The finest dining in elegant Kensington, by deputy editor Miranda McMinn
There are restaurants and there are restaurants. Places which are not about seeing or being seen, but about pure unadulterated joy of incredible food combined with attentive, deeply knowledgeable service. Launceston Place is one of these.
I walk from the station (probably not that many LP customers come by Tube – it is extremely smart) through the blossom filled streets of Kensington, white villas with black wrought iron balconies, their gardens filled with lilac and cherry blossom. It’s like going back in time – you half expect Mary Poppins to land on the doorstep with her umbrella.
You reach a charming paved triangle where you find Launceston Place. The restaurant of the same name is a Georgian townhouse, built in 1839, the ground floor of which forms the dining rooms. The interior is calm and relaxing, with bitter chocolate walls and tasteful modern artworks – the ideal place to unwind after a hard day at the hedge fund. It’s very grown up – a place you would take someone who loves (I mean really LOVES) food for their birthday or a pampering week-night dinner.
Launceston Place has been going for many years but this year appointed a new Chef Patron, Raphael Francois (above) – an intense culinary visionary with a face straight from a Van Gogh self portrait. Simply put his aim has been to create innovative, modern menus using seasonal British produce. There is hardly a moment when one isn’t being served up with an amuse bouche, each one accompanied with a special jus or reduction poured lovingly from a succession of jugs and boats. As for the courses themselves, well… first we tasted Pea Mojito, exquisitely fresh and flavoured with watermelon and burrata “fiordilatte”. There followed the Hen’s egg with green asparagus, prosciutto and duxelles mushrooms – the egg virtually came with a CV – at least the information it had been cooked for one hour at exactly 63 degrees. Next was a surprise – the Simplissime: blue crab, creamy potato, tarragon and carapace jus – it looked exactly like a bowl of mashed potato, but diving in the flavours and textures were a mind-blowing combination. The venison – beautifully, perfectly pink – with Yorkshire inspired pudding with ceps, cranberries and Jerusalem artichoke was followed by a mercifully light Strawberry ragu with mango and crispy nuts.
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Each course was accompanied by a wine to compliment the flavours. The sommelier, Piotr Pietras, works in close tandem with Francois and was recently named one of the world’s ten best sommeliers. He recommends a divine selection (you can order a tasting menu at £65 per head, with a wine pairing available at £50 per head.) We start with the house champagne – it’s super brut and delicious. He then proposes a 1997 Vouvray with the peas, a 2015 Chardonnay with the crab, an extraordinary 2012 Tuscan Chianti Classico with the venison and finally a pleasantly un-sweet Basque Country pudding wine with dessert.
We walk out into the spring night blown away by all the tastes and flavours, and savouring the whole experience as a rare example of a promise delivered.
1a Launceston Place, London W8 5RL
020 7937 6912