Friday, 29 November 2013

Pinbone, Woollahra - 23 Nov 2013


Following an afternoon of mingling with food bloggers, eating too much food (including the "world's biggest box of pork crackling" courtesy of Mr Crackles), and unwrapping and stealing each others presents at the Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas Picnic 2013, I thought it would be a good excuse to check out a new restaurant in Woollahra, Pinbone.

World's biggest box of pork crackling at the Sydney Food Blogger's Xmas Picnic 2013
First of all, a big thanks to ChocolateSuze and Grab Your Fork for organising a successful and fun event (and the weather for not ruining the party but still making us all worried)! For a recap of what happened at the picnic, see ChocolateSuze's and Grab Your Fork's write up.

Another group shot at the Sydney Food Blogger's Xmas Picnic 2013
Pinbone is the brainchild of chefs Mike Eggert (ex-Duke, Billy Kwong), Jemma Whiteman (ex-Three Blue Ducks, Berta and Billy Kwong) and front of house manager Berri Eggert (Mike's sister). The Pinbone team had been doing a number of pop-ups at other restaurants before becoming a permanent fixture at the space formerly occupied by Buzo. I had been eagerly awaiting the opening of Pinbone so I closely followed Mike Eggert's updates on FaceBook and Twitter. All I needed was an excuse to drop by and the Food Bloggers Picnic was just that since Pinbone was just a 5 minute walk away.

Bar and kitchen at Pinbone
Dining area at Pinbone
Pinbone is a smallish restaurant with seating for about 40 or 50 diners in the bar area, and dining areas upstairs and downstairs. I was seated at the bar area which had a direct view of the kitchen, so I could see Mike Eggert cooking and plating up my dishes :)

The menu at Pinbone consists of a number of snacks and plates that are designed to be shared (I have attached the menu below for your reference). The food here is uncomplicated, driven by seasonal produce and draws on flavour combinations from a number of different cuisines. The menu is set out like a shopping list, however you can ask Berri Eggert or any of the other friendly waitstaff to explain any dish.

Dinner menu

Snacks

Chocolate crackle, parfait ($4)
First up, I decided to order the chocolate crackle with a generous spread of chicken liver parfait on top. I have a weakness for chicken liver parfaits and this one was no different. Wonderfully rich, creamy, salty and just delicious. The pairing with chocolate crackle was brilliant. Is there anything that chocolate doesn't go well with?

Crab stick ($4)
Next snack is a crab stick, which consisted of a crispy sourdough topped with ricotta, crab and a dusting of fennel pollen. The flavours in this snack was a complete contrast to the parfait as the the flavours of the crab and ricotta here were clean, quite delicate and go well together.   

Sharing Plates

Pork and pineapple ($28)
The first sharing plate I tried was pork and pineapple. When I ordered this I actually forgot that I had just eaten a heap of pork crackling at the food bloggers picnic, how silly of me. This actually turned out to be the best dish I tried, so I was kind of happy that I had a double dose of pork.  

Berri explained to me that this dish is designed to be eaten with hands. The idea is to pick up a chunk of pork belly, dip it into the powdered mixture of nori, kombu and licorice root for a umami hit. Then have a piece of grilled pineapple, which cuts through the richness and fattiness of the pork belly. And then finish off with a bit of the herb salad to cleanse and refresh the palate for the next round of pork.

The combinations of flavour and texture here are really quite amazing. The pork belly consisted of precise layers of mouth-melting, tender meat, fat and crispy as pork crackling. All the other elements on the plate just work harmoniously with the pork belly; it was like a party in the mouth. The only problem with this dish is that the pork crackling does get stuck to your teeth.

Smoked eel, salsify, nameko
I think I was in a coma after that pork belly yet I wanted to try more food, so it was lucky that they offered to give me a half serve of any of the sharing plates. This was an enjoyable combination of pungent smoked eel shaved over the top of crispy pieces of pickled salsify, a root vegetable and some delicious and creamy nameko mushrooms.

Dessert

Corn, pannacotta and malt ($12)
I was intrigued by this dessert when I was reading the menu. It seemed to have more savoury elements that dessert ones. I love corn and since I have never seen corn used like this in a dessert, I was keen to try. I enjoyed this dessert as it was quite different, interesting and not overly sweet.

