Some restaurant march loudly on to the restaurant scene, big and brash, celebrity-filled always making a big noise in London. Others are quieter…those London stalwarts who remain on the scene not really making much sound but producing great food for years and year. Launceston Place in South Kensington is one such hidden gem. The fact that it was one of Princess Diana’s favourite shows just how discreet it is.
Located down a small side street, the restaurant’s namesake, the space has just been refurbished with soft greys and blues to give it a contemporary look. The pared down space is actually a blank canvas hung with contemporary art, curated by Islington’s Amar Gallery and inspired by new chef Ben Murphy’s cuisine.
Arriving at the restaurant earlier in the year, Ben has been inspired by the restaurant’s fresh look as well as the changing seasons to add new dishes to his menu of Modern European food.
My plus one for the day was my sister Jen, taking a break from new born duties to join me for a luxurious ladies lunch. Kicking off with a glass of champagne!
White tablecloth-style dining is become increasingly less common in London but the tradition is kept up at Launceston Place. Though there’s no stuffiness in their light and bright space – just classic elegance. We start with a couple of delicate canapés, the first nibble being a take on a Caesar salad with all the ingredients sweetly clipped together with a peg and a really good hit of salty bacon.
Next up, two little cones of cream cheese with puffed rice, another perfect little snack.
Next up the bread course…and I’m so glad a bread course has become a thing…I believe bread should be celebrated not just something that comes on the side but appreciated in itself. Super fluffy, a little salt on top and a delicate quenelle of butter. Long live the bread course! On the side a deliciously creamy pureéd potato, great on it’s own or along with the bread.
I sometimes find tasting menus a bit too much, especially at lunch time, so I was pleased to see the option of a reduced tasting menu. The five course menu would allow us to try a selection of chef Ben’s food but without feeling ridiculously full.
Opting for a drinks pairing too, we started with a cream sherry which was slightly sweet and took me back to my trip to Jerez over summer when I learnt all about the Sherry making process.
The first course was egg and soldiers…but such a decadent version! Creamy scrambled egg sits on top of foie gras with the finest truffle shaved on top. Since neither myself or Jen like foie gras, the chef replaced it with celeriac making it a slightly lighter dish. Dipping perfect buttered fingers of toast in the egg which sat on a cute chicken’s foot really took me right back to child hood.
A white wine from the Alsace region accompanied the next course which was as pretty as a picture. Chef Ben elevates the humble carrot by serving it three ways, one simply roasted, another sees the skin made into a powder and blended with oats, caraways seeds, lovage emulsion and caraway yogurt. It’s one of his favourite dishes, as he sees it as quite brave to serve just a carrot. Ben Murphy has a starry history, it all began at Koffman’s at The Berkeley under the guidance of Pierre Koffman before he moved in to three Michellin starred Les Prés d’Eugénie in the south of France and three star Épicure Restaurant at Le Bristol in Paris. Back in London he took the helm at two star, Greenhouse in Mayfair before moving to The Woodford restaurant which beat strong competition to win the Evening Standard’s London Restaurant of the Year Award 2016.
Brill served with turnips was our least favourite dish of the day. We found the fish itself a little over cooked and bland though the sauce was well balanced.
A glass of red to go with the meat course…Pres Iberica which we were forewarned came very rare. My sister was a little unsure about sure rare pork but we went with it and it was so beautifully tender! A little grilled aubergine hides under the crackling and dots of ponzu brings the whole dish together perfectly.
And is there anything better than a perfectly cooked chip (well maybe a bread course) and the meat was accompanied by two very fat and perfectly crisp chips!
The cheese course is optional (cheese is NOT optional) and my sister and I chose a selection of soft and hard to enjoy with some crackers and a glass of port.
Is there anything better than a chocolate dessert (apart from a bread course and the perfect chip)? No I thought not…
This crisp shell of chocolate encased a perfectly made mousse and that distinctive tang of yuzu. I loved the Asian twist that Ben put on his dessert and I would certainly put this creation up there with one of the best desserts I’ve had all year.
Finishing up with some chocolates and madeleines and a good cup of coffee.
Yes, Launceston Place is a quiet little restaurant on a hidden corner but the food speak volumes. Restaurants like this should be talked about so my advice is go there now and try some of Ben Murphy’s fantastic food!
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