Nestled in a hidden Kensington enclave, Launceston Place has a fresh buzz about it these days. We knew we were going on a gastronomic journey as soon as we saw the tasting menu, emojied up to the max in all its glory (clearly the brainchild of Launceston’s resident head chef, award-winning Ben Murphy).
On this late summer evening, the dining tables were embellished with lightbulb nightlights, setting the scene before we were to witness Murphy’s creative flash of culinary genius. With experience at a glittering array of Michelin-starred restaurants, including a stint at World’s Best Restaurant Eleven Madison Park, no less, we were anticipating something special.
A classy little roundup of amuses bouches with a succession of snacks kicked things off. First, sophisticated cigar-style sticks that cracked crisp to reveal a delicate chive and smoked eel innard. An intriguingly delicious combination of white chocolate and chicken liver with passion fruit took an unexpected turn – a sign of things to come from Murphy’s cooking.
Brioche-style bread was balanced with zippy cherry tomato gazpacho and tomato consommé jelly, accompanied by olive, thyme & anchovy butter and whipped yoghurt butter. Off to a flying start already.
A show-stopper in egg and soldiers format, with scrumptious foie gras royale mousse arrived next. Crisp sourdough toast soldiers made for a double-naughty dipping companion, topped with gossamer-light scrambled egg foam. There were shades of Jason Atherton’s full English egg cup in this conceptually, but on flavour, the foie gras royale won hands down! Truly sublime. French haute influences from Murphy’s experience at Michelin-starred iconic restaurants shows here, yet the innovation and personality shining through brings this cooking bang up to date.
The little egg cup wine glass mirrored the foie gras royale egg cup: a charming touch. Suamur from the Loire Valley, 2016, was mineral to cut through the richness of the foie yet was sweet and refreshing.
A seemingly humble little number, roasted celeriac came with a wonderful truffle ragout. The freshness of mint oil was a clever touch to lift the deep, rich flavours, and when finished with a dash of pecorino, we had a rather sophisticated take on a vegetarian lasagne. Rich, yielding flavours were expertly condensed into a slice of decadent heaven: a class act. The matching wine choice of Gruener Veltliner from Austria had a fresh, grassy feel that came into its own when paired with the rich celeriac, giving an elevated finish.
Some marvellous scallop butter sweeties spread on crisp toasts were the crowning glory of the scallop dish. The chorizo gel sheet blanket was cosseting the juicy Isle of Skye scallop nugget, while featherlight ponzu added citrus to the chorizo meatiness. Little touches like the milk-soaked almond shards shows the thought and detail of each dish executed here.
Assyrtiko Santorini 2016 was the next pairing choice. My favourite white of the evening, the volcanic nature of the island lent a tangy crispness; testament to the wonderful wine making heritage of the island.
Next, an elegant John Dory dish. With a lovage-bound emerald pool of well-balanced verjus, the earthy turnip finished the dish beautifully. Onto Portugal with the wines, and a vibrant 2016 Alvarinho pairing balanced and refreshed the palate.
We were in for a treat with the next creation. Tender lamb neck sat behind the crisp and tangy daikon flower which yielded a very lovely reduced consommé underneath with subtle shades of aniseedy tarragon. The summer fruits of the matching light pinot noir let the dish speak for itself.
Possibly the favourite dish of the evening, the presa Iberica pork dish had rose-pink succulence, with layers of crisp pressed confit potato alongside. Finishing the dish were carrot top green purée, a genius crackling cracker and a rich reduction. There were so many elements and complexity to this dish – a true show-stopper. Fincas notables, Argentina 2013, brought some fire and jammy body to match the robust dish.
The pre-dessert was held together with aromatic curry kaffir lime leaf to cleanse the palate, laced with refreshing apple purée. Paired with this was a sweet and fruity 5% alcohol arima dessert wine from the Basque country, with bubble-gum notes of strawberry and raspberry.
Pistachio ice cream and raspberry delice cooling and sweet had a veil of frangipane sweet flavour and cooling yet tangy raspberry tartness and frozen notes of passion berry. A perfect endnote to the preceding feast.
Petits fours came in the form of orange blossom fudge and some rather dinky, delicious cherry bakewell cornets.
This masterpiece tasting menu really was a triumph, signifying a chef who has mastered his trade at such a young age. Chef Murphy is the jewel in the crown of Launceston Place, and deserves many more accolades to light up his culinary journey to stratospheric heights.
1a Launceston Place, Kensington, London, W8 5RL