After a rather dismal start to kensington lunchers (a mediocre meal at Wodka that none of us bothered to put pen to paper about) our second outing, at Launceston Place, was distinctly more successful. For one it was more in line with our unintentionally posh moniker, but more importantly the food was far better and exceedingly good value, with the price of a 3-course set lunch (at £22) only double that of a main at the aforementioned Polish restaurant.
This wasn’t my first time at Launceston Place. I dined there earlier in the year and thoroughly enjoyed the summer tasting menu but found the service lacklustre and dismissive. I had wanted to write up the experience as the food was excellent – a pea and ham tartelette (sweet petit pois and cured pork slivers on a dainty pastry disc) was particularly special, but the lighting was so dim I could barely identify what I was eating, let alone capture it on film. I was glad for another opportunity to taste and document Tristan Welch’s cooking, as well as see whether there has been any improvement vis-à-vis front of house.
Bundles of ribbon bound potato crisps kept us busy as we caught up and waitied for everyone to arrive. Shortly after the last member of our party was seated, platters of warm bread with butter and pickled herrings (a nice touch) were set before us, and we contently tucked in whilst studying the succinct lunch menus. Having caught a seemingly unshakeable bug a fortnight ago, I was feeling poorly and hankering after something soothing. Both the Duck Egg on Toast with Somerset Truffle, and Beef, Beetroot and Wild Garlic risotto screamed comfort to me but wanting to mix it up a little I went with the latter, which I felt was the more unusual of the two.
It looked stunning but disappointingly what sounded odd on paper didn’t translate well on the palate either, and the ‘risotto’ was in fact tiny cubes of beetroot and not the creamy comforting grains I was after. I guess the flavours vaguely worked (reminiscent of borscht), but the disparate elements failed to come together as a whole and the nuggets of bone marrow (meltingly-good as they were) added little to the dish. It probably didn’t help matters that the aroma of truffles wafted over from across the table as S pierced the gooey yolk of the Duck Egg which I so nearly ordered. Even as I’m writing now I feel a pang of regret.
Probably just as well I didn’t manage to capture a picture of the tempting truffled egg dish, although I did sneak a shot of R‘s prettily presented Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Potato Dumplings, the remaining starter option on the lunch menu. He clearly enjoyed it, relishing the gnocchi-like dumplings and leaving the bowl clean.
In contrast I had no complaints with my Monkfish Medallions with English Ceps and Leek Fondue. It was a light yet satisfying plate – the fish was tender and well-executed, and ate very nicely with the buttery leeks and woody ceps. Not overwhelmingly creative, but as a lunch main it was a perfectly fine option.
The Pork Fillet, roasted with Cider Wood and served with Hazelnut Mash and Apple Compote that a couple of my dining companions ordered, received much praise, and the square of crackling topped belly again induced food envy in me.
A delicate marjoram-scented lemon posset was a delightful interlude before dessert proper – a generous slice of Plum Tart with Calvados Crème Fraiche. It was a gorgeous pud – moist, fragrant and a lovely hybrid of cake and tart, which provided in spades the comfort that my starter failed to bestow.
As our plates were swept away, the waitress enquired if we would like tea or coffee, then presented those of us opting for tea with a box containing vials of leaves to select from. I chose a Hōjicha which smelt heavenly, although I strongly suspect they may have given me the wrong pot as it was a lot more floral than one would expect of a roasted green tea. To accompany our brew were jars of miniature madeleines, complete with custard for dipping.
Despite my reservations with the first course, I left the restaurant in high spirits and with every intention to return. Like many others, I am amazed that Launceston Place has yet to receive a Michelin star – the calibre of food I experienced on both visits was certainly more than deserving. The lunch set, apart from being incredibly reasonable (especially with all the extras), boasted some accomplished dishes and well-judged portions that left the diner content, but not bursting – although it’s unlikely that you’ll want to follow with a steak dinner the same evening.
I am also pleased to say that on this occasion it was faultless and we felt completely looked after the entire meal. In fact at one point towards the start of lunch, when R requested to see the bottle of wine he had ordered again to note down the producer, the sommelier disappeared and promptly returned with the steamed-off label, neatly pasted on a compliment slip. Pretty impressive by any standard.
1a Launceston Place
London W8 5RL
t: 020 7937 6912