Everything in the dessert tasted of... corn (duh). It was like they extracted every last ounce of flavour from all parts of the corn. The corn flavour is quite prominent, which I enjoyed. At the base is a corn marshmallow. The texture is not really like a soft, fluffy marshmallow as there was a slight resistance as you cut through it. Then there is a corn pannacotta, which I thought was amazing! Just so wonderfully soft, smooth and creamy. On top were crispy bits of malt and corn kernels for textural contrast to the pannacotta and marshmallow. The dessert was finished off with corn syrup made from corn cobs and husks. The corn syrup was delicious, something that I would pick up the plate and lick clean!

So all in all, I really like what Pinbone are doing. The food is no-fuss, seasonally focused and just tastes good. I am a fan of the relaxed and casual setting. And the waitstaff working here are friendly, and attentive, so what's not to like about Pinbone. Pinbone also offers an all-day brunch menu on Sunday, so I hope to come back soon to try that.

Verdict
Highlight: Amazing pork belly served in a different way that was just mouth-watering!
Lowlight: “World’s biggest box of pork crackling” followed by pork belly is the ultimate gut bomb.
Overall: Pinbone delivers plates of interesting and tasty food. It's certainly a great venue to grab some friends to enjoy some great snacks and sharing plates. 7/10 (Great)

Pinbone


Address: 3 Jersey Road, Woollahra, NSW 2025
Contact no: 02 9328 1600
Website: http://www.pinbone.com.au/

Pinbone on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sixpenny & Co with Pasi Petanen - 10 November 2013

The Sixpenny menu is given a 'Cafe Paci' twist, Pasi Petanen's 'photato' pictured above
So I'm back at Sixpenny... again! I am a big fan of what Daniel Puskas and James Parry are doing at their tiny Stanmore restaurant, so I invariably find myself coming back to what is one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney (click here for my entry on a previous visit). 

On this occasion, I am here for their monthly event, Sixpenny & Co., where Sixpenny teams up with another chef to create a unique menu for that day. Sixpenny & Co. takes place every second Sunday of each month. For November, Sixpenny joined forces with Pasi Petanen of Cafe Paci. As soon as I found out that Pasi Petanen was cooking in the Sixpenny kitchen, despite being overseas, I immediately made a reservation. I have been interested in dining at Cafe Paci for some time, I just hadn't gotten around to doing it yet.

Pasi Petanen is the former longtime right hand man of Mark Best at (the formerly 3 hatted) Marque Restaurant. Pasi was head chef at Marque for 7 years before deciding to venture out on his own for the first time by opening Cafe Paci (in the former Cafe Pacifico site). As there is only a one year lease at the venue, Cafe Paci is a temporary restaurant.  So anyone wanting to dine here will need to be quick, otherwise they might miss out (including myself)!  


Something worth noting is that the Daniel Puskas, James Parry and Pasi Petanen are all featured in the latest issue of Time Magazine for their connections with 3 of Europe's top chefs, Alain Passard from L'Arpege in Paris and Ferran and Albert Adria of El Bulli fame (see the following link for an interesting flowchart: http://time100.time.com/2013/11/07/coming-to-you-from-a-restaurant-far-away/). I would have liked to have picked up this issue of Time Magazine beforehand so I could get them all to sign that page, but it hadn't hit the news stands yet. Oh well, I will just have to settle for eating food prepared by these three great Sydney chefs :)

The menu for today consisted of 6 courses. No menu was given to us beforehand, so the food that we were going to be served was going to be a surprise, which suits me fine as I like to be pleasantly surprised :) 

Snacks
In typical Sixpenny fashion, the meal starts off with a series of snacks, which are brought out and explained to us by the chefs. These bite sized treats are always cute, a bit of fun and impress the taste buds. The first snack brought to our table was...
 
Fish and chips
... the fine dining version of fish and chips. Both the fish and the chips were presented to us as thin, crisp, see-through sheets. It goes without saying that these were both delicious. The fish reminded me of a fancy prawn cracker. As my wife is a vego, I got to eat both fish crisps so twice the fun for me :D The chips I have had before as these are a regular fixture at Sixpenny. Thin slices of kipfler potatoes are bathed in salt and vinegar, yielding a damn good potato chip. I think they might have toned down the level of vinegar, which I welcomed as previous versions were quite acidic.     

