If there are two words we currently hate – together that is, we quite like them individually – it has to be ‘credit crunch’. Keep going on about it and you talk yourself into a recession and yep, that’s what we appear to be doing.
The rule of thumb is, of course, that eating out is one of the first pleasures to suffer when recessions bite and, quite frankly, that’s a load of… well, you know the expression, so we don’t need to print it in a family newsletter. We’ll argue the concept of value til we’re blue in the face and, where possible, we’ll back it up with some food-related facts. Take, for example, Launceston Place. This old neighbourhood favourite satisfied generations of South Ken’s well-heeled and, while we don’t mind a throw back to the ‘golden days’, the old décor – think Edwardian Pullman with a stickier, redder carpet – was looking rather grim.
So now, this stalwart has new owners, has had several licks of paint – greys and aubergines and other similar classy shades – and had a young man named Tristan Welch installed to head up the kitchen. Don’t know the name? You should (and, one suspects, you will). Until December 2007, Tristan was head chef at Petrus. That should: a) get you salivating; and b) make you wonder why we’re talking about Launceston Place in terms of value. Relax. We’re getting to it.
And so the food. After some home made crisps and a stunning amuse (tomato consomme, cucumber foam), I started with spider crab risotto. This arrived covered with a novel and natural plate cover: the spider crab shell. This was removed with a flourish to reveal a beautiful dusky pink, gently yielding risotto of great depth, the occasional bite of garlic tempered with a rich crab hint. On the other side of the table, pork rilette and pickled onions received similar murmurs of pleasure.
The buoyant mood continued with salt-baked chicken and a slow cooked shoulder of lamb. The lamb – soft to the point of melting – was intensely flavoured. The chicken – an entire poussin – came presented on a small chopping board. With buttery flesh and crisp skin, this was textbook stuff.
A little pre-dessert – artfully presented in egg shells – came next, swiftly followed by fresh raspberries, shortbread, with chocolate sorbet. The raspberries were soft, sweet and bursting with ripeness, the shortbread was just the right texture – hard enough to provide bite (and that counterbalance of salty sweetened) and soft enough to be cut with a spoon.
In short, it was one of the classiest, most enjoyable afternoons I’ve spent for some time. So why are we discussing it here? Because the above meal – including the amuses, the theatrical flourishes, the poised setting and the three courses (not to mention some excellent petit fours) – costs… £18 per head. No. Really.
If anyone can suggest a better place to currently spend £18 at lunchtime, I want to know about it. Launceston Place is a restaurant that’s going places, while the £18 lunch redefines the word ‘value’. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the capital’s new benchmark for fine, incredibly priced dining.
Cuisine type – modern European
Lunch for 2 (ex. drinks) – £36
Dinner for 2 (ex. drinks) – £85
Wine – £6 will get you a glass of something excellent.
1a Launceston Place
London W8 5RL
T: 020 7937 6712