just a bit heavy-handed. But I don’t have a sweet tooth and meant I could have more CHEESE

Throughout this post are photos of the meal. Now remember, these are the photos of what ONE PERSON ATE, not both of us together. And seeing it again I can’t believe I managed to stuff it all in. But I did, plates wiped clean. Which is why I didn’t feel so good on the way home, which is a little gross. So you have to have STAMINA to eat like this, and time. Photos never represent how great it was – the smells, the tastes, but it’s a start. And it doesn’t show the wine which was fantastic and interesting and well thought out. And loads of it.

The cheese – I pretty much ate this entire plate to myself as The Chef’s lemsip had worn off by this time and he had started sweating profusely and coughing. It was amazing. And I ordered another glass of red to accompany it as the 5 or 6 other glasses hadn’t been enough apparently. The Chef was dying to leave. I felt over-stuffed like a foie gras goose…

So was it a treat? Hell yeah. We were one of the first to arrive and almost the last to leave. We ate the full menu – starters, fish, meat, puddings, cheese. We were Mr Creosote being asked what we want from the menu and responding “the lot“. They even printed off our menus for us to keep with the wine we’d had with each course typed alongside each course. A bit silly yes but special. Will I be back? Well I can’t afford it until 2015 but I’d like to take my mum for a lovely lunch one day. Or go back if I had something big to celebrate. If you’ve got £300 to spend (for this is how much a tasting menu with wine for 2 will set you back) then it’s probably the best resto in London right now. As I said at the start, you could buy a bike or a phone or a TV or a trip to the opera for this price, but for me I am paying for something that will last forever. A memory – of the smell of truffle, the cheese plate, the giggling, the extravagance, the taste of foie gras and skate and lamb all perfectly cooked. For me it’s worth it, but you have to decide for yourselves whether it’s the same for you.

A waahfer theen meent…

Note: for better photos of the food and the proper description of the tasting menu, please look at the HPL facebook page

UPDATE 21 January 2011: The Ledbury has just won best restaurant in London in the Square Meal awards 2010. Told you…

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10 responses to “The tasting menu @ The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AQ

  1. Ithought you were allergic to scallops. I can;r believe you spent £300. Anyone would think you weren’t half Yorkshire and Scottish blood!

    • I was but in Brussels – I think because they were from the sea off Belgium (er not sure name) and may have been a bit polluted? I ate this one raw and was absolutely fine.

      And yes £300 was a lot BUT same as staying in a nice hotel or buying a big pressie. It is a lot but I think food is my biggest expense – I don’t stay in posh hotels, I don’t buy many clothes (anymore!) and I’m generally pretty frugal. And it is definitely a once-a-year only treat x

  2. It’s my birthday fairly soon *starts saving up*

  3. What a bloody brilliant bit of writing. Gloriously honest, detailed enough to make me want to rush out there IMMEDIATELY but homespun so’s I don’t feel intimidated about trying either. Thank-you. I shall be off to the big L soon.

  4. The scallops with horseradish sounds great, drool drool. Do you remember what cheeses they served for the cheese course? I love seeing what cheeses are served at restaurants I’m dying to visit, get them myself and eat dreaming that I’m there…

  5. I just love the Ledbury and agree with you that sometime tasting menus can be just TOO much but at The Ledbury – any discomfort from over eating is worth it!

  6. The Ledbury is my favourite restaurant in London! I’m glad you loved it so much. My boyfriend took me there for my birthday a few weeks after we first arrived in London, and it really set the bar high! Now, it’s the place I recommend to people for their special occassions, and everyone always agrees it’s fabulous.

  7. I SO want to go there for my birthday this year, it sounds superb! Think having a baby justifies the price!

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