Restaurant review: Launceston Place, London

There are few restaurants in London my husband and I tend to gravitate towards again and again, more than others. Michelin star restaurants (and fine dining in general) is our hobby, and we’ve been to about 40 starred restaurants around London and abroad.

One of our more regular restaurants used to be Launceston Place in Kensington (London). However, during a visit that turned out to be the last one for a long time, we anticipated loss of a star for this restaurant, which subsequently happened.

Since then the restaurant has undergone major changes, including renovation, and more importantly, change of the head chef. Since taking over, Ben Murphy of course has a difficult task of bringing back customers that were lost in the highly competitive high end food industry. He for sure can boast impressive experience in top restaurants. It’s now time for him to fly solo, and we will be keeping on eye on his development and journey.

I do have to say that the restaurant is absolutely magnificent value for money. For three-course-lunch on a Sunday, which with all surprises turns out to be much more than three courses, you only pay £35 per person. We booked our table through Open Table, which for the same price, also included a glass of bubbly each.

First thing to mention straight away is that we arrived 10 minutes late to the last seating, and were still greeted in a very friendly manner. The ambience is wonderful and luxurious.

First arrived appetizers of smoked haddock ravioli and polenta cake with herbs. I’m not a great fan of polenta in general, so I have no strong opinion on them. The herb flavour however made them taste nice. I wasn’t too keen on the actual ravioli texture as it was hard / crispy rather than normal soft pasta ravioli, but I thoroughly enjoyed the filling of smoked haddock.

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After this we got candy floss sprinkled with crushed aniseed. To be honest, I think this would’ve been better suited as pre-dessert than an appetizer before food. I’ve not had candy floss in ages so the thought of it was bringing back childhood memories. The floss itself was well made, fluffy texture and not overly icky-sweet.

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Next up was the Amuse Bouche, served together with bread. It was all about potato in different forms: potato consommé jelly, potato mousse, and topped up with crispy potato crumble. This was an absolute star of the whole meal for me, I absolutely loved it. For wine we had decided to go for something we don’t often have; white Rioja Sierra Cantabria 2015. It had interesting complexity you wouldn’t always get with white wine. We both enjoyed the wine and would have it again.

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For starters I had chosen crab, and my husband went for the beetroot with goats cheese mousse. It turned out my starter was actually a risotto. Had I known this when choosing, I’m not sure whether I would’ve gone for this option. The flavours were nice, however the risotto was a little bit too al dente for my liking (and yes, I do know risotto should be firm).  For those who are not used to having crunch to their beetroot might not want to go for that option. This was no issue to my husband however, who thoroughly enjoyed his starter.

For the main I had sirloin beef with rosco onions (scooped to the plate from inside an onion), beef jus, beef bonbon, pear and stilton. The beef was cooked exactly to my requirements (medium rare), although it wasn’t as succulent as I would like my beef. The bonbon was lovely. My husband’s cod was cooked perfectly. Menu only said cod / coconut / broccoli. Don’t let this scare you from choosing this dish, as the flavours were not overpowering the delicate fish, and everything worked really well together. Smoked eel was also included. We both had potato pave, and both thought it was amazing. My husband’s description is ‘it’s like a huge chip’, even though it’s very finely sliced, layered potatoes.

Next we had a cheese course (this is additional, with an extra payment attached). We are always very pleased with the Launceston Places’ cheese trolley, some cheeses introduced to us in this place have then become as some of our favourite cheeses (for example Stinking Bishop). To accompany the cheese we had Graham’s Tawny port, which was very good. The staff had very good knowledge of the cheese, and a big plus was seedless grapes.

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We both had a rice pudding soufflé with passion fruit and yoghurt ice-cream for dessert. We all know that soufflés are difficult to make. To top that, it had rice pudding running all the way through. A great show of skill there. Overall a pleasant dessert.

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To end it all, we were served with petit fours of lemon swiss roll, plum and rum cornetto and dark chocolate square, which was decadent and rich.

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During the week, you can lunch at the Launceston Place for £23 for 2 courses, or £28 for 3 courses. You can also get Pre-theatre dinner for £30. On Saturday evenings only menu option is the Tasting Menu.

