West London

Not only do I love cooking at home, but I also enjoy eating out. Here are some reviews of restaurants I have enjoyed; I only review those that I would recommend as life is too short to write about bad food!!…

*I’d love to hear about any restaurants you would recommend – contact me here!…

The Ledbury, Notting Hill, W11

June 2022

Before Covid hit our shores, The Ledbury was my absolute favourite restaurant; having two Michelin stars it was rated among the top 50 restaurants in the world and was considered one of London’s very best. It was the restaurant where Nick and I would celebrate special occasions, it was our ‘go-to place’ for a treat. So, when just after the start of lockdown chef and owner of The Ledbury, Brett Graham, announced that he would be closing the restaurant, I was genuinely gutted; walking past the abandoned premises in Notting Hill just a year ago, I felt almost bereaved to see the neglected state of the once beautiful restaurant. However, joy of joys, at the beginning of the year there were rumours of a return, and by March the doors of The Ledbury were re-opened. Unsurprisingly it was nigh on possible to get a reservation, like us there were lots of guests who were dying to return (despite the cost!), but finally, we managed to get a table for last Saturday night…

Naturally, the hiatus has allowed Graham to rethink, and The Ledbury has been relaunched with a new interior which reflects a more modern approach. I will be the first to admit that I’m not good with change… I saw nothing wrong with the ‘old’ Ledbury’s interior, it was on the right side of formal, warm and intimate. So arriving on Saturday night to the new ‘sexier’ interior was a little disconcerting, admittedly it was very stylish, a bit more glam, but interestingly, the new furnishings had changed the acoustics of the room – it was noisier, which slightly niggled me. Previously, The Ledbury had been renowned for its front-of-house; the service was always incredibly polished, yet fantastically friendly – you were valued and spoilt. We were thus apprehensive as we knew that the restaurant manager had left and feared that this service wouldn’t be as we remembered it. Fortunately, there were a couple of familiar faces and the service was as good as ever; once we were settled at our table enjoying drinks and canapés, everything felt, almost, as good as ever.

Having ticked the boxes for the ambience, I was ready for the tasting menu. They only serve an eight-course tasting menu these days, but they are very flexible with dietary requirements – they had duly noted that I was gluten-free and one of the canapés had already been fantastically substituted. Our first course was ‘Cornish Crab, Cultured Cream & Frozen Citrus’, this was stunning, the crystals of citrus fruit beautifully lifted the crab, it was a delicate dish with subtle explosions of flavour. Equally impressive was ‘Hand Dived Scallop, Radish, Seaweed and Dashi’, it was a winning combination of the flavours – the sweetness of the scallops was matched by the salty dashi, I literally could have lifted the plate to my lips and drunk the delicious broth! The next dish, ‘Warm Hen’s Egg, Brassicas, Pigs Trotter & Truffle’, was a ‘blast from the past’, it was a signature dish that I remember from the ‘old’ Ledbury, yet slightly different. There were still the wonderful flavours of truffle, with the incredibly fresh egg yolk and the saltiness of pigs trotter but there was the addition of brassicas (a kale-type leaf) and perhaps less ‘ham’, I think I preferred the original version, but either way, it was still delicious. The following ‘Grilled Turbot, White Asparagus, Cods Roe Hollandaise & Sorrel’, was a perfectly cooked piece of fish, with a rich yet light sauce which had fresh lemony overtones with bursts of saltiness from the cods roe. Our fifth course was ‘Mushrooms from the Cabinet’, and yes there really is a mushroom cabinet which guests can peruse if they visit the bathrooms! Cultivated in the restaurant, they must be the freshest mushrooms you can taste – and yes this dish was very tasty, I particularly enjoyed the meaty ‘hen of the woods’ mushroom. Next up was ‘Suffolk Lamb, Caramelised Cream, Wild Garlic & Morel’, it was simply a beautifully cooked dish, with a wild garlic sauce and a crispy ‘potato cone’; both the flavours and textures were perfectly matched. The ‘Verjus Meringue, Kaffir Lime & Olive Oil’ which followed was one of my favourite dishes. After the richness of the preceding plates, this citrusy pre-dessert was fresh and stunning to the taste buds – wonderful! Finally, ‘Sweet Woodruff Tart, English Strawberry & Toasted Vanilla’ was a dessert which I didn’t have due to its gluten content – but Nick ate it very quickly which convinced me that it was one of the best desserts he’d had for some time! My dessert was equally thrilling, ‘Chocolate & Mint’, was a rich and fresh, balanced dessert.

