Launceston Place may be part of the D&D collection of restaurants, but like most of the D&D group it has a fair degree of autonomy and feels independent. Located on one of the most picturesque (and most expensive) streets in London, the restaurant itself is light, airy and comfortable with interesting nooks, crannies and alcoves to afford diners a modicum of privacy. No-one likes to feel all exposed like they’re in a showroom (à la St Leonard’s).
I was given a large table with an uninterrupted view of the cheese trolley to my right, and the large vista overlooking Kensington art galleries and boutiques to my left. So far so good. However, there were a few foot faults with the service from the get-go. My first server was too quick off the mark asking me what wine I wanted before any discussion of aperitifs or giving me visuals on a menu. Once I was able to collect my thoughts and choose an appropriate wine, it was then forgotten and my starter arrived sans wine. This order of service issue seemed to resolve itself by the main course though, so I overlooked it.
there’s a clear French influence in Murphy’s dishes but sometimes they become a little confused or try-hard
I promise I’m not always a grumpy old git but a couple of other things annoyed me in the early stages. A “bread course” was provided – a notion that I find inherently absurd. Bread is just something you have on the side for crying out loud, or in most Latinate countries on the continent, it’s used for soaking up the remains of your main. I was also served a little milk bottle containing tomato water with a paper straw. Kudos for the straw, but the drink itself was pointless – like cold dishwater after soaking a used jar of Dolmio overnight.
Chef Ben Murphy’s cooking is mostly assured. Formerly of the sorely missed Koffman’s at The Berkeley, there’s a clear French influence in Murphy’s dishes but sometimes they wander off and become a little confused or try-hard. The mackerel starter was attractive with its fifty shades of green herbs and a verbena emulsion, though the fish itself was almost lost in the decoration, and the pickled kohlrabi rather sharp. After this, the duck with beetroot and elderflower puree was a nod to minimalism but ended up committing the Masterchef crime of throwing too many things into a dish. I’m not sure what the elderflower puree added (or was it a gel?) and I was a little bewildered. I didn’t get it. At least the duck had been cooked well, which is the true test really.
I finished with a rice pudding soufflé. I’ve had a couple of these in classic French restaurants and it’s always fun meshing two dessert ideas together. Fortunately this wasn’t overly sweet and it passed the soufflé test, being perfectly risen, eggy and delightful. It was good to end on a high note.
The wine list is decent enough with thought given to complementing the menu. For instance, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley counterbalanced the sharp pickling in the mackerel starter well, though there is only a modest Coravin selection and the best stuff seems to be on reserve for D&D Wine Club members.
The service is in need of a little polishing and whilst the lunch menu looks prima facie great value (£28 for 3 courses) there are hidden catches, such as a single shot of espresso being charged at £5 and there is an £8 supplement for cheese, but Launceston Place is nice enough for a spot of lunch and I would return.
1A Launceston Place
by J A Smith