Tattoos and tablecloths - a happy marriage as we Test Drive Launceston Place

canapesCanapes at Launceston Place

What do we need to know about Launceston Place?

It's the jewel in the crown of D&D, a restaurant group that you'd normally associate with much larger restaurants like German Gymnasium or Quaglino's. It's also just acquired a new Head Chef. Ben Murphy is just 26 but created a total stir when his cooking at The Woodford, at the top of North East London garnered a slew of great reviews, including a rare 5 stars from the late AA Gill.

Where is it?

Tucked away in an impossibly pretty side street in Kensington. The nearest tube is Gloucester Road.

carrotsCarrots, lovage, yoghurt and caraway

Where should I sit?

This is an easy answer - do what you can to get the table by the window in the front room. This is a particularly good spot for lunchtime, when you can while away the time between courses imagining what level of lottery win you'd need to live here. We've seen a few reviews mentioning the darkness of the other sections of the dining room, but the good news is that they're about to have a facelift which should rectify that.

So what kind of place is it? Posh? Spendy?

Both really, but in the nicest possible way. It's definitely a place for a special occasion (although the set lunch is a great way to try the place out at just £25 for two courses). We rarely go for the tasting menu and even more rarely for the wine pairing that goes with it. Life's mainly too short. But we'd urge you to save up and go for both if you're coming here, to really get the best out of the kitchen (and wine cellar).

presaIberico Presa with aubergine, ponzu and crackling

So what kind of food is it?

The tasting menu comes in at 7 courses for £70 - with a few extras thrown in. The menu doesn't give much away in terms of what to expect. But the canapes give you an idea of the fun you're about to have. What looks to be a teeny jammy dodger and ice-cream cone turn out to be a shortbread and tomato and pepper jam biscuit and a brik cornet with whipped cream cheese in it (the jammy dodger is a dish that Murphy has taken with him from The Woodford).

The ensuing courses didn't include a single one we'd pick out as anything less than stellar, but for us the real standouts were:

  • Carrot, lovage, yoghurt, caraway - roast carrots with a spiral of intense lovage sauce
  • Octopus with teeny chicken wing lollipop and studs of chorizo
  • Presa Iberica served with a wonderful layer of blitzed crackling
  • Solero with coconut and mango - another version of an English childhood classic, wonderfully reimagined

Normally, if you're going all out with seven courses you'd quite likely avoid the cheese course (an extra £8 here) for fear it might be the wafer-thin mint that finishes you off. But we're going to say throw caution to the wind and have this too. Get the waiter to do you competition platters of English vs continental cheese and see which you prefer.

mangoSolero with mango and coconut

And the wine?

Rare is the restaurant that can manage to get paired wines on the table in time for each dish in a multi-course meal, but Launceston Place managed it. Our sommelier also managed to give us enough information on the wine to give them colour without bamboozling us with arcane wine information.

Overall thoughts

If you, like us, didn't manage to get out to The Woodford, then this is your golden opportunity to see what all the fuss about Ben Murphy is about. We're here to say we think his cooking more than lives up the billing. 

But a restaurant is only as good as all its front of house too and the staff here made our epic five hours lunch here such a treat. "Do you have anywhere you need to be?" we were asked. We said "no" and lost a Saturday in the most marvellous way possible, leaving as the street lights were coming on. 

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Launceston Place is at 1A Launceston Place, Kensington, W8 5RL. Find out more about Launceston Place

Hot Dinners were invited to Launceston Place. Prices are correct at the time of writing.