For overall rating I would give 3 out of 5 for now, with a great promise for things to come. I would like to point out that is a good marking, as 5 is reserved for the few best ones, and 4 is the one most really good places would get. I can see we will now start going to Launceston Place more regularly again.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Meatballs and tomato sauce

I’m a kind of cook who usually just throws ingredients together, without exact measures (unless required by the recipe). I’ve sometimes made my recipes by just checking which ingredients certain food requires, and just come up with a perfect result through trial and error. Sometimes I swap ingredients depending on what I have in my cupboard or fridge. This is why writing this blog may be a challenge at times, however one I embrace and enjoy at the same time. Below you can find a recipe for my meatballs and tomato sauce.

Meatballs
500g mince beef (you can also replace half by mince pork)
3 eggs
1 dl breadcrumbs
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp allspice
2 tbsp fresh parsley
olive oil
butter
~~~~~
2 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard or
1 chilli

1. Finely chop onion and garlic, and fry in olive oil. Let cool.

2. Add all ingredients together, and either mix in a blender (for finer texture) or by hand. If mixture is too hard/dense, you can add some water (or cream), or if it’s too soft add more breadcrumbs. Sometimes, I add a finely chopped chilli for a bit of a kick. This time, for the balls in the picture I added grainy Dijon mustard instead.

3. Shape into even size balls, and fry in butter in a frying pan.

Tomato sauce

This is my basic tomato sauce I use for everything, from bolognaise to pizza. I don’t usually use cream with tomato sauce, but I wanted to try how it would work this time, and it worked well.

1 celery stick
1-2 carrots
1 medium onion
2-3 garlic cloves
handful of fresh basil leaves
handful of fresh parsley
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato purée
dried oregano
dried herbs de provence
olive oil
salt
black pepper
(splash of cream – optional)

1. In a blender, finely chop onion, garlic, carrot, celery and fresh herbs,  and fry in olive oil in  pan.

2. Blend the chopped tomatoes, and add to the pan. Add dried herbs and tomato purée, and season with salt and pepper.

3. Put back in the blender, to make extra smooth texture, otherwise it’ll be somewhat coarse.

4. If using cream, add a splash.

Spicy honey roasted parsnip soup

One of the great things about this time of the year is it’s the season for root vegetables. I’ve not been that experimental with parsnips in the past though, so I thought I need to explore this ingredient outside the normal roast vegetables on Sundays. I’ve decided to use parsnips for my soup of the week. This recipe will make quite a thick soup, you could always add more stock if you’d like it less so. Also, if you’re not a fan of spicy, I would suggest you go with one chilli rather than the two I’ve used. This soup is actually packed with the best medicines nature has for fighting off colds, so fantastic dinner option for these cold autumn days.

750g parsnips
2 medium onions
2 medium potatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 fresh green chillies
thumb size piece of fresh root ginger
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp clear honey
2 tsp ground turmeric
1.2 l beef or vegetable stock
2 dl cream
salt
pepper

1. Heat oven to 190°C.

2. Peel the potatoes, rinse and cut into smaller pieces. Wash the parsnips, and cut the end off. Cut in half, then half the thinner pieces, and quarter the thicker pieces. Cut peeled onions into wedges, and finely chop the garlic, chillies and ginger. Add all these to a roasting tin, coat with the oil and honey, as well as the turmeric. Mix all together, and roast for 45 minutes.

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3. Once cooked, transfer to a pan, and add the stock. I’m using my homemade beef stock as I think it goes well with parsnips, but you can use vegetable stock too. Let simmer for 5 minutes, and move aside to cool.

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4. Add cream and purée in a blender until smooth. Reheat and check the taste, adding salt and pepper as required.

Grilled mackerel with wasabi potato mash, cooked beetroot and pickled cucumber and radish

As I was driving home this evening I was contemplating what to serve with the star of today’s show, mackerel. Beetroot is always a good friend with this oily fish, as well as pickled cucumber. As I hadn’t planned for the pickle in advance, mine didn’t have enough time to work it’s magic, however I still wanted to go for it. You would normally give the pickling process several hours, or even a day.

Pickle
250ml apple cider vinegar
250ml water
150g sugar
1 tsp salt
4 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
fresh dill

1. Add all ingredients into a pan, and heat, stirring, until all sugar and salt have dissolved. Take off the heat.

2. Thinly slice the radishes, and cut cucumber into small cubes. Pour over the cooled liquid, and put in a fridge.

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Beetroot
1 medium beetroot

This versatile vegetable can be cooked in many ways. Today I used boiling as the cooking  method of my choice. Boil in water for about an hour, with the skin on. Once cooked, pour hot water away, and cover with cold water. Whilst in the water, you can rub the beetroot with your hands, and the skin will fall off very easily.

Wasabi potato mash
5 medium potatoes
wasabi powder
50g butter
milk
salt

1. Peel and half the potatoes.

2. Boil until soft.

3. Prepare the wasabi, by mixing the wasabi powder with a small amount of water.

4. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and mash. Add butter, salt and milk, as well as the wasabi mixture.

Mackerel
4 mackerel fillets
salt
black pepper

I used frozen mackerel fillets today. Cook under high temperature grill, first flesh side up, seasoning with salt and black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes each side. Cook skin side up last, to end up with a nice crispy skin.

Tosca cake

I was going to say this cake is from my native Finland, but like with many things, it’s very difficult to say whether something originated from Finland, Sweden or Norway (each country would always like to claim the ownership, take sauna for example), so I’ll expand a little bit and say this is Nordic baking.

200g butter
2 dl sugar
3 eggs (large)
4 dl flour (I use half plain, half self raising)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1/2 lemon skin, grated
~~~~~
75g butter
3/4 dl sugar
1 1/2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp milk
70g almond flakes