Semi dried pickles
Next up were some pickled vegetables, which included beetroot sprinkled with matcha powder, carrot and turnip sprinkled with horseradish. I enjoyed the freshness and crispness of all these veges, but our favourite was definitely the turnip with that lovely pungent hit of horseradish.  

Blood waffle & spinach waffle
We were then served waffles, blood for me and spinach for the vegetarian. The blood waffle was clearly a Pasi Petanen creation given his Finnish background. The blood waffles were... bloody good! They taste a bit like black pudding, except thinner and crispier. The spinach waffle was also enjoyable although the spinach flavour is quite subtle. The condiments were a house made sour cream and a lingonberry jam, and both were amazing. We enjoyed the slight smokiness in the sour cream and its thick creaminess. The lingonberry jam , however was the real winner. I never remember lingonberry tasting this good. Then again the only other lingonberry jam I have tried was from Ikea!

Shapgpile prawns & Asparagus, poppy seeds
I had what is described to us as shagpile prawns. This was a deep fried prawn coated in finely grated yam. The end result was an extremely crispy, flaky and satisfying deep fried prawn; kind of like a tempura prawn.

My wife had a single spear of asparagus that was coated in poppy seeds. The asparagus was crisp and the toasty poppy seeds were really quite delicious and worked well here.

Bread

Sourdough bread & marscapone butter
Here is what I think is one of the best breads and butters in a Sydney restaurant. A piping hot sourdough bread roll with a brilliant crust and great flavour. The marscapone butter is creamy and to die for! Unfortunately no seconds were offered (or fortunately as I could easily fill myself up on these). 
 
Course 1 (prepared by Sixpenny)

Peas, beans & sour cream
Peas, beans and sour cream is typical of first courses served at Sixpenny. It's looks incredibly fresh, like something picked straight out of a vegetable garden. The bright, vibrant greens in this dish are just stunning and immediately captivate me. It's also a light dish and the flavours are very clean.  Everything here just works well. The freshness of the vegetables, with the sweetness and the cleanness of the sugar snap jus, together with the soft, creamy curds of sour cream is simply beautiful (or beautifully simple). 

Course 2 (prepared by Pasi)

Veal tartare, smoked bone marrow & prawn
The veal tartare was an enjoyable course with some great flavour combinations. The veal meat was of high quality and tasted wonderfully fresh and had a lovely soft texture that melted in the mouth. The rich and creamy smoked bone marrow was probably my favourite element of this dish. The grilled onions and the dried prawn floss were also nice touches. However I feel that this dish could strongly benefit from having something crispy for some textural contrast with the tartare.       

Eggplant, smoked capsicum, togarashi
My wife had this eggplant course in place of veal tartare. She enjoyed this a lot and I could see why after I tasted a little bit of it. I actually thought this was a stronger dish than my veal tartare. The eggplant was just divine with its soft, creamy texture. On top of the eggplant was a layer of smoked capsicum, togarashi (Japanese chilli peppers), puffed rice and sesame seeds. The spices in this dish were quite enjoyable and the the puffed rice provided that crispy texture that I was craving for in my veal tartare course.

Course 3 (prepared by Sixpenny)

Lightly steamed blue eye, toasted rye butter, spinach
My course 3 is a steamed blue eye that has been painted with a spinach and watercress puree and topped with toasted rye butter and a single deep fried sweet potato leaf. The blue eye was quite well cooked as the flesh was soft and moist. But the rye butter was a real standout in this dish and tasted unbelievably good. It was rich, buttery, nutty and tasted a lot like a caramel. One word of warning, the rye butter is highly addictive :)
  
Artichoke, toasted rye butter, spinach
Instead of the fish, my wife got a roasted artichoke and lettuce. Again, the rye butter really shines through here and tastes great with pretty much anything.  

