A meal at Launceston Place, Kensington
A few months ago I met chef Tristan Welch on my ‘claim to fame’ Market Kitchen appearance, a fun and interesting night during which I had the pleasure to meet a lot of very nice people such as Tristan.
As he handed me his business card, I found out he was head chef at Launceston Place, so I promised him I would go and have dinner once my parents came to visit. In fact, in the early 90s, when we first came to London, we used to live a short walk away and we had dinner at Launceston Place a couple of times. A traditional and maybe a bit stuffy place, with good food and high fares, we soon forgot about it once we moved on to more centralised locations.
The venue has changed a bit: it’s bigger, more spacious, and more modern looking. Dark walls, soft lights and spaced out tables which ensure you can actually have a conversation during your meal. Still, it was not particularly busy when we visited so that did help the soft ambiance. It is certainly not a ‘buzzing’ place, rather a smart, conversational setting.
From the moment we sat down, we experienced excellent service – friendly, attentive yet not over bearing. The sommelier was very knowledgeable about the different wines (something I would not dare take for granted), the main waiter spoke Italian which was a plus for my parents, and everyone was actually really nice.
There are two menu choices, a 3 course menu for £45 or a tasting menu for £60. Maybe the only fault I can find with the place, the choice is quite restricted and my husband had trouble choosing a starter (out of 4). Yet it was possible to choose one from the tasting menu so no problem there.
After a taste of warm, stone baked bread, fresh butter and marinated herring, we got our starters round. My asparagus and sunflower mousseline was absolutely gorgeous, I love British asparagus and they are in season now so it was the perfect starter. Rob’s duck egg and truffle toast was delicious, and I made sure I finished off the white truffle slices and egg white he did not eat (I am lucky, sometimes, with a fussy husband). My dad had duck heart and enjoyed it, although he said it felt a tad heavy.
The mains were just as good. I loved my milk fed lamb with sorrel, perfectly cooked, and Rob and mum enjoyed their aged sirloin. I did not try it but it certainly looked beautiful.
At this point, my husband embarrassed me telling one of the staff that they should tell the chef I had met him and wanted to say hello. Promptly, Tristan arrived. I am sure he did not remember me but we had a chat and recalled the good old times of Market Kitchen. We complimented him on the food, as he thoroughly deserved our praises.
Before the dessert round, we had a predessert, a lemon posset with majorane. Now, I attempted a lemon posset last week, from a Jason Atherton recipe and for some reason, it was good but completely liquid. Might have been the constant chatter provided by a visiting friend which prevented me from following the recipe, but sure enough Tristan’s posset was properly set. Oh the envy!
When the desserts arrived, we all squealed in delight, well, really myself and mum.
She had a light dark chocolate souffle with whisky ice cream which she loved, and I had a gorgeous poached rhubarb with vanilla zabayon and hazelnut short bread. At this stage, unknowingly, Tristan took another dig at me as with the posset, I had also attempted spiced short bread, which turned out decent enough but too burnt and too buttery. Tristan version was great and I must admit – I think I loved this poached rhubarb more than Dinner’s!
We did ask for the bill but more food was to come – lemon mini Madeleine with vanilla mousse to dip them in. Mum and myself pretty much ate them all – warm, soft, light, they were divine! At least, this time I was not feeling too useless, as my first attempt at madeleine last week was very successful, but these were a thing of beauty.
We all really enjoyed Launceston Place – I really loved it. In my opinion, it’s when one does not expect that much but ends up being pleasantly surprised, that a restaurant (and a chef) rises in one’s mind. I feel as if I have found one special place to go to enjoy a special treat.