1. Heat oven to 175°C / 345°F.

2. Whisk butter and sugar together, until light fluffy texture. You may find this easier if the butter has been sitting in the room temperature for a while prior to this, and is soft.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking as you go. If you find it difficult to incorporate the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture, you might want to add a small spoonful of  the flour as you go.

3. Mix all dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, vanilla sugar and lemon skin together. Add to the butter, sugar and egg mixture, and mix together. Keep in mind that you should not be mixing it vigorously or for a long time after adding the flour, as this will make your cake to fail.

4. Pour the mixture to your cake tin. I these days use silicon ones, so I don’t need to butter them, but if you are using the older style tins, you would like to butter them, and then add some fine breadcrumbs until all of the inside of the tin is covered. This will prevent the cake from sticking to the tin. Bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.

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5. Whilst the cake is cooking, add all remaining ingredients of butter, sugar, flour, milk and almond flakes to a pan, to make the topping. Heat, and stir everything together until sugar has melted and all ingredients are mixed together.

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6. After the cake has been cooking for 20 minutes, pour the topping over it, and bake in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Homemade hummus

I think homemade dips and sauces are always so much tastier than shop bought ones, not to mention they are missing the preservatives present in ready made foods. You can also always add or reduce the amount of certain ingredients, to make it exactly to your taste. I think I have now perfected my hummus recipe to how I like it, I hope you do too. And as a bonus, this is very simple and quick to make. Originally from the Middle East, before spreading to the Mediterranean region,  this dip is now enjoyed world wide.

1 can of cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp of the liquid from the chickpeas
4 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil

1. When draining the chickpeas, reserve the liquid in a bowl.

2. Put all ingredients in a blender, and whizz until smooth.

Serving tip

I normally have this with pitta bread. I’m actually currently making it, however we’ve already eaten most of the hummus with the below accompaniments, as it was so tasty!

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Roast loin of pork and Dauphinoise potatoes

The beauty of this kind of food is that the prep is quick, and while the food is cooking you can get on with other things, hence why I would cook something like this even mid week. If you’re not a garlic lover, you can always just leave the garlic out and make normal creamed potatoes without it. Also, today I’ve had to improvise with my pork dish a little bit, as something that’s completely unheard of in my kitchen happened: I had run out of not even one, but two ingredients without replacing them! The recipe below is for how I normally make it. This should be enough for 3-4 portions. I served mine with fried black trumpet mushrooms and fresh tomato and cucumber salad, covered with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Dauphinoise potatoes
5-6 medium potatoes, sliced (I have a beautiful, brand new blender so this was done within 30 seconds)
2 -3 cloves of garlic
2-3dl double cream
salt
black pepper

1. Layer sliced potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, then pour over the cream.

2. Cook in preheated oven 180°C for 1,5 hours, until potato is soft.

Roast loin of pork
500g loin fillet of pork
mustard
salt
black pepper
ground ginger
dried rosemary

1. Massage the mustard all over the pork fillet.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, ginger and rosemary.

3. Roast in the oven 180°C /355°F for about 40 minutes. Juices coming out of the pork should be clear.

4. Take out of the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

5. I also use the cooking juices as the jus for the dish.