Launceston Place has been at the back of my mind for absolutely ages now. Everyone keeps talking about it, photos are popping up all over Twitter and the food looks stunning. The head chef here that's worked his magic is, Tim Allen. Tim's started working here in 2012, and was previously housed at none less than the two Michelin starred restaurant, Whatley Manor in the Cotswolds. He gained his first Michelin star here at Launceston Place, in the same year he started - what a fantastic achievement.
A glass of something fizzy and some heart attack worthy pre canapes really helped settle us in, and give us a taste of what magical things we still had yet to come. I must admit i was a bit clueless to what these decadent canapes were as i was too busy downing my rose. Crisp, thick truffled sandwich was one - unbelievably rich and smelt like a dream. Another were pastry bowls filled with a minty, jelly pickle mixture. I really have no idea, but it was just as intense and dreamy.
When i started to tuck into my starter i realised I'd suddenly stumbled upon a gem. Slow cooked duck egg, pea fricassee, bacon and a pea cappuccino - finished with fried bread for yolk dipping. I was wondering when i was going to wake up from this surreal taste sensation. The egg was perfectly good. The bacon gave this lovely meaty and smoky element to the dish and of course the pea. I can't remember the last time I've wanted to head plunge my face in to something which shouldn't be anything more than simple. Chef Tim managed to take such a contracted flavour from the pea, whisk it up and not lose any of that gorgeous colour and seemed to only conjure up more flavour - he must of been using some sort of magical variety of pea.
Tartare of smoked haddock with granny smith apple, mooli, pickled cucumber, buttermilk and horseradish - it was as if someone just hit me with a stick and told me it was summer. Undeniably one of the freshest dishes I've had this year. There was bags of acidity which left you dribbling. The intensely flavoured smoked haddock had that rare balance whereby you could still actually taste the fish and the cold pickled cucumber and similarly chilly buttermilk made for a lovely, vibrant dish.
Picking a favourite dish here, naturally would be a hard thing to do. But actually this plate of sole, brown shrimp, piquillo, squid, fennel, padron pepper and brandade ticked every box for me - even if it wasn't perfect. I'll start by saying the sole could have been slightly less cooked, and the fennel slightly less overpowering (perhaps a hit of balsamic vinegar or slow cooking). Otherwise the sole had a lovely buttery flavour with that padron juice seeping in to it. And the padron pepper with its filling was quite literally a thing of beauty. The dab of piquillo just gave this dish that extra little Spanish opmh it so gloriously deserved. For a few minutes you were left feeling as if you'd been stranded somewhere in the Mediterranean.
I used to be obsessed with ordering a main course which always had meat. The idea of missing out on it for fish, or vegetable always left me feeling a little cheated. Slowly after i started eating out religiously i realised that more often than not - that choice can go very wrong and far more often than it needed too. Chewy meat became a regular occurrence, and a request of medium-rare meant they thought i wanted it well-done. Thankfully Launceston Place don't get involved with any of that laziness - but instead cook salt marsh lamb as if it they'd be trained by some higher being. Courgette and basil were singing in freshness, a lamb sauce was infused with a delicate hint of rosemary. And the most satisfying thing i ate was a little pastry parcel filled with polenta and flavoured with the best thing in the world - sage. A stunning dish.
The cheese trolley sat literally opposite our table, with a clear cabinet. Through our whole meal, and right from the start we said no cheese. Of course they put it straight in the centre of the dining room to tempt you. Serving them very well I'm sure because we couldn't resist any longer. Our lovely waiter, whose name i missed, helped make that hard choice for us - picking out his favourite examples. A blue with a powerful spicy finish, an earthy and pure goats cheese - were just a couple of our favourites. My only complaint was not the crackers but maybe those dried fruits were instead a compote or similar. A little wetness wouldn't have gone a miss.
I'm customary to a dessert - I've got an insatiable sweet tooth which I'm sure will leave me gummy by the time I'm in my mid 40's. Either way that hasn't stopped me and I'm so glad because this white chocolate mousse with the most succulent poached peaches was a rare find. At this point i was drooling, and that only got worse when i took a spoonful of the soft and concentrated raspberry sorbet, fresh ripe raspberries and some milky chocolate covered nuts. This dessert quite simply and plainly - incredible.
Petit fours were understated and quite simple - but perfect against the backdrop of such an incredible meal we just had to the opportunity to divulge in. In fact this was one of my favourite meals I've had in London this year. Every dish was so well balanced, had a concise, concentrated array of flavours - and nothing was over complicated or trying too hard. Tim Allen is certainly a very talented chef, and so is the team behind him. For lunch, this level of cooking will set you back a mere £30 for three courses including all the bits in between, which quite frankly - seems like a little bit of a bargain to me. Launceston Place may have already gone places, but I'm sure this hidden gem off the back streets in Kensington - still has plenty more to offer.