Launceston Place in Kensington: French inspiration, British produce and an emoji menu
When Ben Murphy left the successful Woodford to move to Central London, speculations arose about where he would end up. The mystery didn’t last long as in early 2017 Launceston Place announced him as their new head chef.
Once a favourite of Princess Diana, this Kensington neighbourhood restaurant contrasts its refined interiors and classic mise en place with Murphy’s informal, contemporary approach. Tables feature traditional white linen, but then the menu has an emoji for each dish.
The amuse-bouches are playful and delicious. There’s a little plastic spade to dig out (and eat) the truffle soil and lovage cream from a tiny pot; the chicken liver parfait with white chocolate and mushroom is a burst of flavours.
Bread is treated as a course. As an Italian, I prefer to have it on the side through the meal. Again, as an Italian, I love how this is made, with pancetta, lardons and chorizo – especially with some espelette pepper butter spread all over it. The fun continues with a take on the classic egg and soldiers: inside the shell lie a foie gras royale and scrambled egg foam.
When the starters arrive at the table, the first reaction is one of wonder. Both the Pigeon Pie and the lobster look impressive; on second gaze, though, there’s a clear disproportion of quantity. The pigeon dish is fantastic, everything you want it to be. You have these two rolls of pastry with beautifully cooked meat inside and a serious amount of foie gras. The leg, sauce and berries add to it; however, it’s the rolls that make it magnificent. Then there’s lobster, elegant and finely prepared – but way too little compared to the other starter.
Ben Murphy’s background clearly comes from French cuisine; the young chef trained with Pierre Koffmann in London before going to Michel Guérard’s Les Prés d’Eugénie in Landes and later l’Epicure in Paris under Eric Frechon. These are some of the most respected names in the French gastronomy. His development continued on the other side of the Atlantic, in New York at Per Se and Eleven Madison Park. It’s perhaps at Will Guidara’s and Daniel Humm’s restaurant that the playfulness came out. A Presa Ibérica is a three-piece main, with a cute and very Instagrammable trolley carrying potatoes (it reminded me of all the beautiful props that Disfrutar utilises). The presa is one of the best pork cuts available, and the Iberian is one of the best pig breeds in the world, therefore the result is a tender and savoury piece of meat (though it should have been warmer). A carrot completes the dish with a vegetable element. We also have a turbot with artichoke and vanilla: light and well balanced, the fish is brilliantly cooked and carries a clear but delicate smokey flavour.
The Soufflé le Tante Claire is the must-have dessert. This tribute to chef Koffmann – his mentor and supporter – will fill your mouth with pure heaven and entice your tastebuds spoon after spoon. The pear with pecan and maple is another must-have: once again, a dish that looks stunning and tastes great too.
It’s easy to fall in love with Launceston Place. Its intimacy and elegance make it perfect for a date or a special occasion; it also works well for a dinner with friends who enjoy good food, satisfying those who favour classic fine-dining as well as the younger, Instagram foodie generation. This is the double-edged sword of Ben Murphy’s restaurant: a double identity (fine-cum-casual) makes it harder to progress with, but given his talent and experience, he can pull it off.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Launceston Place, 1A Launceston Place, London, W8 5RL, call 020 7937 6912 or visit their website here.