Tasting menus are becoming something of a rite of passage for the best restaurants in London – and nowhere has pioneered it better than The Ledbury
There are two words on the tip of every foodie’s tongue in London this year: tasting menu. Gone are the days of heading out to your favourite restaurant to choose your perfect a la carte option from a hefty list of equally mouth-watering dishes. Instead, many restaurants are offering diners the chance to sample a whole host of what they offer. Quite frankly, the tasting menu has taken the food scene by storm this year and Brett Graham, Head Chef of The Ledbury, has been leading the pack.
It’s perhaps not surprising that The Ledbury is at the forefront of this mini meal movement, having been voted 14th in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants and carrying two Michelin stars, which might have something to do with the ethos and sheer enthusiasm brought to the establishment by Graham.
‘It is very nice to be recognised, but it is a big team effort and we start each day trying to improve on the day before,’ he says on the achievements. ‘It’s so important to us to keep chipping away at the edges. We always look at how to advance our facilities for our customers.’
Having been popular in the 70s when chefs started to become really famous, tasting menus are surging in popularity again today with so many amazing chefs to choose from in the City. The main attribute of the success is that people can have a real taste of fine dining, with the excitement of knowing there are so many different elements to experience throughout the night.
‘A lot of people book so far ahead to come here and the tasting menu sells very well. I try to keep it as seasonal as we can,’ explains Graham. ‘It will generally be eight courses, plus the regular canapés and petit fours. Typically, the menu starts with a few vegetable-based dishes, a piece of fish and a couple of slices of meat.’
We would never want to be anywhere else now, we love working in Notting Hill
I am told that it is this variation that ultimately draws people in. The success of the eclectic choice here could stem from the Australian upbringing and training of Graham. A big factor in why this style of eating is so popular is born from the way in which a diner can experience so much in one sitting, instead of only getting a sample of what Graham has to offer. With the tasting menu, you find yourself getting a true hint of his background, a tone of his British influences and an overall sense of his Ledbury charm that he’s worked so hard to build too.
‘I moved to England from Australia in 2000 for a working holiday – I was 21 and I had only been cooking for four years, but I was then offered a job at The Square in Mayfair,’ he explains. ‘Five years later, The Ledbury opened.’ He tells me how, in Australia, customers prefer a more casual approach and this is something that can come through in his dishes, and can complement and contrast the skills he learnt at The Square. However, London taught him about diversity. ‘You can eat amazing Indian, Italian, French, Mexican, Japanese and have so many places to choose from,’ he says.
But he is firmly rooted in Notting Hill now, having just welcomed his first child to the world. ‘I’m doing my best to get some sort of balance in my life, but it doesn’t exist in this trade,’ laugh Graham. ‘Romilly has stolen my heart and my sleep!’ Despite this, though, Graham assures us The Ledbury and all that it offers is here to stay. ‘In the early days it was tough, we never had enough customers at the restaurant,’ he says.
‘But we would never want to be anywhere else now, we love working in this area. It’s a great place and has a really nice feeling. Bills, Ottolenghi and Coffee Plant are my favourite local places.’ So, if you want a true sample of the eclectic variation that a tasting menu can pull in through its different influences, then you heard it here first – head to The Ledbury.
127 Ledbury Road W11 2AQ; 020 7792 9090; theledbury.com