Launceston Place – a star in Kensington

In our last review of Launceston Place a few years ago we raised the question – Why did this restaurant not have a Michelin Star?  That is not a question we need to ask now, as Launceston Place got its well deserved Michelin Star in last years awards.

We booked for Sunday Lunch, which is a pretty good deal at £29.50 for 3 courses along with those little extras that are typical of Michelin Star venues (the amuse-bouche and the appetizer).

The amuse-bouche of béchamel cheese in choux pastry was a good start, I certainly could have eaten lots of these rather moreish cheese profiteroles, and the caramelized onion and mushroom soup appetizer that followed was rich and tasty.

For starters we ordered Hot smoked mackerel with beetroot, apple, watercress and horseradish ice cream, and Poached Hens Egg with white asparagus, followed by Cornish cod fricassee of peas and broad beans, heritage tomatoes and new season Jersey Royals, and Iberico pigs cheeks, with caramelized apples, sage mash and barbequed Leeks.

Then for dessert we had the 70% Cru Virunga chocolate mousse, caramelized bananas, glazed raisins and chocolate sorbet and the Baked English custard tart with cox apple cooked in caramel and glazed puff pastry filled with Calvados cream, which was effectively a rather lovely deconstructed Apple Tart. The only negative on the food front was the bread, which consisted of a rather ordinary selection of brown bread and sour dough.

Launceston Place is a very civilized and relaxing venue and the staff were just as efficient, professional and friendly on this visit as they were on our earlier visits. I rather like that the Michelin star has not changed Launceston Place too much – it still has the same understated elegance and charm it always had.

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Medlar – under the influence

Anyone who has read our blog knows how much we appreciate Chez Bruce and the other restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin stable. The Medlar in Chelsea although not directly connected with that group of restaurants, is certainly influenced by them. The head chef Joe Mercer Nairne used to work at Chez Bruce and his business partner David O’Connor also managed front of house at Chez Bruce, The Ledbury and The Square.  So it was no surprise that we found that the menu and the service style was reminiscent of these restaurants.

I started with a lovely dish, Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce. This was matched with a glass of Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos St Yves 2007, a beautifully smooth fresh tasting wine that I could so easily have consumed by the bottle. My companion was not so enamored by the Lambs Tongue and Lentil salad which was rather dominated by the lentils, he did however very much enjoy the matching wine, a glass of  Egri Bikaver, Bolyki a smooth light red wine from Hungary.

For main course I had Cornish brill with Jerusalem artichoke purée, braised chicken wings, crisp pancetta and salsify, which was another good choice, this was matched with a Marlborough Pinor Noir. My companion also had a rather nice fish dish. The Roast cod with a ragoût of mussels, pieds de mouton and charlotte potatoes. It went well with a glass of Chardonnay, Kooyong “Clonale”.

The wines were selected by Clement Robert the UK young sommelier of the year 2010 and were uniformly excellent.

We knew we could not manage to squeeze in a cheese course, so went straight to dessert instead.  I had a rather good Chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream and my companion had the Almond panna cotta with PX, poached pear and ricciarelli. He really liked the panna cotta part of the dessert, but did not feel that it particularly went with the other elements.

The dress code here is fairly casual, although we did spot one chap who I am sure is on a fashion police wanted poster (there is a certain shade of pink that should only be worn by 5 year old girls).  The customers are very much the Chelsea set. We would not have been at all surprised to see the crew from that dire show “Made in Chelsea” swanning in.

The food at the Medlar is good, we enjoyed everything we ate, although the wine did rather eclipse a couple of the dishes. It’s not going to replace Chez Bruce as a favourite, but it’s pretty good for Chelsea.

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Chez Bruce – Mmm…mmm…mmm

I made our reservation at Chez Bruce at fairly short notice, so our table was probably one of the worst ones in the room. However I was just glad to have a table as even at Monday lunch time Chez Bruce was close to full.

Yet again they did not put a foot wrong on the service front or with the food.  All through the meal we could hear ourselves continually making “mmm” noises, which says it all.  The food is seriously good, well balanced complex dishes that look beautiful and taste wonderful.

My raw, cooked and pickled vegetable tartlet with aubergine and tapenade, was amazing – it was so light and the mixture of textures and flavours worked so well.  My companion also really enjoyed his Pork Belly with Summer Bean Salad, Chorizo and Salsa Verde.

For main course I had the Plaice with creme fraiche and basil sauce, smoked salmon, pancakes and cucumber – the pancakes especially were really moreish. My companion had the Seabass with  prawn tempura, oriental squid and bok choy salad and was really impressed by the flavour of the fish and its distinctive sweet and sour pork crust.

We then moved on to share a cheese plate – the cheese boards in the Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants are too good to miss. We then finished with the Vanilla, Almond and Raspberry tartlet and the Warm Poached Peach and Financier with Pannacotta and Ameretto, along with a couple of glasses of matching dessert wines. Leaving just enough room for a piece of the home made shortbread provided at the end of the meal.

We had a conversation with one of the waiters about Chez Bruces sibling restaurant The Ledbury, which he thought was on the way to its third Michelin Star and if that’s the case, Chez Bruce is well on its way to a second one, as the gap between them is not huge.

