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Launceston Place
1a Launceston Place
London W8 5RL
Tel. 020 7937 6912

Food type: Modern British

Food rating: 5/10

Nearest tube: Gloucester Road

Website: Launceston Place

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It has been a long, busy and hectic week for me. In between my graduation, I have been very busy eating both in London and all the way in Germany. There is plenty of updates to come in the next couple of days (when I can spare some time away from eating). Here is a review of Launceston Place which I revisited. Chef Tristan Welch has been on TV recently competing on the Great British Menu (Season 4) defeating Mark Sergeant (armed with his dildo-like fish finger) in the heats.

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The restaurant’s decor is pretty much as I remembered it – monochromatic black and white which makes more sense during the day with plenty of natural light flooding into the dining room. At least the  monotone is broken somewhat by brown leather sofas and the token painting on the wall.  Menu prices have kept relatively the same with the addition of an early bird £30 fixed-prix menu during weekday evenings.

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Devilled Potato Crisps

A few devilled potato crisps were brought to us while per using the menu. Each potato crisp had a small hole punched out which allowed them to be tied with a little ribbon. Aesthetically pleasing at least but each crispy wafer was devoid of the promised devilled kick. (4/10)

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Cauliflower Soup, Creme Fraiche, Truffle Oil

A second amuse were brought to us after our orders were taken – a pleasant cauliflower soup topped with some cold creme fraiche and truffled oil. The soup lacked intensity of the vegetable in question (compared to say the cauliflower cream I enjoyed a couple of days ago at Sketch) with the omnipresent element being the herbs (thyme) used to flavour the soup. Drank as an espresso, the icy creme fraiche gave a nice contrast of temperatures but its presence was otherwise superfluous. (4/10)

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Drunken Quail, Roasted Baby Onions, Parsley

The drunken quail is perhaps THE original signature dish here (nowadays we have many of those GBM dishes to contend with too) with its combination of theatre and great tasting quail.The calls for the quail to be flambed at table-side with a portable stove and a good measure of brandy, before being plated up. For some inexplicable reason, the restaurant has decided to stop the table-side cooking altogether which perhaps is a bit of a dumb move in my humble opinion. I would imagine that if Heston Blumenthal did away with all the drama, his food would lose a lot of magic. In a day and age where food ideas and flavour combinations are being copied left, right and centre, I find it puzzling that the restaurant has completely done away with (what I feel) is one of its most innovative draws. Is it because of a fire hazard? Or because of quality control? So all I was left with was the dish itself – four very juicy, very tender pieces of alcohol-soaked quail sitting in a bowl with some sweet, soft roasted baby onions. The balance of this dish was well controlled with just a hint of alcohol coming through. (6/10)

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Devilled Crab, Potted Shrimp with Wild Herbs

Tristan’s fish course for the Great British Menu was on the menu, which I am sure is a cash cow for the restaurant during this ongoing recession. Sat in a filed off crab shell, atop a bed of pebbles was a single crab claw, a stick with six baby shrimps and some soft herbs. Those baby crustaceans were certainly yummy although again I found the devilling could have been kicked up a notch. Perhaps the spicing is toned down for the benefit of the average British diner but for me it certainly needed some extra mustard to give the crab component more interest. (5/10)

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Traditional Roast Longhorn Beef with Vegetables and Gravy

‘Le Ros Bif’ is a bit of a trademark here on Sunday with all the theatre involved. Two huge hunks of beef (rump and sirloin) were brought to the table  on a wooden chopping board before being carved. Along with the beef came a wide array of trimmings, in their own individual pots – courgettes, beetroots, roast potatoes (in beef dripping), creamed horseradish and of course the ubiquitous Yorkshire pudding. I was suitably impressed with the quality of beef on show, being particularly tasty in its rare roasted form. (I am probably one of the biggest critics of British beef because of its anaemic taste) Special mention also goes to the Yorkshire puds which were light and air… and since when was the last time you really said that about these over-sized goujeres as one of a calls them. (6/10)

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‘Banoffee Pie’

Pre-dessert was a little pot of deconstructed banoffee pie consisting of layers of banana puree, whipped chantilly topped with a tiny bit of crumble. Pleasant if unexciting, and could have done with a touch more banana flavour. (5/10)

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Apple Tarte Tatin

To finish, we shared an apple tarte tatin – misleadingly called an apple tart on the menu. I think that better distinction should be made between both because the former is traditionally made with puff pastry and the later with shortcrust pastry. More importantly for me though is that tarte tatin is one of my favourite puddings while I am not too big a fan of apple tarts. Brought to us in a (clean) pan, the tarte tatin looked beautiful with all its caramelized, mahogany glory before being divided at table side. I found the tarte tatin a touch too sweet although this was somewhat addressed by the home-made clotted cream on the side. Still, if I were to be picking at hair ends, the puff pastry could have been flakier, crumblier and given more time to absorb the beautiful caramel. (5/10)

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‘Spicy’ Hot Chocolate

Oddly enough (or ingeniously depending on how you look at it) petit fours was a cup of spiced hot chocolate poured from a thermos flask, flavoured with cloves, cinnamon, star anise and a hint of chilli. The only thing I would question is whether such a drink is appropriate for a hot summer afternoon. (5/10)

Once again, this was a highly enjoyable meal at Launceston Place. The food, as I remember it from my previous meal, is a taste of home cooking without the stress of all the work and cleaning up, although just not quite yet to merit a star. At £26, the Sunday lunch menu certainly represents good value for money. Service was yet again flawless and attentive. Definitely worth a visit if you are around the area and craving for some Sunday roast.

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