So, the verdict –  the ‘new’ Ledbury vs the ‘old’… Well, there is no denying that the food we had last Saturday night was luxurious and dazzling. There were stand-out dishes such as the crab and the scallops, together the dishes promise to regain The Ledbury those Michelin stars and take it back to the top of its game. I need to get over my sentimentality for the ‘old’ Ledbury and of course, the only way to do that is to return for another ‘special occasion’ by the end of the year…I’m already looking forward to it!… (I’ll let you know how it goes!)

The River Café, W6

August 2021

Normally we spend our summer holidays in Italy, but as visitors from the UK are still required to quarantine for five days, we have been unable to visit. We have been particularly missing the wonderful Italian cuisine, and so we decided that if we couldn’t go to Italy we would have to settle for the next best thing…a meal at the River Café! The River Café is the mother of good Italian restaurants, it opened in 1987 originally as a canteen for Ruth Roger’s husband’s architectural practice and went on to win a global following, and publish a few cookbooks. If I’m totally honest, we haven’t dined at the River Café for some years, as due to our regular trips to Italy I have become a bit of an ‘Italian food snob’ and it irks me to pay the high prices which the River Café demands for food which I can get cooked just as well on our Italian travels. However, needs must and due to the current aforementioned circumstances, we decided that it was time to revisit. Getting a reservation at the River Café is no easy feat (another thing that irks me!); we booked our recent table for Sunday lunch back in May. When we booked, I had imagined that in August it would be at least sunny and we would be able to eat al fresco on their wonderful terrace on the banks of the Thames…but I was forgetting that this is England, not Italy, and indeed on our Sunday visit it was not just raining but pouring!… This wasn’t a bad thing though, as I had forgotten how much I liked the dining room – it seems to have changed little since its opening, it has a very early 90’s feel with an open plan, canteen-style that still manages to be elegant; its retro style brought back good memories.

The menu took us straight to the heart of Italy; there were antipasti including calamari, prosciutto with white peaches, pizzette and mozzarella di bufala whilst main courses included chargrilled leg of lamb with wood-roasted tomatoes and a veal chop roasted with capers & lemon. I did my best to ignore the prices and forget the comparable Italian cost, and instead enjoyed the moment, ordering the ‘Crab with Sorrento Tomato & Basil Aioli’ for my first course, whilst Nick ordered the ‘Ravioli with Mushrooms, Ricotta & Thyme’. Upon the first taste of these dishes we were smiling, yes, what a great decision it was to return to the River Café, how could we have left it so long?! The beautifully fresh crab was complemented by the incredibly sweet tomatoes that were undeniably Italian – it was simple chemistry on a plate, Italian style. Nick’s pasta lived up to his high expectations, it’s melt in your mouth texture was wonderful with the mushroom and ricotta, and a hint of thyme. The second courses were just as incredible, I chose the ‘Turbot Wood-Roasted with Clams, Basil, Zucchini Flowers and Spinach’,  it was a generous portion, cooked to perfection and complemented with baby courgettes with its flowers, spinach, and wonderfully plump clams. Nicks ‘Wood-Roasted Boned and Rolled Rabbit with Pancetta, Fresh Cannellini and Summer Truffle’ was equally flavoursome, the rolled, stuffed rabbit was incredibly moist and perfectly matched with fresh cannellini and summer truffle. Finally desserts, well naturally I had to have their famed ‘Chocolate Nemesis’, only recently I shared this recipe on MenuMistress (find the recipe here!), it was exactly how I had remembered, wonderfully rich and chocolatey – pure chocolate heaven. We also shared the ‘Pannacotta with Vanilla, Grappa Nardini and Roasted Peach’, it was a perfect pannacotta, just set and very creamy, served with white peaches – their delicate sweetness really made this dessert.

Our meal was fantastic, yes it was expensive for what appeared to be a simple Italian feast, but there could be no denying the quality of the carefully picked ingredients which truly sang on our plates, all perfectly seasoned and cooked. In fact, it was so good, that on returning home we went online to get a table for another Sunday lunch…it looks like November, if we’re lucky!…