People 3 minutes 12 February 2024

The Ledbury: The UK’s Newest Three Michelin Star Restaurant

We chat to Brett Graham about The Ledbury’s incredible achievement of receiving Three Michelin Stars

“There was probably a moment where I couldn't hear any noise because I was just shocked,” says The Ledbury’s Brett Graham, who – as of Monday 5th February – can proudly say that his restaurant has Three Michelin Stars. Before long though, he did hear the noise, and it was mighty. A roar of applause greeted the announcement inside Manchester’s Midland Hotel, led by Brett’s fellow chefs. “One thing lots of people have said to me tonight is that they've never heard an applause like that in a room after someone gets Three Stars,” Brett says. “It was so heartfelt and that's really special for me, that people were genuinely pleased for us. It's been a special night.”

To receive the highest of accolades from The MICHELIN Guide takes some doing, and The Ledbury’s achievement is a testament to the consistently high level of cooking the Inspectors found there, a level few restaurants ever achieve. It’s also a restaurant beloved of many of London’s diners, a place that is as joyful to visit as it is technically accomplished. “The really nice thing for me about it is that we haven’t been obsessed [with getting Three Stars],” Brett suggests. He and his team are thrilled with the accolade, of course, but the customer experience has always been the priority.

“You need to care about customers and put them front and centre of what you do,” he explains. “I think a lot of people talk about it, but not everyone actually does it. Maybe they obsess over the wrong things, like interrupting conversations at the table or saying ‘Yes Sir/Madam’ to 20-year-old kids – we have to adjust to who we're serving. I always say that you go to a table and you knock on the door; if they don't open the door, don't try and push it open. Lots of people try to overdo it. The economic times we’re in, it's tough for everybody – and the way you're going to get through times like this is by being the favourite restaurant rather than the best.”

Luckily for Brett, The Ledbury is one of the best restaurants in the country as well as a lot of people’s favourite. During the many impressive visits the Michelin Inspectors paid to Notting Hill, a recurring theme was the sheer quality of the ingredients used in the cooking. It’s something Brett prides himself on. “In the last 6 or 7 years, I've invested heavily – both in time and financially – in farming,” he tells us. “We've got 600 Iberian pigs crossed with Duroc, not just for our restaurant but for lots of other restaurants.” His farms supply top-quality produce – like pork and beef reared without soy, as well as rapeseed oil suppressed without glysophates – to restaurants around the country, and this investment in both quality and sustainability is something Brett is “incredibly proud of”.

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Well-sourced, suitably delicious ingredients are the bedrock of The Ledbury’s DNA, but they still need cooking and delivering with utmost skill. This is where the rest of the team come in. Despite being the centre of attention during The Ledbury’s Three Star victory lap, Brett is keen to highlight the integral role of everybody in his team – not least Head Chef Tom Spenceley and General Manager Jack Settle.

“I think sometimes Head Chefs and Sous Chefs get overlooked a little bit,” Brett says. “It's their award as well. Tom is in charge of the kitchen, he runs the kitchen; I obviously do my bit, but he's incredibly influential in what we do. Then Jack in front of house, he runs the service and he's a hell of a nice guy. He’s a great guy and just tries hard every day and he inspires me to get up and go to work. So it's their award, you know? It's not just me; we're a team.

“Going forward, that's how we need to approach restaurants: as a team effort run and looked after by those who work there, not just investors. I think it’s got to be personal and that's how you keep a restaurant going for a long time.” While Brett is right to focus on those who run the place from day to day, it does help to have the right person backing your restaurant too. This is something Brett is aware of himself, thanks to his long working relationship with Nigel Platts-Martin, one of London’s most successful restaurateurs.

“You don't know where life leads you sometimes,” Brett suggests. “It can be a moment, a chance, a place you're standing, a person you're working with; the person you connect with at work can change the path of your life. That happened to me when I worked at The Square with Nigel and Phil Howard.” The two of them would go on to buy The Ledbury and install Brett as Chef, before he became involved in the business itself. “Nigel is a hell of an amazing guy,” Brett says. “This award’s his as well, because you need good management and good people in your business. That's when a lot of business relationships break down, because you haven’t got sensible people, and Nigel's a sensible guy and someone I trust.”

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Brett’s comments on all those who have influenced his stellar career are testament to the continuous hard work, from top to bottom, that goes into making a restaurant a success – let alone a Three Star success like The Ledbury. The skill and pride poured into each dish there, whether it’s the famous house-grown mushrooms from the cabinet or any of the spectacular game dishes Brett is known for, is evident to anyone who visits The Ledbury – not least The Michelin Inspectors. For Brett, Tom, Jack and everyone else at the restaurant, this is an award that’s thoroughly well-deserved.

Related Reads:

The MICHELIN Guide Great Britain & Ireland is published in digital format, both on our website (UK/Republic of Ireland) and via the iOS and Android apps.


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