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Friday 28 March 2014

The Ledbury - The Cider Box - Whisky Live

Guest Post from Jane - 

I don't often venture far west, so when I do it's usually for something worthwhile.  Lunch at The Ledbury was such an occasion, so on a rainy Friday afternoon we set off on the walk from Notting Hill Gate. After fighting through the tourists of Portobello Road, the pillar-doored, four-story houses, endless designer baby clothes shops and estate agents selling flats for £4m my mind was full of images of a restaurant stuffy and for the privileged, not unlike Gordon Ramsay’s in Chelsea.

However, the atmosphere at lunchtime was nothing of the sort.  Formal yes, the service was as impeccable as you would expect for the two Michelin stars that adorn The Ledbury, but there was a warmth and laid back attitude to the place that was genuinely pleasing.

Brett Graham at The Ledbury
We opted for the three course set lunch menu at £37.50 (recently changed to a four course menu for £45) and the food did not disappoint.

To start I had Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Kabu Turnips, Seaweed Oil and Frozen Horseradish.   The dish came very cold with nicely balanced but subtle flavours. Certainly interesting and not something you eat every day, but lacking the intensity of the milk curd with morels that made up the alternative menu option.   For main I selected the Baked Chinese Water Deer with Juniper and Bone Marrow.  This provoked a deal of conversation around the table.  What is Chinese Water Deer? Do we want to eat it?  Resembling Bambi & Dracula's lovechild, it's a small fanged creature from east Asia. And in the hands of Brett Graham and team you definitely do want to eat it, especially with juniper and bone marrow.  Matched with a fantastic but modestly priced (for this end of town) Montepulciano, we were very happy.

Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Kabu Turnips, Seaweed Oil and Frozen Horseradish
Baked Chinese Water Deer with Juniper and Bone Marrow

Yorkshire Rhubarb Soufflé and Sorbets filled our table for dessert.  The soufflé was immaculately prepared and we've never tasted anything as good yet. Delicious.
All in all the lunch improved as the courses went on.  We felt that by opting for the set lunch menu we may have been missing out, but there’s no doubt that what we had was superbly arranged and we definitely got value for money (a not dissimilar experience to our time at the wonderful Martin Wishart’s in Edinburgh).

In stark contrast to the formality and food-centred Ledbury, I should mention a couple of stand-out events I attended this month.

The Cider Box put on a great afternoon in the sun on 15th March at Wigwambam at the Queen of Hoxton. Showcasing the best ciders from the country, they also matched it with some great pork burgers and chops in the teepee.  I particularly enjoyed the champagne-style Keeved cider, sweet and sparkling it was perfect for the first signs of spring.  The dry Wilkins also went down very well.

Dan Heath demonstrated his love for cider and extensive knowledge; coming from the West Country myself it hit a bit of a soft spot.  Keep an eye on their website for future events.

Dan Heath of The Cider Box

Dan Heath of The Cider Box

The annual Whisky Live event, held this year in the Honorable Artillery Company, Armoury House was its usual success.  For the price of a ticket (£36 half day/£48 full day) you get a dram glass and as many whisky tastings as you can handle.

It was good to see Few Rye and Bourbon (with Todd over from Chicago), Spirit of Hven and Smooth Ambler there, all presented by Michael, Geoff & co. at Maverick Drinks who are responsible for bringing some of the best craft and small batch spirits to the UK.  Stay tuned for a Maverick Drinks related post from Matt's night at Gin Sin soon.  I know Matt is also planning to track down Maverick's NY Distilling and Few in their natural habitat when he hops across the pond later this year.

Outstanding and interesting exhibitors for me included Old Pulteney, whose 17 year old was a fantastic discovery, and That Boutique-y Whisky Company (another Maverick product), with their 'Lost  Distilleries' special - a blend of six whiskies from distilleries that no longer exist including the scarce Islay Port Ellen (Diageo recently released 2,950 bottles of Port Ellen at £1,500 each!).

Compass Box also impressed as usual, passing around a rather special 10th Anniversary Edition of Peat Monster.  We chatted to Chris about their Spice Tree which went through a bit of a battle to be called Scotch - read the full story here.

Artwork for That Boutique-y Whisky Company

It was also great to meet Daniel Szor of the new Cotswolds Distillery which will release its first Single Malt in 2017.   The first limited edition of 5,000 bottles of ‘single estate’ Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky will be available for reservation and pre-sale at the end of March 2014.  In the meantime, Daniel and his wife Katia are creating Cotswold Dry Gin.  They will also produce a range of brandies and liqueurs made from local fruits and berries, as well as Cotswolds cream liqueur and a fortified sherry.

Balblair put a year on their whisky, rather than an age

Berry Bros & Rudd range includes Glenrothes, No.3 Gin & King's Ginger

Surprisingly drinkable 61.5% Poitin from Teeling Whisky Co.

El Dorado sneaking some rum in to a whisky festival

If this sounds like your kind of thing, try The London Whisky Weekender 16th-18th May in Bethnal Green ( or for smaller events the Whisky Squad are celebrating their fourth birthday this year - they offer small, specialised whisky events across London ( 

Finally some tips for the month:

Bermondsey Thai restaurant, Suchard, is an independent, affordable and reliable Thai near London Bridge.  I returned there recently and was not disappointed; service is rapid and food delicious.

If you happen to be enjoying the recent good weather in the Greenwich area don't be tempted by the myriad of ice-cream vans lining every tourist street, instead try some of the fantastic gelato from Black Vanilla.  The salted caramel comes highly recommended, and is the perfect fuel for a walk through the park to Blackheath for a freshly brewed craft beer or two at Zerodegrees microbrewery.

Seasonal specials include Chilli & Ginger, Turkey & Cranberry, Mulled Wine & Bourbon Salted Caramel

Square Meal

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

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