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
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.
Timing will always impact on dining experiences. Our trip out to Kew was on a lovely spring day, the sun was shining. It was also the day after our rather disappointing meal at Dinner by Heston, so we were desperate to have a very special lunch. The Glasshouse is the only restaurant in the Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants we had not been to and it most certainly delivered that special touch. There is nothing over-hyped about this place, it’s not somewhere to be seen, it’s just everything a good neighbourhood restaurant should be.
The food and service were spot on. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable Sommelier was delightful. Letting us try out some additional wines to compliment our food.
I started with the perfectly made salmon and skate ravioli and my companion went for the smoked eel, a stunning starter full of flavour. For main course I had something I am sure Heston would have called “Rock Pool” or “Seaside on a plate” and delivered with an iPod playing the sounds of the sea. It was an amazing looking fish dish with a crispy baby squid sitting on top of a bed of silver mullet, surrounded by more crispy squid rings and olives. The flavour combinations and texture were perfect, it tasted as beautiful as it looked. My companions main course was more conventional, he went for the delicious daube of beef.
The Glasshouse has a fairly comprehensive cheese board – lots of British cheeses, as well as some French and Spanish ones, so we decided to share a cheese plate. It was matched with multiple glasses of wine. Then for dessert I had some light moist ginger cake with rhubarb ice cream and a sauce that had the lovely intense flavour of ginger beer. My companion had the Rum Baba. The one dessert the sommelier did not match a wine with, being soaked as it was in boozy rum. However as the dessert wine list was extensive (it even included two different PX‘s), we just had to try more wine. I had a glass of the Ice Cider (my dessert was not an ideal match for this, but I just wanted more of the wine I had tried with the cheese), the sommelier also let me try some of the wine she would have matched with the ginger cake, it was a smooth and subtle wine that complimented the ginger flavours in my dessert beautifully. My companion went for the raisin flavoured PX.
We drank a bit more than planned, but left the restaurant happy and in no doubt that we would return again. Indeed we are thinking, maybe it’s time to repeat the whole Nigel Platts Martin circuit again, starting with La Trompette.
The new restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental may seat 140 guests, but getting one of these seats is not easy. We reserved our table in January not long after the booking lines had opened and got the earliest table available, which was a 2.30 lunch sitting in March. This meant we had been looking forward to “Dinner” for what seemed like ages. Could it possibly live up to the hype or more importantly to my mind could it justify the loss of The Foliage?
Interestingly there does seem to be a restaurant review pattern, in that the food bloggers are less wowed than the professional critics. A pattern I am afraid we find ourselves following. To be fair Heston in interviews has emphasised that Dinner is not trying to be a fine dining restaurant, it is not an outpost of The Fat Duck. The staff also made that very clear to us on our visit. So we tried hard to adjust our expectations accordingly.
During the summer months the terrace overlooking Hyde Park will be used for al fresco dining and it may well take until the summer to get a reservation. The Restaurant is apparently fully booked to the end of June. Reservations are even being offered as prizes and being sold on ebay!
It was really nice to be greeted by the last two surviving members of the Foliage staff. As a welcoming treat we were given a sample of the famous Meat Fruit, enabling us to effectively “tick the box” on that one. It was a perfectly fine chicken liver parfait cleverly shaped like a Mandarin Orange in homage to the hotel. I then ordered the Hay Smoked Mackerel starter with lemon salad, Gentlemen’s Relish and olive oil. I found it to be a tasty and refreshing dish. For main course I chose the Pigeon, which was delicious, but in retrospect did not really justify the price which was actually more than the cost of the entire set menu. The standout dish for me was my dessert choice – no not the famous Tipsy cake with pineapple. I was a bit more adventurous. I went for the Brown Bread Ice-Cream, even though I had been warned and perhaps a little put off by it being described as having savoury elements. It was unusual, but for me it really worked with the yeasty Ice-Cream contrasting well with the caramel sauce and oats. I found it really quite moreish.
My companion was less successful with his choices. He started with the Rice and Flesh which combined flavours that he did not particularly enjoy. He also ordered the Powdered duck. The meat was moist with subtle flavours but he did not like the contrasting hard fennel. On the whole he felt that the historically inspired flavour combinations were a bit incongruous, sadly reminiscent of the cooking style at Oliver Peytons National Dining Room.
He then had what he described as the “Krispy Kreme” doughnut like Tipsy cake with spit roasted pineapple. The Tipsy cake was OK but the smoky after taste from the pineapple chunks was less successful.
We finished the meal on a “high” note though with a small cup of Earl Grey ganache and some caraway biscuits. This was rather playful in that it conjured up the taste of accidentally picking up and drinking a long discarded cup of cold tea – until the sugar rush kicked in! This sweet treat seemed to be closer in concept to the type of food served at The Fat Duck than to Dinners historically inspired menu.
The restaurant with its £4 million make over looks good, but not stunning. With that sort of money I expected this flag ship restaurant to have the same level of glamour as achieved by Moments at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona for example.
It was also strange to find ourselves seated at the same table location as we had during our memorable last meal at the Foliage. Maybe it was just a coincidence or perhaps it was intentional, indicating the level of customer care the Mandarin is famous for.
After our late lunch we met up with some friends in the adjoining Mandarin bar for a quick drink that lasted about 6 hours! The cocktails were on the whole really enjoyable, served by the super efficient staff. One annoyance was that they no longer offer bar food, just the room service menu if you are a resident. I suspect this is a side effect of losing the The Park Restaurant.
So in conclusion I have to say unfortunately Dinner is not somewhere that I would rush to return too. Indeed if in Knightsbridge, I would be more likely to make a return visit to Koffmans or perhaps even Bar Boulud. We have no doubt that these changes will bring financial and critical success to the Mandarin Oriental and certainly getting Heston to open his first London Restaurant here is quite a coup, but from our perspective sadly we feel that the Mandarin has lost more than it has gained.
UPDATE : October 2011 : The 2012 Michelin Guide has unsurprisingly awarded Dinner a star.