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Menuwatch: The Landau

13 March 2008 by

Leaving behind his role as executive chef at Pennyhill Park, Andrew Turner's new position as head chef at the Landau is, he admits, long overdue. "I really should have done my own restaurant by now. I've done enough banqueting - I can do that stuff standing on my head. I'm hoping the Landau will be a step towards my dreams."

Situated in London's Langham hotel, currently in the process of a £75m refurbishment, the room is designed by David Collins: high ceiling, mottled greens and purples with scattered booths, tall end windows facing All Souls Church and archaic wood panelling restored to a lighter, contemporary feel.

Grazing menu

The restaurant means a return to the capital for Turner's trademark grazing menu, a concept first established at 1837 in London's Brown's hotel during his stint there in the early noughties. Turner's responsibility is limited purely to the Landau, meaning his attention is not distracted by the additional burdens of hotel catering. As before, his cooking is modern British, marked by a high level of technical ability and a strong emphasis on presentation.

There are four different components to the menu: the à la carte, the theatre menu, the lunchtime plats du jour, and the tasting menus of various sizes. In theory this could mean kitchen chaos, with five-, six-, seven- and eight-course tasting menus and à la carte orders all flooding in from different tables, sometimes even the same table. But with the majority of the Landau kitchen team having followed Turner from Pennyhill Park, they are practised in delivering the diverse menu.

In reality, it is not nearly as complex as one might think. The tasting, or grazing, dishes are scaled-down versions of the à la carte, stripped of any starch products so that customers don't leave, eight courses down, as bloated victims of overindulgence. Prices for the tasting menus start at £55 and go up by increments of £5 per additional course.

Wherever possible, Turner has sourced British produce, such as the starter of Scottish smoked salmon, served with goats' cheese, beetroot and that staple of the seafaring man, Fisherman's Friend, grated gently over to give an aniseed finish (£16 à la carte), or Cornish crab and avocado, lemon verbena and pickled apple purée (£13.50 à la carte).

There are, of course, exceptions to the British rule, and Turner says he won't compromise quality if he can't find the best produce in the UK. French rabbit velouté, frogs' legs cooked in garlic butter, with onion and bacon (£10.50) for example, or Anjou pigeon breast and boudin blanc with confit leg and caper dressing (£16), chosen "because I haven't found a better pigeon breast in Britain", says Turner.

The mains, by and large, follow the British sourcing rule. Seared Orkney scallops, cauliflower purée, romanesque, chorizo, caper and raisin sauce (£27) comes with a pork tuile - essentially a crispy, fabricated sheet of crackling, created with a cooked purée of trotter, flour and Iberico fat, giving a salty-smooth pork edge to the dish.

Natural calcium

The caper and raisin sauce uses a technique that also appears with fillet and confit shoulder of Welsh lamb, niçoise olives and lemon purée (£28) and, on a tasting menu, with mango egg on cinnamon toast. In both cases natural calcium is used to hold the sauce together as a globule to be broken by the diner's fork the mango accompanied in its little satchel by yogurt in what looks like a poached quail's egg.

Among the well-designed desserts are caramelised Comice pear with milk and maple sorbet (£8), Moelleux Amedei chocolate fondant, banana and milk sorbet (£8) and carrot mousse, orange, apricot sauce and almonds (£8).

After stints around and out of London in the past decade, Turner says the Landau is one of his most ambitious projects yet. Once it is fully on its feet, the aim is to make it a brand within any future hotels from the team behind the Langham.

Landau Restaurant, The Langham, Portland Place, London W1B 1JA. Tel: 020 7965 0165. www.thelandau.com

Also on the menu

â- Lobster salad, celeriac, grapes, cardamom mayonnaise and curry spices, £17

â- Carpaccio of milk-fed veal, hazelnuts, Iberico ham with Parmesan and vincotto, £16

â- Tortellini of Golden Cross goats' cheese, corn-fed chicken oysters with ventrèche ham, basil, pine nuts and ratatouille sauce, £19

â- Braised Cherry Orchard pork cheeks and smoked belly with celeriac, Secretts Farm leeks and truffle, £26

â- Roast breast of Challans duck and a confit leg pithivier, parsnip purée, sweetmeat sauce, £25

â- Toffee cheesecake, pineapple and coconut ice-cream, £8

â- Profiteroles, lime ice-cream, hot chocolate sauce and hazelnuts, £8

â- Granny Smith apple millefeuille and sherbet with chocolate oil, £8

Away from the stove

Andrew Turner on L'Atelier de JoÁ«l Robuchon: "I loved the decor and the cooking. When I went recently he was behind the stove and I chatted to him for a bit. It's great to learn he comes to London for inspiration four or five times a year."

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