Hibiscus. Thank God I liked it.
I confess. I was a bit put off by the rather unattractive spat between Claude Bosi and a hapless would-be blogger and there were so many other places I wanted to try as well. So I’d left it. But it was a Friday, I’d dragged C into London and I felt like a bit of faine daining. And C doesn’t get out much and when he does, he doesn’t want to spend it queuing for the latest mediocre burger offering from across the pond.
And whilst this is high in the Michelin firmament, it isn’t in the Ledbury popularity stakes and you can actually get a table at short notice. Or at least we could, that evening. I suspect the heatwave helped.
As you walk in (and you could so easily miss it, given its unassuming frontage on Maddox Street) a comfortable sofa and a reception desk that could double as a headboard. I’m starting to think that I need to change that whole velvet-buttoned look. Everything in cool blues and creams, comfortable upholstery. Everyone and everything is quiet when we get there, at pensioner-friendly 6.30. It’s great though, because I could talk to the staff. I am that woman. I have turned into my mother. Kill me now.
It’s quite Michelin formal, service wise. Some fabulous cashews. Tasting like salt and vinegar crisps. That’s because they were made with sea salt and malt vinegar. One to try at home.
And then the usual Michelin amuse-bouche thing. It’s weeks now and I can’t remember. Shoot me. The menu is really interesting, well designed and completely opaque. Three, six or nine courses. Fifteen choices altogether. Five desserts in that lot. Each dish described by the principal ingredient. They patiently went through the whole menu. They had to. I couldn’t have guessed. TIP: make them do it. Don’t be shy.
Obviously bread. Obviously eaten. Shropshire salted butter. Nice.
I chose the spring onion and lime ravioli, broad bean and mint. On the menu, described as Onion. Delicious, fresh, perfect ravioli. A hit of lime underneath the pasta. Layers of flavour, delicate yet complex, I loved this.
C chose the Devonshire crab. A man of few words, the word he chose was stunning. Blimey. Full title: salad of Devonshire crab, pickled melon sorbet, sweet and sour wasabi. I’m sure they said jellied melon at some point. I was allowed a single mouthful. He’s all heart, C. It was fabulous. Again, layers of flavour, a citrus hit, incredibly fresh and beautifully presented, this was elegant and sophisticated cooking.
St Bride’s chicken, liquorice and banana. I wanted something unusual. I got it. The liquorice was a smear of sauce, under the chicken. I was looking longingly over the table, though, at the turbot with brown capers and lemon, ordered by C.
I’m not sure what had happened. We’d ordered the wrong food. C is a man who never tires of chicken. Never. He rarely orders fish. I usually order fish and in deference to my own hens, rarely order chicken. We recognised our error and swapped.
The turbot was one of the best things I’ve eaten for some considerable time. A fresh slab of fish, covered in a light foam, with tiny capers and again, the citrus hit beneath. It was brilliant. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking combination, butter, lemon and capers, but it tasted better here than I ever recall elsewhere. Memorable.
The millefeuille of Whisky Cream and Oak Farm raspberries was perfect flaky pastry, a hit of whisky and frozen raspberries. Delicate, sharp yet subtle, fabulous. It wasn’t chocolate but I didn’t notice. That’s how good it was.
C had a plate of cheese. I’m not sure why, as he’s lactose-intolerant but maybe he just likes to check that he still is every now and again. News: he still is.
And then the final flourish. Aero for chocolate snobs. In fact, there is nothing wrong with Aero. Everything has its moment. But having tasted this, all joy has been taken out of it. I loved this. Big chunks of good chocolate made into what C might call perfect bite-size pieces, given that I was unable to talk, having put a whole one into my face. And so would you.
I think it’s fair to say we enjoyed it: more so because it was an unexpected pleasure and a last minute treat. And they give you a specially-printed menu of your meal. I don’t need it. I can remember every mouthful. And given the amount I eat, that’s saying something.