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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lunch(es) at The Ledbury: from excellent to better

(Visited July and August 2012)

The world hardly needs, let alone from us, an additional review of The Ledbury and Brett Graham, a restaurant and a chef that have (justly) received so much attention and accolades already. So here's just a memory, a celebration, of two great meals, ten days apart, that we had there in the Summer.

The first meal was chosen by us a la carte and was entirely fish (well, not the desserts), while the second was put together by the chef and focussed on meat. The dishes here look like the room and feel like the atmosphere, both elegant and unstuffy.

Here they like (for several dishes) the theatre of bringing the just cooked produce at your table before plating, like these roast scallops:

Already these whole chunky beasts on their seaweed bed would have been just fine as they were...But we are not in a barn, what do you think, so you get elegant plating and lovely brassicas as a bonus

Lobster with fennel and elderflower really tickles and surprises as a combination and is poetic to look at:

 The cooking of this salmon was just exemplary, dare we say maybe not supported by the flavour of the salmon, perhaps its quality high but not as stellar as that of the scallops

 By the way, the famous flame grilled mackerel (no picture due to the excess of them on the web) is really as simple as it looks, as good as they say, and a piece of genius as you hope. You cannot not try it.

This fish meal pleased us, made us feel good and happy with the world as an excellent meal should, it made us admire the chef's marvellous skills, but for some reason -probably more to do with us than with the dishes- it did not take our breath away, which is rationally inexplicable by looking back at these dishes.

But the meat meal did it. It almost made us switch to Tripadvisor mode and scream ohmygod this was the best meal of my life...

Seriously, the best or not, and what does the best mean anyway, it had that rare kind of consistently stunning quality and inexorable culinary logic.

Of all the delicacies above, genius is perhaps most apparent in one of the simplest, the fine green beans with powder of foie gras (i.e. frozen and grated), white peach and raw almonds. This is essentially a vegetarian dish with a non-vegetarian garnish. In this 'inversion' lies the greatness of this most suave offering.

Meat lovers will be happy too (excellent the pigeon with cherries) and so those with a sweet tooth: both the chocolate pave' with milk puree' and lovage ice cream, and the brown sugar tart with poached grapes and ginger ice cream looked and were memorable, a triumph of flavour balance.

Service here adds another gear to the already impressive machine that the Ledbury is. Really great and hard working professionals in the front room, with an evident degree of autonomy and capacity for initiative, a well drilled, well oiled, and pleasant team (Sam was in charge on both days, what a nice chap).

Not only were we happy because Graham attains extraordinary combinations of flavours while avoiding any infantile ostentation of techniques and 'molecularity'- the technique is all there, but it is at the service of the dish, it's behind it, it's not the dish: this is what we call mature cooking (in this, we were reminded of L20 in Chicago). We were happy also because this is 2* Michelin eating for the modern era: what a satisfaction to eat in a place whose every aspect, from service to cuisine, is at the pinnacle and yet does not subject you to tedious formalisms, conventions, obligations: hurray!

(Note: the photos are unedited, 'straight from the table', and AS ALWAYS, unlike some fellow bloggers, we paid for these meal)


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