How does it feel to now be running a three Michelin-star restaurant?
It's surreal. We had no idea it was coming, although we were aware that they (Michelin) had been in a few times recently. But they didn't say anything to us. It absolutely is a surprise, but I feel we have improved a lot over the past 18 months or so. It was great to celebrate with some of the people that have worked with us and come in to eat with us over the years. The trade has been very supportive of The Ledbury over the years and I'm very thankful for that.
Were you consciously pushing for a third star?
We were simply doing our job. We have always looked to maintain standards while also doing everything we can to improve. It has been a tough period for restaurants recently. Our response to that has been to focus on doing as good a job as we possibly can.
The Ledbury has become even more gastronomically ambitious since its relaunch in 2022…
Yes. The length of the tasting menu has increased and it’s a more intense experience than it was. Tom (Spenceley, The Ledbury's head chef) has been instrumental in that. He is looking to supercharge everything that we do in the kitchen. He is doing a hell of a job, he’s such a good cook. And Jack (Settle, The Ledbury's general manager) is playing his heart out as well. Our head sommelier Jan (Van Heesvelde) is also doing an amazing job. My senior team – and indeed the team as a whole - are absolutely key to this decision that Michelin has made. It’s not my award, it’s the whole team’s.
Has there been a spike in bookings?
Tom, Jack and I are on the train coming back from Manchester (where the awards took place) at the moment so we haven’t had a chance to fully go through it all, but within an hour of the announcement we received hundreds of bookings. Prior to all this our bookings were strong, but like a lot of places at our sort of level, we had the odd Tuesday and Wednesday that weren't fully booked. That is a problem at a restaurant like The Ledbury, especially as we're only open seven services per week. It puts a lot of pressure on our finances when the dining room is not full. We may look at increasing the number of services we do per week but it would have to be a group decision. People have families and lives outside work. It can’t all be about the restaurant.
Where do you go from here?
It's a moment to say 'we did this'. In a way, it is what everybody here has been working towards. I suppose the goal is to continue to be a great restaurant. We want to create a place that people want to come back to time and time again. I don't want to run a restaurant where people only come once. I want The Ledbury to be their place for special occasions. We have been open for nearly 20 years. We have a lot of customers that have been on that journey with us and use the restaurant to mark key events in their lives.
How will you celebrate with your team?
When we got our second star (in 2010) we were already fully booked and we were also a seven day a week operation. There was no time to have a celebration. I think we just had a few beers after service one night. We will mark it properly this time with a nice intimate dinner for all the people that have made The Ledbury so special.