The Ledbury: Do believe the hype (July 2013)

Prior to visiting the Ledbury, I read the reviews that almost gushed with praise and bent over backwards to laud the restaurant. My inherent scepticism wondered whether it really was all just too good to be true. After having dined there last night, the conclusion – unambiguously so in both my mind and that of my dining comrade – is do believe the hype and definitely go. It is worth every penny. The setting is wonderful, particularly in mid-summer, when the natural light flows in through the large windows and the judiciously placed mirrors along the back wall give the impression of spaciousness and afford great opportunities for people watching. The service (an area where many restaurants, sadly and far too often, fall down) could not have been better. Put simply, all the people with whom we interacted had the ‘right attitude’, they appeared genuinely to enjoy their job, and were evidently passionate about the foods and wines they were responsible for presenting. Passion is indeed a justly appropriate word to capture the whole Ledbury experience and chef Brett Graham (who put in an appearance in the dining room while we there) cooks in precisely this way, combining ingredients harmoniously and presenting his dishes artistically. My comrade and I both took the tasting menu, one omnivorous and one vegetarian, providing the chance to sample nine dishes each (amuse bouche and pre-dessert included). It was utterly evident that vegetarian food was not an after-thought here and each dish saw as much loving care attributed to it as did my more meaty and fishy options. Of the 18 we sampled in total, almost all received full marks in terms of taste, texture, combination and presentation. From my point of view, the flame grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, celtic mustard and shiso was a stand-out, while the pigeon was also close to amazing. My comrade particularly rated her heritage tomato salad and risotto of celeriac with wild mushrooms and parsley. The food was also undoubtedly enhanced by the pairing of wines, again with the same passion and dedication witnessed elsewhere. The range was impressive and our sommelier most knowledgeable (in a down-to-earth way) with particular highlights being Prum’s Riesling and Hamilton Russell’s Chardonnay. I didn’t even feel bloated by the end of the meal and would return tomorrow were it not for the price – although I believe there are few other places that can match the Ledbury in terms of an overall gastronomic event.