Course 4 (prepared by Pasi)

Pear, turnip, onion, horseradish
My wife's last savoury course was a grilled pear, topped with slices of turnip and a whole heap of grated horseradish and sitting on top of a bed of onion puree. She thought that this dish was another winner. There were enough savoury elements here to prevent it from looking too much like a dessert. The cooked pear was still nice and crisp and not too soft. The pear was cooked with bay leaves and had some nice caramelised flavours. The horseradish gives the dish a bit of punch, which lifted this dish, and worked surprisingly well with pear. Both my wife and I agreed that we would like to see fruit used more prominently in savoury courses in Australian restaurants as we had seen in some top end restaurants in Europe.

Photato
Photato is Pasi Petanen's fun, contemporary take on one of my favourite traditional Vietnamese dishes, beef pho. I was impressed by pretty much everything here: the concept, the creativity, the presentation and of course the amazing flavours! This was my favourite course of the meal.

Potato noodles and lightly seared wagyu beef
Blanketing the plate is a very thin slice of Darling Downs wagyu beef (marble score 9+) that appears to be raw. However, the beef has been lightly seared on one side (for 5 seconds according to our waiter). The flavour of this beef was just amazing! Beautiful meaty, charred flavours with meat that just melts in the mouth, what more can one ask for!

Underneath the wagyu blanket are potato noodles that have been cooked in garlic butter. I loved, loved, (did I say, loved) these noodles! The noodles were thin and reminiscent of vermicelli in appearance. These noodles had a lovely crisp texture and were insanely addictive. 

This dish also came with a number of enjoyable accompaniments: crispy fried garlic chips; strands of enoki mushrooms; watercress leaves; grated horseradish; and a wedge of grilled lemon for an intense hit of citrus.

Course 5 (prepared by Sixpenny)

Whipped quandong jelly, lemon myrtle, frozen ricotta
Quandong is a fruit that I have never seen before much less try. It is a native stone fruit found in the dry Australian outback and has a flavour profile similar to apricot or peach. This was a light, refreshing dessert with components that go together nicely (having these on their own is a bit weird, so definitely need to have everything together). The whipped quandong jelly was like a light and airy mousse. The powdery frozen ricotta was creamy and just evaporated in the mouth. My favourite component of the dish was the lemon myrtle butter, which had some lovely citrus and floral notes.

Course 6 (prepared by Pasi)

Rye, camomile, white chocolate
Pasi's dessert was certainly different but it really worked. The camomile ice cream was a winner with its smooth creaminess and subtle hit of camomile. Underneath the milky foam was a mousse made from rye and bits of rye cookie dough. We both really enjoyed these chewy cookie dough bits and the malty flavour of the rye. The dessert was finished off with some shaved white chocolate.        

Dessert snacks
Another Sixpenny signature is the serving of dessert snacks at the conclusion of the tasting menu. The first dessert snack brought to our table was... 

Malt floss
... malt floss. This was a fun little snack that brought me back to my childhood carnival favourite sweet, cotton candy. Basically it tasted like Milo in the form of spun sugar, so it was yum!

Native ginger apples & rye macarons
Our last snacks were native ginger apples and rye macarons. The rye macarons were nothing like what you would expect from a macaron. Instead of being soft and slightly chewy, the rye macarons were rock hard, which I personally wasn't a fan of. My wife didn't mind these though. I liked the native ginger apples though. Nice crisp apple coated in sugar and ginger with a good balance of sweetness and tartness. 

This was another impressive meal at Sixpenny. I am a big fan of the Sixpenny & Co. concept as I love it when chefs collaborate to create awesome menus like this one (for another great menu created by 2 other chefs, Alessandro Pavoni of Ormeggio and James Viles of Biota, click here). I am sure I will be back at Sixpenny in the future as I will probably find another excuse to make another booking here (for Sixpenny & Co. or otherwise).
        
