Pierre Koffmann protégé Ben Murphy cooks refined French food at this South Kensington institution
This long-established Kensington restaurant has been home to a number of big names over the decades including Tim Allen, Tristan Welch and Rowley Leigh. Its current custodian is chef-patron Ben Murphy, a prestigiously talented, heavily-inked young chef that worked for Pierre Koffmann at The Berkeley. The legendary French chef saw something in Murphy and has become a mentor of sorts, regularly advising him on dish development (he even lent him his famed pistachio soufflé recipe).
Murphy hitting 30 combined with the Coronavirus pandemic triggered a rethink at the restaurant, with some of the more playful elements of the experience – including a menu that featured emojis and tables being de-crumbed with a mini Henry vaccum cleaner – ditched in favour of offering something a bit more grown-up.
The menu is now a homage to Murphy’s grandmother and is presented on a chequerboard, with diners instructed to move pieces to create the meal they want. Such an approach makes for an unusually flexible experience, with diners able to create their own tastings menus. Want to only eat desserts or have only meat dishes? That’s fine with Murphy. Key dishes on the current tasting menu include celeriac with mint, pecorino and ragout; halibut with courgette, thyme and vin jaune; and Iberico presa with wild garlic, pea and baby gem.
Launceston Place is part of D&D London, but Murphy has been given far more latitude than most chef patrons employed by the fine dining giant. The dining room – which is overseen by the US-born Ian Toogood – is a reflection of Murphy’s preference for ‘peaceful minimalism’, providing the ideal backdrop for the chef’s impactful, beautifully presented dishes.