Chez Bruce is not just a destination restaurant, it’s a restaurant that makes you want to move to the area. Although in actual fact it’s not that hard to get to, as it’s just 2 minutes walk from Wandsworth Common train station, and there are frequent trains from Victoria with a journey time of 11 minutes.

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La Trompette – treating ourselves in Chiswick

Made a return visit after a gap of a couple of years to La Trompette in Chiswick.  The area was livelier than I remembered, lots more interesting shops and restaurants.

The weather was good so the full length windows were open to effectively extend the restaurant into the outside space.

We had a very relaxing meal, with good food and friendly service in very pleasant surroundings. This is very much the sort of place where you can enjoy indulging in the wine list and taking your time over the cheese board.

Out of all the Nigel Platts-Martins restaurants we have been too, this one is actually our least favorite, not that there is anything wrong with it. It is still a very good restaurant, it’s just that  The Glasshouse, Chez Bruce and The Ledbury are better. So if you are in the area this would be a real treat, but I still prefer to make the trip out to Wandsworth for Chez Bruce or Notting Hill for The Ledbury.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service  7

Ambience 7

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UPDATE: April 2013 – La Trompette has been refurbished since our last visit, it now has a more spacious dining room, private dining facilities and a new kitchen. There is also a new Head Chef – Rob Weston.

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Launceston Place – Impressive

So many reviews of Launceston Place ask the same question. Why does it not have a Michelin Star?.  It is a mystery, as Launceston Place has it all.  An attractive location, first rate service and some rather impressive cooking.

This was our second visit, the first time was 2 years ago when we indulged in the tasting menu. This time we were determined to stick to the set lunch.

I could not help but compare the set lunch here with last months set lunch at the Michelin starred William Drabble. At William Drabble’s I felt that the set lunch had been well under par (inferior cooking and ingredients). It did nothing to showcase that restaurant.  In stark contrast Launceston Place pulled out all the stops.  Providing lots of extras – the home made crisps to start, a small loaf of bread with pickled herring, a lemon posset pre dessert and little lemon sponges at the end of the meal. The only negative here was that it was hard not to make a mess when eating the bread.

Then there was the meal itself.  We started with a vibrant green watercress soup with smoked eel and poached quail eggs and a warm heirloom tomato salad with home made ewes curd. However  it was the main courses that stood out. I had the Mackerel which was quite lovely, both in respect of presentation and taste. My companion had the duck, which he enjoyed so much more than the duck dish he had at Heston Blumentals Dinner earlier this year. To go with these dishes we had a side order of Jersey Royal New Potatoes, they were smothered in butter, perfectly cooked with that wonderful earthy taste that epitomises Jersey Royals – just fabulous.

For dessert we both had the Treacle Tart with creme fraiche ice cream, very nice – especially when accompanied by a generous glass of PX. We were so pre occupied talking with the Sommelier about the history and variety of PX sherries that we forgot to photograph the tart, which was quite pretty before we demolished it.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.5

Service 7.3

Ambience 7.1

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UPDATE: April 2012 – There is now a new head chef at Launceston Place – see Press Release

UPDATE : September 2012, Lauceston Place has finally been awarded a  Michelin Star.

UPDATE: October 2016, Lauceston Place no longer has a Michelin Star.

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Maze – constrained by design

Maze has a very specific dining style. It focuses on smaller tasting sized dishes. It is definitely not a place to visit for a hearty lunch.

We chose from the 4 course set menu, going for 3 savory dishes and 1 dessert along with a flight of wine.  I remember enjoying the flights from an earlier visit, they work well in that they consist of one white, one red and one dessert wine. They were very good wines of the sort that would work well with most food selections, rather than being specifically matched to individual dishes.

One of the constraints we found at Maze was that the dishes were delivered in the order of the menu, which means you can find yourself starting with a meat dish and finishing with a fish dish. Another constraint is that the set menu is not very extensive, so even when it is just two people dining, you can not avoid having duplicate dishes. They are just served in a different order, as you can see from our example:-

1st diner had:

Course 1 – Pressed confit duck and foie gras, Waldorf salad

Course 2 – Braised veal shin, rocket pesto, white onion risotto

Course 3 – Loch Duart salmon, fondue of leek, vinaigrette of brown shrimps, horseradish

2nd diner had:

Course 1 – Braised veal shin, rocket pesto, white onion risotto

Course 2 – Loch Duart salmon, fondue of leek, vinaigrette of brown shrimps, horseradish

Course 3 – Szechuan-spiced Suffolk pork belly, chilli apple purée, bok choy

I have to admit that I found it a bit strange to be eating a dish that my companion was about to have as his next course. It did mean though that we could be in 100% agreement on the standout dish – the rather stunning Loch Duart salmon, with its wonderful flavour and texture combinations.

For dessert we both chose the attractively presented Hazelnut parfait, cherry sorbet and griotte cherries.

Alex Marks formally of the Foliage is head chef here now following Jason Athertons departure to open his own restaurant (Pollen Street Social) and we had hoped that perhaps Alex would bring in some of the artistic and culinary style we experienced at the Foliage. He was not in the kitchen on our visit, but it did rather seem as though the concept of Maze would perhaps be a bit too restrictive to allow that.

However despite the constraints and dainty portions, I have to say we did rather enjoy our lunch at Maze.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.1

Service 6.3

Ambience 6.5

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