Verdict
Highlight: Photato was an amazing dish that really got me excited!
Lowlight:Nothing really as I pretty much enjoyed everything. The only thing I didn't like was the rye macaron and that was just me not liking its texture.
Overall: Three top Sydney chefs in Daniel Puskas, James Parry and Pasi Petanen cooking for you... can't ask for much more really! This meal gave me a glimpse of some of the great things Pasi Petatnen is doing at Cafe Paci. Guess I need to book a table at Cafe Paci soon before their lease up. 8.5/10 (Excellent)

Sixpenny 



Address: 83 Percival Road, Stanmore, NSW 2048
Contact no: 02 9572 6666
Website: http://www.sixpenny.com.au/

Cafe Paci
Address: Level 1, 95 Riley St, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Contact no: 02 9368 7000
Website: http://www.cafepaci.com.au/

Sixpenny on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Ledbury, London - 26 October 2013



My first of many, many posts about my food highlights from my trip to Europe in October is my dinner on a cold Saturday night at The Ledbury in Notting Hill, London. The Ledbury is a highly acclaimed restaurant that has a long list of achievements, including 2-Michelin stars, 13th best restaurant in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, and best restaurant in the UK in the Restaurant Magazine's National Restaurant Awards for three years running (until being knocked down to second this year).

The man behind The Ledbury is none other than Brett Graham, an Australian and a Novocastrian.  On the back of winning the Josephine Pignolet award for young chef of the year, Brett Graham arrived in London 13 years ago to gain further experience. With intentions to only stay for a year in the UK initially, he is still in London 13 years later. And he seems to be going from strength to strength with The Ledbury gaining worldwide recognition and another of his establishments, The Harwood Arms, being awarded a Michelin star.


The occasion on this night at The Ledbury was that my wife and I wanted to treat a close friend of ours (who from now on will be referred to as N) to a nice meal. N is not really a person who is into fine dining, quite the opposite actually as he has a love for KFC. But he was willing to give Ledbury a go as I assured him that he will have a fabulous time.  It’s the least we could do after all these years of friendship.

  
As the tasting menu is the only choice available on Friday and Saturday evenings at the Ledbury (a la carte menu is available on other days for dinner and at lunch), this made it easy, as all we had to do was let the restaurant know of any dietary requirements. I eat anything and everything; my wife is a vegetarian and N eats only seafood and vegetarian food. Once our dining options were discussed, we were more than ready to get things started :)

Bread
 
Bread and butter
Both the bread and the butter were really quite amazing. The bread had a great crust and as it was a multi grain bread, which gave it great flavour, it was heavier than most breads at other fine dining restaurants.  Once N had learnt that restaurants in Europe do not stop refilling your bread (and at no extra cost), there was no stopping him from asking for more bread throughout the night to mop up every plate clean. Both my wife and I started doing this. Good job N, you are learning quickly!
 
Bacon scroll
Malt bread roll
We were also given a choice of a bacon scroll and a malt bread roll. I went for the bacon scroll, which was just so flakey and so tasty that I wanted seconds, and N and my wife had the malt bread roll as they both can’t eat pork.

Amuse bouche

Gruyere tartlets
These little bite sized treats were just yum and whetted our appetites. Smooth, moreish gruyere cheese in a thin, crisp tart. These were gone in one bite so we were eagerly awaiting the first course.

1st course
 
Ceviche of hand dived scallops with Tokyo turnips, seaweed oil and 
frozen horseradish
The ceviche of scallops were the first course for both myself and N. This course was perfect to start off the tasting menu and ticks all the boxes for what a first course should do. The scallops were thinly sliced and a lovely sweet, delicate flavour and soft, velvety texture. Then you get the crunch and freshness of those round discs of turnips. The frozen horseradish was quite refreshing and adds a slight pungency to the dish. I found the seaweed oil to be a very interesting ingredient, almost reminding the diner where there scallops came from, i.e. the sea.

A salad of radishes with frozen horseradish and seaweed oil
As my wife is a vegetarian, she had the dish with radishes instead of scallops. She also enjoyed this as a first course and particularly liked the seaweed oil.

2nd course
 
A salad of globe, Jerusalem and Chinese artichokes, with walnuts, 
grated foie gras and pear
This salad of artichokes, walnuts, foie gras and pear was my second course. It was a very clever dish as it is able to successfully utilise a rather rich and heavy ingredient in foie gras and turning it into something that is really quite clean and refreshing. I enjoyed all the different artichokes used here and the crispness they had and the freshness they bring to the dish. The contrasting flavours from the bitterness of the walnuts, the sweet, juicy pears and the rich savoury flavours from the foie gras is really a stroke of genius on Brett Graham’s behalf. The foie gras was grated into fine grains and was icy so it just evaporated in the mouth. So all in all, quite a spectacular dish.

