Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Ledbury, London

The Ledbury, London, 9/9/2017 (8-Course, £145 incl. VAT & Gratuity), French, Michelin 2-Star

The Ledbury is located in the trendy Notting Hill section of London. Its chef Brett Graham has been one of London’s most celebrated chefs. Its cuisine is considered vibrant, inspirational and seasonal.

I chose the 8-Course Tasting menu and started with Amuse Bouche.

Amuse Bouche

a). Mussel Mousse with Seaweed Cracker

At the bottom, there were some Kumbu dry seaweed for display only because they were not cooked yet. On top of it, there was a piece of fried seaweed cracker made of meshed rice and seaweed. On top of cracker, some mussel mousse with many tiny transparent balls. These were made by melting agar (unflavored gelatin) in hot apple juice and then drop it into cold olive oil. It was an alternative to dipping sodium alginate into calcium lactate. To boost the seafood flavor, some seaweed sprinkles were speckled on the mussel mousse. It was a light and flavorful appetizer.

Sourdough bread was served with cultured butter made by separating butter milk and fact during the whipping process and then adding ½ of butter milk back to the fat part. Butter made this way would be more flavorful and soft. What Ledbury practiced in making butter resembles what MAAEMO does.

b). Parmigiano Puff with Fowl Mousse

At the bottom, a biscuit made of puffed Parmigiano, not in pâte à choux style, which was topped by fowl mousse and fermented honey jell, an imported cooking method from Nordic. Parmigiano was medium flavored to make an overall balanced taste.

c). Muntjac Dumpling with Fruit Jelly

My server informed me there are 8 different types of deer in UK. This dish used Muntjac deer’s meat which is available all year around. Muntjac deer can be trained to be excellent pets, love affection and may become attached to the owner. Its meat is not too gamy, tasted almost like beef. Kind of feeling bad to eat them. Fig, apple and mustard were served on top of the dumpling to add depth and sharpness to the dish.

1st Course -  Chantilly of Oyster, Tartare of Sea Bream and Frozen English Wasabi

Oyster Chantilly was in cream sauce, with tartare of sea bream underneath. On the side, there were diced celery and caviar and freshly grated wasabi roots. Fresh wasabi gave a real punch to this course, bringing out the full taste of oyster, sea bream and caviar.

2nd Course -  Fresh Hazelnuts, Green Beans, Peach and Grated Foie Gras

At the bottom, there were sautéed baby string beans covered by shaved frozen foie gras and julienned peach slices. Foie gras was topped by sliced fresh almond, fresh hazelnut and roasted hazelnut. Peach added freshness and acidity to the mild-taste shaved foie gras.

3rd Course - Warm Bantam’s Egg, Celeriac, Arbois, Dried Ham and Truffle

Bantam (one type of chicken) chicken egg offered rich egg yolk. Poached egg yolk, in soft condition, was covered by celeriac, toasted bread, button mushroom, toasted crispy Serrano ham and Australian truffles. The type of Australian truffles used in this dish was different from what I had in Sketch, the day before, in appearance as well as in taste. The type that I had in Sketch was darker and with milder taste, and the one that I had in the Ledbury looked more like the French/Italian type with more mature taste. This dish, a perfectly balanced dish with the right amount of richness and acidity, was certainly my favorite course for the evening at the Ledbury.

4th Course -  Roast Scallop, Fennel and Elderflower Wine

Fresh and creamy Scottish scallop, with a licorice root kebab, was roasted to perfection. It was served along with diced fennel, raw sliced fennel, fennel purée, elder flower wine sauce and cep mushroom for the season. A little dill leave was adorned on the top. Licorice root gave depth and sweetness to the dish.

5th Course -  Hen of the Woods, Potato Emulsion and Rosemary

This was a vegetarian dish. A good size of Hen of the Woods mushroom (had a firmer texture) was soaked and cooked in Kumbu (the same type of seaweed served in the Amuse Bouche for display only) soy sauce and barbecue sauce. It was served on top of potato purée with rosemary emulsion and porcini powder sprinkled on top. This was my 2nd favorite dish for the evening.

6th Course - Sika Deer, Smoked Bone Marrow, Prune Juice and Roscoff Onion

The Sika deer also known as the spotted deer or Japanese deer, is a species of deer native to much of the East Asia and introduced to other parts of the world. Sika deer can either be small or medium, depending the area it happens to live. Autumn is the season for hunting Sika deer. It feeds on many different plants, grasses, herbs and fruits. The importance of good tasting deer meat lies more with the meat preparation. Venison is the meat of any species of deer. Sika meat, lean, has a slighter darker color resembling elk meat, but is less gamy than elk.

In this dish, Sika was roasted to rare-medium, served with Roscoff onion, date stuffed with truffled potato, truffled potato, venison sausage, smoked bone marrow and venison stew under the onion. Smoky flavor was subtle and delightful. Sauce was made of prune and meat juice.

7th Course -  Meadowsweet Cream, Plum and Timur Pepper

This was a pre-dessert. Meadowsweet herb cream was served with plum juice Granité and meringue with Timur pepper sprinkled on top. Plum juice Granité was very refreshing. There was also a small bite-size donut with plum powder. This was the palette cleanser before the major dessert.

8th Course -  Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Chantilly and Mint

It was comprised of mild-flavored mint ice cream, chocolate Chantilly, warm chocolate cake, vanilla Chantilly and frozen chocolate crumb. Mint provided the balance to the sweetness of chocolate.

Petit Fours

1).Juniper Berry – Caramel Stick

This is another import from the Nordic region. Although they look like berries, they are a type of conifer cone. Because of the presence of pinene, juniper berries have a mild pine-like scent and flavor with a light note of citrus. The berries are green when young, and mature to a purple-black color (look almost like blue berry) over about 18 months in most species. They are used both fresh and dried, but their flavor and odor are at their strongest immediately after harvest and decline during drying and storage. Native Americans as well as Europeans have used it not just as a seasoning but also as a nutrient. It tastes green-fresh, sweet, with citrus notes and resinous.  

2).Dark Chocolate Ball

A dark chocolate mousse ball coated with cocoa powder.

The night before my appointment at the Ledbury, I had a gorgeous dinner at Sketch. My experience at Sketch was so overwhelming in many aspects, it was my 2nd fine dining experience in Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant group. Without of doubt, quality, taste, flavor, creativity and presentation of food at the Ledbury were all up to Michelin 2-Star standard. However, quality of services at Sketch was absolutely impeccable, at least a notch better than what the Ledbury delivered.

At Sketch and Pierre Gagnaire (in Paris), whenever a guest (especially a female guest) showed movement of getting up from the chair, staff would fly to him/her to facilitate the process. When the guest was returning, staff would fly to move the chair to facilitate the guest get seated. I used the word “fly” because the staff were so swift in movement. However, at the Ledbury, staff would just stay aside and watch you when you were on your way back to your seat. They would not even attempt to move your chair.

The Tasting menu was well constructed at the Ledbury, its choices between light and more sumptuous dishes were well considered to provide different levels of taste and horizon. However, the dessert perhaps could provide a bit more complexity and attention, especially when my memory of Sketch was still fresh.

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