Launceston Place is one of those places which seems to have been on "that list" forever. You know, the one of the places I had always wanted to go to but never got round to and probably never will. The first time I was meant to go here, my companions were ill, and even though it was tempting enough to go on my own, I restrained myself and waited for another opportunity. The second time, I was ill. When my sister had arranged a family meal only for the parents to pull out, I made damn sure that this was going to be third time lucky and substituted my parents for @foodbymark and @almacarina.
Head Chef, Tristan Welch, is another one of those chefs who I discovered through watching the Great British Menu. Incorporating modern spin on British classics, I was drawn in by his style of cooking and Launceston Place was firmly on "the list". I arrived early and was welcomed enthusiastically, and when the rest of my rabble arrived, we were shown to our table in the compact dining room and brought over some devilled parsnip crisps to nibble as we perused the menu.
As we were lunching, we had to choose between the dinner (much wider choice and £45) or the lunch menu (limited to 3 choices for each course, £20). As tempting as the dinner menu was, the lunch menu had seemingly good choices and for a mere £20, is extremely good value. Choices ordered, we were brought an amuse of a hot and cold leek soup, with the contrasting heats of the liquids adding an interesting touch to a very tasty palate livener.
Starter - Cep Risotto, Spenwood Cheese
Simply presented and packed with flavour. The flavour of the ceps permeated deep within the risotto, each bite was luxurious. This was liberally shared around, with the copper vessel deceivingly large, and every single mouthful came with a murmur of agreement, swiftly followed by a request for another bite. Other starters of lobster soup and scallops off the dinner menu also met with a seal of approval. Good start.
Mains - Braised Wild hare, pistachio butter, chicory and pear salad
This is was very disappointing. Having never eaten hare before, but partial to a bit of Bugs, I was excited to try this and paired with pistachios, one of my favourite ingredients, this should have been an exciting new taste experience. Instead, what I got was an overwhelming taste of salt. The dish had been heavily overseasoned and although the few slices of pear help dilute the assault on my tastebuds, the dish was a write-off. To top it off, my sisters hare had a different type of hair in it, one of the human kind. The staff were quite gracious and handled it very professionally, offering to replace her main, and then allowing her to choose 2 desserts instead. They also proceded to comp her meal for this indiscretion, but it still left a bad taste in the mouth.
After a very Christmassy and refreshing palate cleanser of mulled wine mousse, pear sorbet and candied orange, we embarked upon our miscellaneous assortment of desserts.
Dessert - Apple tart, home made clotted cream
One of LP's signature dishes, the tart arrives in a massive copper bottomed pan and is individually dished out to each lucky recipient. Each slice has crisp pastry with a sweet, caramelised apple topping. Served with homemade clotted cream, this was seriously good...but not perfect. I would much rather have had an ice cream and found myself dunking my spoon into Mark's raspberry ripple ice cream. This accompanied a superlative rice pudding souffle, which was one of the best souffles I have tasted. Other desserts of poached pear and banana sticky toffee pudding were also accomplished, if not quite in the same league as the two afforementioned sweets.
On reflection, this meal was very good apart from two things. The main was a disaster. No matter how good the rest of the meal was, all I can think about how my hare was totally ruined by the over liberal use of salt. The added hair was also a black mark on LP but was handled very professionally by the staff.
Which brings me to my next black mark. Although on the whole, the service was exceptional, we were told by a member of staff (who wasn't serving us) that we had already been informed that we weren't allowed to take photos. Now, nothing annoys a food blogger more than being told that they aren't allowed to take photos of their food. And to top it off, I am pretty sure that isn't the policy of the restaurant, having had our waiter proudly pose with a decadent white alba truffle.
These little annoyances shouldn't detract from the fact that this is a very good restaurant. We had one awful dish but the rest of the food should not be overlooked. And that £20 set menu is insane value. Make sure it's on your list.
Launceston Place (Website) - 1a Launceston Place, London W8 5RL