Poached cepes with 2 year old Comte, Wiltshire Truffle, black cabbage and 
a broth of grilled onions
Both N and my wife had this dish as their second course. This dish is all about that aged Comte cheese, a semi hard French cow’s milk cheese, with all the other elements there to showcase and accentuate the pungent flavours of the Comte. My wife made the observation that she had not ever seen a cheese based course presented in this way: a creamy, slightly stretchy cheese served in an onion broth, which actually worked well with the cheese with its sweet and clean flavours.

3rd course
 
Flame grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard and shiso
The flame grilled mackerel course that N and I had is a signature dish at The Ledbury and it is not very hard to see why. This dish was a whole new level of amazeballs, I really don’t know how to say how amazing this dish is in an eloquent way. I have never had such a good piece of cooked mackerel. I am a little sceptical of cooked mackerel at times as it is a flakey fish that can get a bit dry. But no such thing here. The mackerel was moist and flakey at the same time and that smokiness from the flame grill really takes the flavour of this dish to another level. The pickled cucumber really work well here and add some freshness and acidity to a dish that has a lot of big savoury flavours. And inside what looks like a rice paper roll are raw pieces of mackerel and avocado, a nice, clean way of enjoying mackerel to contrast the flame grilled version. This was probably my favourite course of the evening!

Baked beetroot with red leaves, Victoria plums and sourdough
My wife’s vego course was a highly enjoyable version of the tried and tested combination of sweet beetroots and creamy and salty goat’s cheese. The beetroot had an intense sweet and earthy flavour that we suspect was achieved through baking the vegetable in a salt crust. There were also some interesting fruity and acidic elements added here with plums and raspberries. These all work wonderfully with the beetroot and goat’s cheese.
 
4th course
 
Crisp quail’s egg with chestnuts, cepes and Wiltshire truffle
We all had the crispy quail egg course so we all enjoyed this course together. There was silence at the table. You could hear the sound of a pin drop, or is that the sound of crispy quail eggs being consumed? This dish was so good that it took the words completely out of our mouths, so we just stared at each other and had one of those ‘foodgasm’ moments (think Matt Preston on MasterChef when he eats something amazing). The flavours and textures in this course were spot on. A runny egg yolk combined with the pungent aroma and flavour of truffle (in this case from the strips of Wiltshire truffle and that creamy truffle emulsion) is one of my all-time favourite combinations. It is just so richly satisfying and delicious. The crispiness of the quail egg really does work a treat with all those rich, creamy elements. And to top it all off, you get the thin slithers of slightly sweet chestnuts and some lovely cepe mushrooms. I don’t know what else to say, except… just amazing!

5th course
 
Roast sea bass with caramelised cauliflower, crab and grains
Both N and I had the sea bass course. The roasted sea bass was cooked to perfection. The flesh was moist and delicate. And the skin nice and crispy. The sea bass was paired with a creamy cauliflower puree, tapioca, which I found interesting, and some crispy toasted quinoa. Even the cauliflower were amazing – great smokey flavour from the caramelisation process and had some bite (i.e. not soft as much and not too hard). Simply put, this was awesomeness on a plate!

Risotto of grains with caramelised cauliflower and sea vegetables
My wife’s vegetarian version obviously had the sea bass removed, so it looked like a risotto. My wife is not a fan of cauliflower at the best of times, and judging by the fact that she devoured them before I could even ask her what she thought, it was cooked to her satisfaction. In fact she said that if everyone cooked cauliflowers like that, she would be converted.

6th course
 
Root baked vegetables in clay and salt with lardo di Colonnata, 
figs and hazelnut oil
Baked vegetables in a salt crust is my favourite way of having vegetables. There is something about the cooking process which enhances the flavour of the vegetables and gives the vegetables the perfect texture. The root vegetables in this dish included carrot, purple carrot, and beetroot. The juices from the vegetables and mixed with a bit of hazelnut oil at the base of the plate are divine, stuff that you want to lick off the plate or mop up with a bit of bread. The root vegetables were bound together by a thin sheet of lardo di Colonnata (cured lard from Tuscany). The salty and porky flavour from the lardo really does bring out the sweetness and the flavour of the root vegetables, a perfect match really. There was also a crunchy strip of black cabbage, an artichoke chip and some pork scratchings to give the dish some crispy textural elements. So overall, an excellent course show casing vegetables – a winner in my eyes.

