This blog is not a restaurant review blog. I don't eat out enough for a start. And if I did eat out more I'd probably be even plumper than I already am. But I hope that you will indulge me the odd swerve from the path of WW righteousness once in a while (!) for some full on Food Porn.
We went to The Ledbury a couple of Saturdays ago you see - two Michelin stars and much praise from People Who Know. And I really, really wanted to write something witty and fabulous to pay tribute to such a gorgeous meal. But when it came down to trying to write some notes about it, all I found myself scribbling was “Food = VG”. Then I started doodling daisies. Yeah, Fay Maschler must really be trembling in her boots.
But I really don’t know how to be more eloquent about it. After every single course I wanted to send a request back to the chef to send me out a second, supersized version. After every single course I wanted to pick up the plate and give it a damned thorough licking. In fact, D succumbed to this, perfectly understandable, urge at one point (well, ran his finger round and licked that, almost the same thing) and got caught out by the charming Aussie sommelier. Who laughed, but agreed with D’s assertion that there can be no greater compliment to the chef than to risk turning oneself into an object of ridicule in a crowded dining room.
I suppose (and this is by no means a criticism) it wasn’t desperately exciting. And exciting is a dangerous adjective when applied to food: exciting can mean tongue tingling new combinations of flavours, can mean theatre and fireworks, or it can mean (and I have said this in both The Fat Duck and Noma – regarded as two of the world’s best restaurants) “I just don’t like this.” There were no dizzying highs, when I felt sure that the dish in front of me would be remembered for ever as one of the pinnacles of my foodie experiences. But equally, there were no dips down from the level of “Wow, this tastes so gooooood. Waiter, bring me a bucket of them there rabbit beignets and don’t spare the pine salt”.
Picking a favourite dish was tough. My Dad was all about the meat: he couldn’t decide between the melting pork cheek which was slow cooked with liquorice and spices, and served with a smear of bitter chicory and little spots of soft, honeyed sherry jelly, or the equally tender beef short rib which was accompanied by a cloudy mouthful of buttery mash. I mean, pomme puree.
Because we were having the tasting menu, there was no element of choice as to what we were served. Perhaps that is why I remember the puddings as slightly underwhelming: the caramelised banana tatin with peanut parfait was lovely, but I’m always slightly disappointed when I have a pudding that is not chocolate. The three of us did sterling work on the impressive cheese board though, picking fourteen of the twenty odd on offer between us, to the slight bemusement of the waitress who had evidently assumed we would want one cheese course between three. D fixed her with a somewhat steely glare. “We like cheese,” he said.
Of course it was expensive. You don’t go for a lunch at a top London restaurant, order the tasting menu and attendant wine flight and expect any change out of can’tbringherselftosayanactualfigure quid. But I believe they do a very reasonable set lunchtime deal which I will definitely be trying to persuade friends along to next time I’m down in London. I’ll be aiming for a secluded table in the corner as well, so I can indulge in plenty of plate licking without the risk of being spotted.