Posted on Wednesday, 8th May 2013
My last meal at Launceston Place was around the time Tristan Welch was competing on The Great British Menu. He came across as such a likeable fellow, and the rhubarb and custard crumble served in a cone with ginger and orange sauce that he prepared on the show seemed so enticing that I was really excited to try it at Launceston Place. Things have moved on since then and Tristan has long left to be replaced by Chef Tim Allen who took over the reins in February 2012.
Allen has done what Welch wanted to achieve but was never able to at Launceston Place, and that was to win the restaurant a Michelin star. Having come from a two Michelin-starred background after seven years at Whatley Manor in The Cotswolds, and having worked at The Landmark and the Michelin starred L’Ortolan in Berkshire prior to that, it was perhaps unsurprising that this Michelin success would flow over.
Launceston Place is part of the D&D restaurant group and is located in a regency house tucked away in an adorable part of Kensington. The street is beautiful and grand. As for the décor, it remains very formal and austere with its dark, greyish colours.
For a Michelin restaurant, they do a surprisingly good value Sunday lunch menu with three-courses for £29.50. Unlike some set lunch menus, there were a good range of options within each course. Furthermore, there appear to be only minor differences between the options on the lunch menu and those on the a la carte menu priced at £48 for three courses.
While we deliberated on what to order we started with some G&T’s, delectably served with a thyme-infused ice cube in a very stylish glass. What a great refreshing way to start a meal! We also snacked on some lovely gougères with béchamel that were really nice – the choux pastry was fluffy and warm, and the béchamel was gooey and soft.
The amuse bouche was a cauliflower foam with curried lentils and topped with cauliflower crisps. This was deliciously creamy if a little salty. The crunchiness coming through from the crisps were also delightful.
Our first starter was a winter vegetable salad with truffle cream cheese, pickled carrots, salt baked vegetables and a grain mustard and honey. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and gave way to a bit of bite. The dressing was lovely and the aromatic cream cheese worked well with the vegetables.
An Orkney scallop with glazed pork belly, apple, celeriac and celery leaf (at £6 supplement) was sweet and succulent. The apple puree was wonderful and gave this dish a gentle sweetness. The pork was also tasty and moist. However there was some exploding pig’s skin on the dish which seemed superfluous, and if anything, detracted from the dish.
The cod in a main of Cornish cod with mussels a la plancha, salted cod brandade, and flat leaf parsley was nicely cooked and well-seasoned. But the mussels were bland and it was difficult to detect the flavour coming through from the salted cod. As for the flat leaf parsley puree, this proved to be terrible. Instead of fragrance and aroma, what one got was an intensely concentrated parsley flavour that was too strong against the delicacy of the fish. This dish did not work.
Rhug Estate organic chicken served with truffle mash, tenderstem broccoli and roasted chicken jus proved to be a satisfying dish. The chicken was nicely cooked and both the jus and the mash were lovely. There was nothing groundbreaking about this dish, but it was tasty and enjoyable nevertheless.
The breads of white sourdough and wholemeal were average and somewhat disappointingly. The crusts weren’t crunchy as one would expect of good bread, and the sourdough lacked for a slightly springy touch. Furthermore, there wasn’t enough flavour coming through from the bread.
To the desserts, and a lemon tart with confit lemon and iced lemon curd was nice and zingy. But the pastry base let the side down slightly as it could have been firmer and shorter.
A deconstructed English custard tart scented with vanilla, and served with roasted cox apple, warm puff pastry and apple ice cream was as pretty as a picture. But it was an uninspired dessert with the pastry being a little dry, the apple being hard and underdone, and the custard lacking depth. As a complete dessert, it was conceptually clever but lacking in substance.
There were nice touches throughout the meal and the presentation was consistent with what one would expect from a Michelin-Starred chef, although from a Michelin perspective, the cooking didn’t always hit the mark. The food was really decent and reasonably priced, and value for money wise there were no complaints. Given the price points charged, this was a fair meal. However it would be difficult to critique the full Michelin dinner experience based on this smaller lunch time menu.
Service rating: 3.5/5
Three course a la carte menu menu – £48
Six course tasting menu – £65
Three course Sunday lunch menu – £29.50
Three course lunch menu £25