In place of lardo and pork scratching, my wife and N were served walnuts and pear. In essence, it was the same dish as mine.

7th course
 
Fillet of fallow deer with celeriac baked in juniper with a crisp potato
The speciality at Ledbury is game meats and with this final savoury course I could see why. The fillet of fallow deer absolutely blew my mind away. This along with the flame grilled mackerel were my favourite dishes of the night. The deer was cooked medium-rare and had a nice reddish-pink centre. The meat was so juicy, tasty and oh so tender, almost like poking into a sponge. I didn’t find the flavour to be too gamey at all. The caramelisation on the fillet and the meaty juices on the plate were just amazing. The icing on the cake was the small blob of warm bone marrow sitting on top of the deer. It was soft, fatty and smokey and works so well with a nice hunk of meat. Also on the plate was a sausage made from deer meat, which was wonderfully spiced and had brilliant flavours, and thinly sliced crisp potatoes cutely lined up in a row. Served on the side was a celeriac puree and an emulsion of juniper, truffle, sherry and spinach.

Roast Turbot with a grilled leek, Riesling, cockles and sea lettuce
The roast turbot was N’s last savoury course. Credit goes to him for taking this pic. If you ever get bored of your daytime job, maybe food blogging is an option. Or not? :)

From the first bite, N was raving about this dish. We had 2 other amazing fish courses this meal, but he reckoned the turbot was the best. I tried a little bit of this dish, but I beg to differ as nothing could touch that flame grilled mackerel in my eyes. The turbot was cooked to perfection I must admit: the flesh was soft and delicate in flavour and the creamy white wine sauce was superb.

Celeriac baked in juniper with chanterelles, hazelnuts and sherry
My wife’s vegetarian course was this interesting dish of salt baked celeriac coated with the ash of juniper berries. Celeriac is quite mildly flavoured on their own, but the with the distinctive flavour of juniper and accompaniments of chanterelle mushrooms, hazelnuts, scrambled eggs (yes scrambled eggs, according to my wife) and sherry, Ledbury takes the simple celeriac to another level. The flavour of juniper is hard to describe, except to say it tastes piney (think of gin as juniper berries are the main ingredient that gives gin its unique flavour). The same crisp potatoes in my deer course were also served in this dish.

Cheese (extra course)
 
Cheese trolley
We decide to share one serving of cheese (extra 10 pounds) amongst the three of us, which I think was more than enough. I am not much of a cheese person, so I let our guest do the honours in choosing which five cheese to sample from the cheese trolley. N is quite the cheese connoisseur, as he has been refining his cheese palate during his weekly rounds at Borough Market on Saturdays, sampling all the cheese at the different stalls. Definitely one of the perks with living within walking distance of one of the best food markets in the world - I am definitely jealous!
 
Cheese plate
The cheeses we decided to go with were a blue cheese, which I run many miles from; a goat’s cheese; a Chaource, a cheese similar to camembert; an 18 month Gruyere, my favourite out of the cheeses we tried; and a hard cheese, which even I found mild. The cheeses were served with a selection of crackers, grapes and walnuts.

Pre-dessert
 
Burnt meringue with lemon curd, lemon verbena and mandarin granita
For pre-dessert we had this deliciously, refreshing treat. The combination of citrus flavours from the sharp lemon curd, tangy mandarin granita and the lemon verbena ice cream were really quite amazing. An excellent pre-dessert and palate cleanser that left the table salivating for the final course.

8th course
 
Banana and chocolate malt tartlet
When I saw the banana and chocolate malt tartlet on the menu, my eyes immediately lit up. For some reason fine dining restaurants tend to stay clear of bananas in dessert. Perhaps banana is not a particularly graceful ingredient. The last time I had banana in a fine dining restaurant was at the now defunct Becasse, where I had an amazing banana creme brulee.

