Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Launceston Place
1A Launceston Place
London W8 5RL

Launceston Place, part of D&D London, was re-launched in March 2008 by Tristan Welch, former head chef of Pétrus. It serves up modern British cuisine, and was one of five or six restaurants on a food blogger's list of restaurants to try during last year's London Restaurant Week. Bloomberg's food critic Richard Vines, whom I trust, also gave this restaurant a glowing review following its re-launch, but, alas, it was fully booked. Since then, it's been on my list of fine dining restaurants I'd like to try... and there aren't many on that list, given how costly dining in London usually is.

So when this year's London Restaurant Week (more of a fortnight, really) rolled around and I found out that Launceston Place was offering a two-course set lunch for £15, and, more importantly, reservations were still available, I decided that it was an ideal time to treat myself. So off we went one slightly cloudy Sunday afternoon to Kensington.

The first thing you notice when you step into the restaurant is the service. From the attentive lady at the entrance, to the cloakroom attendants, to the waitstaff and the sommelier, everyone was friendly and seemed as if they took genuine pleasure in ensuring customers were satisfied, without being overly attentive. It's a hard trick to master, particularly when a restaurant has a fairly large number of staff.

Launceston Place is located in a rather posh residential neighbourhood, away from the high street, and the associated hustle and bustle. The interior is quietly chic, with dark walls and low lighting conspiring to give the restaurant a rather intimate feel in spite of the sunlight streaming through the large glass windows.

The set menu consisted of two selections from an appetiser of devilled brown shrimp, a main of braised ox cheek with roasted carrots and wild herbs, and a dessert of chocolate cinnamon doughnuts and tea ice-cream. P. opted for the appetiser and main, while I, being the chocolate and cinnamon lover that I am, opted for the main and dessert. We did contemplate going for all three, but this would have meant that our order would be considered an a la carte order, and would bump the cost of our lunch up considerably.

In any case, we didn't have to worry too much about the quantity of food. It turned out that a feature of Launceston Place is that it serves up amuse bouches and pre-desserts as well, all at no extra charge.

Roasted parsnip crisps

First up were the roasted parsnip crisps, which were very light and crunchy.

Amuse bouche: Cauliflower soup with creme fraiche and truffle oil cappuccino

Then came a truly delicious cauliflower soup with creme fraiche and truffle oil cappuccino. I wasn't sure how to eat this initially, but was told by the waitress that I should drink this like an espresso. And whoa, it was amazing.

Devilled brown shrimps

The devilled brown shrimps were average. This dish also came with ultra-thin slices of toasted bread (similar to bread sticks).

Braised ox cheek, roasted carrots, wild herbs

The main was really good. The ox cheek was nice and tender, and, although it looked small, the serving was actually quite substantial.

Pre-dessert: Baked vanilla cream custard, with hazenlnut crumble and nougatine soliders

Then came the pre-dessert of baked vanilla cream custard with hazelnut crumble and nougatine soliders served in egg shells, Tristan Welch's whimsical take on the typical British dish of egg and soldiers. A delightful touch indeed. This tasted as good as it looked.

Close-up of pre-dessert

Then came the course I'd been waiting for: dessert! You can obviously tell how much I liked this course by the number of photos it merits in this post. I don't generally have an issue with doughnuts, so, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the cinnamon doughnuts with the chocolate sauce centre, but the highlight of this was definitely the tea ice-cream. It really did taste like Earl Grey tea! Awesome.

Chocolate cinnamon doughnuts with tea ice-cream

Chocolate cinnamon doughnut

Tea ice-cream

All of this for just £15 per head! Of course, once we factored in service and drinks (one bottle of Belu still water and one bottle of 2005 Domaine Leon Barral Faugeres red), the bill came up to more than double that. The table next to us consisted of a couple who opted not to have any drinks, and the service was just as attentive and friendly, so it is entirely possible to come to this place and not spend more than £20 per person for lunch. And that's an absolute bargain.

I'd would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a great place to have some good food at a not-too-expensive price. And this should definitely be a pit-stop for any tourist looking to try the best of British.


Fat Les said...

I've always been suspicious of anything that has affiliations to D&D; their eating places* always lack that last (actually more than that) ounce of eating ‘completeness’. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve now persuaded me try out Launceston Place. If however I find that the meal I’ve had is unsatisfactory I’ll be pursuing you relentlessly for some kind of monetary reimbursement.

*I’ll be trying out Blue Print Café very soon.

Little Miss Random said...

Would that be in the form of the tried and tasted "qian qian huan zai" pig's head (snout?) on my doorstep? I'd quite fancy that, actually. It'll be something to tell my grandchildren about.

I think you'd enjoy it, although I can't guarantee it! They're currently having an £18 three-course set lunch promotion, so if you're planning to go some time over the next few weeks, you could probably try that.