Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Ladies who Lunch (at the Ledbury)

In which your author and friends use their best flirting techniques to obtain the name of a particular cheese and the method for making bacon foam. Yes really. And it's Sondheim in case you were wondering.

A fortnight ago a group of female friends and I descended on Notting Hill for a much looked forward to lunch. Without exception we're all definitely foodies and try to meet up for trips to Borough and inevitably end up having wine fuelled lunches where we frighten waiters by ordering 'one of everything' whilst smiling sweetly. This particular day we had planned - and one of the group taken responsibility for organising - to go to a 1* restaurant in London for lunch.

One of the (only) nice upsides to the current recession is the prevalence of offers from restaurants who are trying to encourage business. I should explain that I don't just mean the 2 for 1 vouchers which if you sign up to the newsletters at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/ you can get notified of every week, but also the more fancy restaurants. Examples of ones I know with set lunch menus for around the £20 mark include: Arbutus, The York & Albany, Hibiscus, Wild Honey, Ramsey's Boxwood cafe and restaurant in Claridges both tip the mark at around £30 but you get the idea. It's a bit like a Michelin pandemic really. Now of course it would be churlish to refuse these so having worked out a date between us that worked, we chose a restaurant. The Ledbury (127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AQ).

As luck would have it we had chosen an amazing day, the weather was glorious, Notting Hill was buzzing in that way that high summer encourages. Portabello Road market was heaving, and we met in a pub for a drink beforehand. Various glasses of cider, white wine and g&t's having been consumed we headed off for the short walk to the restaurant - not in a crocodile I might add. (I absolved myself of all responsibility in advance!)

The restaurant was both cool and calm in contrast to the sunny day and heaving market we had left behind. This contrast was lovely, the peaceful hum of chatter replacing the cacophony of noise at the pub, and the clean linens and sparkly glasses suggested a very promising lunch. Yes I know anywhere can provide white linen clad tables but for me walking into that kind of environment is on a par with walking into a new library or bookshop; there's just something calming in the air.

As I looked around the restaurant I was immediately grabbed by the urge to find out what was being served in kilner jars (did I remember to ask? No chance) and as we took our tables and were handed the wine list. To call it a list is an understatement akin to saying that I go to the theatre from time to time. Eventually we managed to choose a wine, which if my memory serves me correctly was a Sauvignon Blanc (although I may have made that up as I didn't write it down). In fact my only complaint about the whole day would have been about the wine list. In comparisom to the set lunch menu the wines were a world away from easy to choose, with one of the reasonably priced options out of stock and our waiter selecting as an alternative one that was nearly double in price. I prefer the arrangement at Arbutus where as well as a set lunch menu they offer a red and white wine that are reasonably priced and chosen to go well with the set menus and I think you can choose these by the glass or bottle.

Anyway our menu options were as follows and true to form, we managed to cover everything on the menu, with some additions no less.

Cocotte of Pheasant Eggs with Carmelised Onion, Bacon Foam and Soldiers*

Flame Grilled Mackerel with Cured Mackerel, Avocado and Shiso

Cod with Jersey Royals, Spring Vegetables and Cauliflower

Roast Fillet of Beef with Baked Potatoes, Smoked Bone Marrow and Truffle Puree


Creme Brulee with Dried Apricots Soaked in Sauternes*

Green Apple Sorbet with Elderflower and Vanilla

Cheese from the trolley


I had the Mackerel which was lovely and fresh tasting. I really love very simply grilled Mackerel and this really hit the mark, despite my worry that it might be overly complicated. The Beef was gorgeous, absolutely melting in texture, and the truffle puree was heaven. In contrast to my usual form I ordered the Apple sorbet which was delightfully refreshing on a hot day - elderflower is something I have really taken to this summer when only 2 or 3 years ago I found it much too perfumed for my taste.

*I managed to try the Pheasant eggs which really did come with soldiers and which were wonderful, served in martini glasses with what I think we decided was watercress in the base of the glasses.

The roast cod looked beautiful, I'm still a bit wary of ordering cod because of sustainability and as we had been discussing the Fishing documentary The End of the Line I felt quite safe in my choice of Beef fillet. That said I'm sure this is responsibly sourced cod but I didn't think to check, and truth be told I eat red meat so rarely that it's a real treat these days.

*As one of our party didn't like apricots, the chef kindly adapted the dessert creme brulee to strawberry just for her. Similarly as one of our party was vegetarian she was offered an alternative main course at no trouble, and I must say her Goats Cheese linguine (which I thought looked more like tortellini) looked lovely.

Two of our group had Cheese instead of dessert, and I have to say I had complete envy of the cheeses on offer. Their favourite was L'ami de chambertin and thanks have to go to the waiter we adopted, Steve who was lovely and helped us no end with our ever increasing list of requests.

Right now food pictures...

Flame Grilled Mackerel

Pheasant Eggs en cocotte

Roast codSlow roast fillet of BeefGoats cheese linguine (I still maintain it's tortellini)

Creme Brulee

Strawberry creme brulee

Green Apple sorbet

The Cheese trolley (and our waiter trying to escape the shot)

All in all it was a lovely day (we may have moved back to the pub after a very long and leisurely lunch) only slightly marred by the fact that I managed to get soaked through to the skin in the thunderstorm that broke as I stepped out of the station.


Kavey said...

Ooh fabulous...
I've been looking for a special restaurant for a treat meal and received quite a few recos on twitter for The Ledbury so this has clinched it!

Anonymous said...

I agree, that's definitely tortellini!

The Ledbury is fast moving up my list, I've only heard positive things about it.

Sounds like a lovely lunch.

Jules said...

I'm also in agreement that the pasta is tortellini as I thought linguini was like flat spaghetti.

Looks like you had a wonderful meet.


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