In any case, this dessert was just divine and an excellent course to finish what has been an amazing tasting menu. Everyone knows that the combination of chocolate and banana works a treat (just have a Nutella and banana crepe in Paris and you will see), and this dessert was no different. The chocolate was rich, smooth, gooey and to die for. Hidden inside the chocolate was a liquidy banana centre with small chunks of bananas. There was also some great contrasting textural elements in the dessert from the thin, crispy tart pastry, the thin caramelised tuile, hazelnuts and chocolate dirt. Overall, this was an excellent dessert utilising familiar yet delectable flavour combinations executed in a classy manner.

And some petit fours to end one of my best meals ever
Wow what a meal! Everything was practically perfect at The Ledbury. It goes without saying that the food was delicious. The tasting menu is very well constructed, with an excellent progression of courses from start to finish (we later found out that Ledbury had only just rotated to a new menu on the night). Sharing great food with amazing company is of course the best thing about eating out. N called this meal “easily the best meal of his life”; this made the meal all the more special for me. And as we were leaving the restaurant, my wife mentioned to the maitre d’ that we were from Sydney and enquired whether Brett Graham was in the kitchen tonight. The maitre d’ said he was and then offered to take us down to the kitchen to meet Brett. Wowsers, I certainly was not expecting that! I never ask to see the kitchen at any restaurant or the chefs, since being a quiet person, I just don’t know what to say to them or get in their way!

Brett Graham with 3 highly satisfied diners
I had nothing to worry about really, Brett was really friendly and easy to have a conversation with. Once you speak to him, you quickly realise what Ledbury is all about and what makes him tick. He is dedicated to and passionate about his restaurant (he calls Ledbury his baby), and what he cares about the most is making sure that his customers are happy. He is so devoted to the Ledbury that he spends most of his time in The Ledbury kitchen putting in the hard yards with his staff. I also wanted to tell him that my wife and I had just travelled around Europe eating at a few 3-Michelin star restaurants and we would rate our meal at The Ledbury alongside, if not better than some of those meals. Brett Graham has a restaurant that he should be extremely proud of, leaving customers, like myself, raving to others just how amazing Ledbury is. But I did not get a chance to, as the kitchen was clearly still quite hectic and we were probably getting in their way, so we quickly got a picture with the man, and were off on our merry way, hoping that, one day, we will be back at The Ledbury. 

Verdict
Highlight: It is hard to separate the flame grilled mackerel and the fillet of fallow deer, as both were top-notch dishes at a Michelin starred establishment. Also, getting to meet and talk to the man behind The Ledbury, Brett Graham, was a high.
Lowlight: We Australians have lost such a talented chef in Brett Graham to the UK. Plus he has married an English girl not too long ago, so he won't be coming back to Australia anytime soon. Good news for London, bad news for Australia.
Overall: The Ledbury is a special restaurant. The food here is amazing. The d├ęcor of the dining room is nice and the atmosphere is relaxed. The service is friendly, professional and attentive. Great place for a special occasion or to finalise a business deal. The Ledbury is my pick for the next restaurant in London to be awarded 3 Michelin stars, so catch it whilst it’s hot. 9.5/10 (Outstanding)


The Ledbury

Address: 127 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AQ
Contact no:+44 20 7792 9090
Reservation tips: Reservations are taken 2 months in advance, with new bookings released on the first day of each month e.g. reservations for February are available from 1 December. Bookings can be made either by phone or online. A table at The Ledbury is a hot ticket and is possibly the most difficult reservation to get in London at the moment, especially if you want Friday or Saturday evening. So I suggest securing your reservation as early as possible (and doing so online rather than calling to avoid answering machines). The online reservations are through Toptable, so it is quite simple to fill out: all you need is a telephone number for reconfirmation closer to the date and a credit card to secure the booking. Be flexible if you are not fussed about when you want to dine at Ledbury. Lunch and weekdays are definitely your best bets. Otherwise just keep trying and good luck. You certainly won’t regret it :)
 
More posts on my food highlights from my recent Euro trip will be coming soon at http://foodmab.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/food-highlights-from-my-euro-trip.html

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