A couple of years ago, me and EaZyD had a great meal at The Ledbury in Notting Hill. We went on a Sunday evening; the parking was easy; access excellent (no restroom facilities for the wheelchair user but, hey, that’s pretty usual); the atmosphere relaxed and the food was really good. We kept meaning to go back and finally made it this past weekend with a couple of friends.
Since our last visit, The Ledbury’s reputation has risen via a couple of Michelin stars, many glowing reviews and staff renowned for facing down rioters to protect their customers last year when London briefly exploded with a flash of civil unrest. I’m sure their higher profile is good for the bottom line but it made the booking process somewhat tortuous, due to limited availability. Despite my inclination to say “screw it” and go somewhere else, I persevered and we settled on a 9pm, Sunday evening time-slot with our party reduced to four from six as a consequence of the time.
Not having eaten out for several months due to the usual health issues, this time, involving paralysed facial nerves, compromised jaw function and a loss of taste bud sensation (not all fixed but compromise is something I am familiar with and at least I’d stopped dribbling, chucking food about and dropping dishes!), we were really looking forward to this meal.
We arrived and all was as we remembered. We were smiling, laughing, settling in and then, horror ... my opening glass of champagne was … yuck! Too heavy and with none of the light giddy bubbles that I love. Not a great start.
The menu choices sounded good but, ooh, the bread when it came ... such boring chunky slices. The ameuse-geules were ... OK and the starters were excellent - mine was a very yummy breast and leg of partridge with chestnuts, ham and mushrooms. Then it all began to go a bit Pete Tong.
Just one main course was declared delicious - a piece of deer if I remember correctly; two of us had fillet of brill which was fine but the crab on the side was lost and the accompanying cauliflower so al dente that I actually couldn’t cut it and even EaZyD struggled to do so. The final main course chosen was described as:
Native Lobster with Broccoli Stem, Natural Yoghurt
Sounds great, right? I nearly went for this. EaZyD did and it was horrid. More than that, a poor combination of ingredients - not something you’d expect in this restaurant, at this price. The vegetables al dente enough to break your teeth; a lobster too dry and horribly overcooked [sacrilege]; the spices too overwhelming and there was a slimy, greasy patina on the plate which was most unappealing. Not wanting to kick up a fuss and spoil the evening, EZyD manfully ate as much as he could and then we complained. Yes, it was too late for them to correct it but we didn’t want to wait around for it to be redone (it was, like, 10.30pm!) and they needed to know how poor it was before we moved on to desserts - always my favourite part of a meal.
Sadly, not here. Caramelised Banana Galette with Salted Caramel, Passion Fruit and Peanut Oil Parfait was not as nice as it sounded - the biscuity galette so tough, we’d have needed a hammer and drill to break it up. A spoon didn’t cut it … not literally nor figuratively. Two of us had chosen this, so again, not great. EaZyD ordered the passion fruit souffle which was delicious and they threw in a couple of other dessert plates to make up for the lobster disaster - the brown sugar tart with muscat grapes and stem ginger ice cream was way nicer than it sounds and the pave of chocolate disappeared very quickly too. Coffee, wines, fruity jelly sweets and chocolates - all good.
We wound our way home, thinking The Ledbury a nice place with nice people and who wouldn’t have a good time there with friends? Our evening was not spoilt by our gastronomic disappointment, we just felt let down by it. Maybe, they were just having an off night. It happens. But, with their reputation, at £120 per head, you expect a more even fine dining experience and there are a lot of really good London restaurants. None of us will be rushing back to The Ledbury or recommending a visit to friends.