West coast scallopMore pictures
Last year was my mums 60th birthday and as she was coming to visit I started wracking my brains as to where we could go for dinner. The food had to be good, the menu had to read well and while a bit of ‘poshness’ is always nice I didn’t want anything too over the top. Being on my list for a while now and being in an area where my mum used to work when she lived in London Launceston Place seemed a good idea.
Whenever I think of a place for a ‘big occasion meal’ I tend to lean toward a local neighborhood vibe. Big hotel restaurants are good but can occasionally be a bit cold on the service, multi-starred restaurants are occasionally tricky to get the table you want – a good neighborhood establishment feels warm and welcoming, a bit like eating a meal in your own house and that’s something that I like.
Situated in (what felt) like an old corner pub and off the busy Kensington high street Launceston Place is/was home to the cooking of Tristan Welch – I say was as I think at the moment he’s off for a year of inspiration gathering in Sweden. The menu is English, seasonal and with a couple of interesting ingredients sparkled amongst the courses to ensure that while a few dishes sound a bit pedestrian they all have the chance to surprise.
A 6 course tasting menu is offered. I was also happy with the flexibility of it, we were nearly encouraged to swap in any of the daily specials for courses we didn’t quite like the sound of. I’ve never had this option before and I very much liked having it, I’ve occasionally been put off by tasting menus (not very often clearly) when a couple of the dishes sound a bit dull, with this option it just won’t happen anymore!
After a little drink in the bar, served with some delicious home-made salted crisps, the menu (for us, as this was a special substitution) kicked off with a generous course of lobster tail meat, bisque and a mushroom ravioli. The sweet meat and earthy mushroom were a good contrast but got a little bit lost when had with the strong tasting soup however the quality of all ingredients was impressive. A nice juicy scallop with a salty selection of foraged sea vegetables came next and did a great job of melding with any remaining bisque taste to boost its’ fishy flavour.
Next up was the one course that I have a vivid memory of to this day (remember I ate this back in September) – the truffled duck egg on toast. In what had been already rather a rich meal (plenty of butter) the richness of this dish was rather intense, in the rich stakes this was Mark Zuckerberg. Not only was the egg truffled but we also had truffle shavings, a big glob of truffle butter and a fried toast spread with yet more butter. It was a rather tasty challenge to finish and I only just managed it and my mum and Ella were defeated. After polishing off their left-overs I probably won’t be trying anything like it again for a little while now.
Our two main courses – cornish sole with more foraged coastal herbs and (for me) veal with tomato and cicely (a green leaf tasting of star anise) was a pleasing size (after the truffle carnage had before) and for a main course were rather subtle in taste; no huge flavours or thick sauces – just the taste of the ingredients talking for themselves. The other main course option of ‘warm lamb salad’ sounded a bit crap but was probably the best of the lot with pink lamb being combined with warm lettuce and melted shavings of hard English cheese – again a lack of sauce was evident but again this wasn’t a problem – it was fantastic and could get me re-thinking my manta that “you don’t win friends with salad”.
Pudding was one of my favourites – a mixture of a hot souffle with cold ice-cream; the twist here being that the ice-cream was laced with Laphraoig whiskey. This is a rather acquired taste as it comes with a REALLY smokey aroma and it was served on the side and came with a warning from our server – “you might want to try it before covering your souffle with it” but it is a taste that I am a big fan of.
The Launceston Place experience was good and thankfully as it had on my list for a while it didn’t disappoint with it’s menu and ambiance, if not a little bit dark (you may notice the shadows on the photos). The menu feels very priced (£60 for the tasting) but gets expensive when you add the matching wine at £58 which at only £2 less than the food feels a bit expensive – though they were all good ones and matched well. It will be an interesting one to keep on eye on – with the head chef away from the stoves in 2012 and (I’m assuming) back in 2013 full of new ideas.Tweet