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Launceston Place, London [Restaurant Review]

Monday, 21 December 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Another restaurant that has garnered a lot of attention from the food blogging community, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. Also, I hear that although the head chef Tristan Welch is famous enough (previous head chef of the two Michelin starred Petrus), his junior sous chef Steve Groves has been the one gaining all the attention (and autographs) lately with him winning in BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals 2009 competition.

We also heard that the lunch deal for a set three course meal for £20 is pretty good especially as several little titbits are provided. However, we ended up with me ordering from the cheaper £20 set menu whilst the PigPig chose from the more expensive £45 menu as we wanted to try several choices from that one.

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We were the first to arrive on a terribly cold day with the first snowfall of the year (in London anyway) and were shown quickly to our seats, which were incredibly comfortable. I wish more restaurants employ this arrangement of the sofa-couch-like seats at the side.

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Soon after our arrival we were given a pre-starter snack of devilled parsnip crisps. It was quite a light snack to have, particularly as it was baked rather than deep fried.

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The amuse bouche was also quite interesting; a hot and cold leek soup. Lots of taste and flavour here and the contrast in temperature between the two layers make it more interesting. I do wonder if it was a bit too heavy to start a meal with though; it was quite a decently sized shot glass too.

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Starter 1:Potted Foie Gras, Maldon sea salt”. I have to admit I‘m fairly boring as I tend to order foie gras whenever the chance, but it’s really hard to resist the urge to. I’m certainly glad I did order it on this occasion too as the rich and decadent foie was simply superb. I do question the motive behind the salt though as it was already plenty salty without it. Another minor complaint is the toasted bread which I found too crunchy and was already a bit on the lukewarm side rather than toasty warm when I got my grubby hands on it.

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Starter 2: Partridge cooked in whisky and heather, oats”. The partridge meat was done just nicely and the oats provided a nice way to first soak up the whisky sauce, and also to give a slightly different texture to the meat. I would have preferred a little more whisky to the sauce but that’s arguably being nitpicky. The PigPig found this a more delicate dish with more subtle tastes; I started on my foie gras first and found it a bit difficult to fully enjoy this after the very strong foie taste.

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Main 1: Braised Wild hare, pistachio butter, chicory and pear salad”. The hare came in a bowl topped with the very rich pistachio butter. Unfortunately, the combination of the hare’s gamey-ness and the sheer richness of the pistachio butter was a bit too overwhelming for me, even though the hare itself was melt-in-your-mouth tender (a bit too much like butter in fact) and very flavourful. The chicory and pear salad also wasn’t strong enough to cut through the richness of the meat; in fact, little blocks of blue cheese were littered throughout the salad which made it even richer!

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Main 2: Salt marsh lamb, sea beets, crackling and salt baked potatoes”. As the waitress said, it was perfectly “pink in the middle”. Anyway starting with the crackling, it was a first for me (lamb crackling) but it was so good I wish I had it more often; perfect blend of crispy skin with juicy tender meat sandwiching a delicious layer of fat. I felt the chef was a tad too liberal with the salt over the lamb though.

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The potatoes were wrapped in cling film along with the salt at the bottom, presumably to seal in all the flavour. Unfortunately, this was far too salty for my tastes and although it was a cute trick, it didn’t work for me.

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Another little snack provided as a palate cleaner was a pear sorbet on a bed of mulled wine foam. It was certainly a very interesting concoction and the pear sorbet was nice although perhaps it could have been a little sharper while the mulled wine gave a nice spicy flavour. I like the attention to detail in the creation of this little thing by the addition of the little crackers on top to give more texture to the dish.

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Dessert 1:Banana sticky toffee pudding, Guinness ice cream”. This was one of those desserts that was truly made in heaven. We actually started with the soufflé first and thought that good so by the time we got onto this I was really surprised. I started taking a lick of the Guinness ice cream first; such a superb little thing, full of the Guinness flavour but tempered (and not overpowered) with the sugar and cream. If that wasn’t good enough, the banana sticky toffee pudding was even better! Truly sticky rich toffee flavour made even better with banana power. More please.

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Dessert 2: Rice pudding soufflé, raspberry ripple ice cream”. We ordered this mainly because we were curious what a rice pudding soufflé was; it turned out to be essentially a soufflé but with rice scattered throughout it. The soufflé itself was pretty good, very light and with sufficient sweetness whilst the rice added an interesting textural addition. The ice cream was good but could have used more raspberry.

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Altogether the bill came up to £40 each including a glass of Margaret River red wine (at £10/glass) and a bottle of still water, excluding gratuity.

Food – 8.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 7.0
Value – 7.0

I can understand the hype about this place, even if one of the chefs weren’t a winner on a rather popular television show here; I thought all the dishes were by and large very good, with good attention to detail and execution. Particularly impressive was the inventive complimentary snacks throughout the meal.

Would I eat here again? I would be very keen on doing so.

Launceston Place
1 Launceston Place
Kensington, W8 5RL
Tel: +44(020) 7937 6912
Official website

Launceston Place on Urbanspoon

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