Q: Was Langdon Hall worth the drive to Cambridge?
A: Hard to say, I'm afraid.
I am willing to travel for excellent food but am not such a possessed foodie that I will travel any distance for just any good meal. The 5 Diamond CAA/AAA rating and the many other accolades and glowing reviews Langdon Hall has received over the last few years, as well as the price point ($32 - 45 for mains), all led me and my dining companions to believe that we should be expecting a consistently excellent meal. That's not what we received.
All were very impressed with the Hall itself - it is situated on gorgeous, well-maintained grounds, is tastefully decorated, and is staffed with professional and pleasantly courteous people. The flowers were all in bloom - it's definitely a lovely time of year to visit.
In the bread basket, there was a sunflower honey loaf and a rye sourdough loaf; both were lovely - one dense and chewy, and the other light and fluffy.
To start, I had the gem lettuce bisque. I was served initially with just generous lobster chunks sitting atop a delicious truffle puree the consistency of mashed potatoes and a perfectly poached quail egg, in the centre of an otherwise very empty looking bowl. I thought that this was some weird, new-age experiment with soup but the server soon poured a creamy, spring-green liquid into the bowl. It was delicious. Quite possibly the best soup I've ever had.
Also excellent was the chef's take on ceviche; fresh grouper accompanied by a blood orange sauce. Crisp, fine flavours that really made me excited about my main: European sea bass cooked sous-vide.
But then the meal took a downward turn: the sea bass, while nice, was nothing particularly inspring. It was slightly dry and underwhelming in terms of flavour. I have definitely have better in recent memory. The accompanying carrot puree was pure butter, which some may have enjoyed but I found did not pair well with the fish.
The pan roasted halibut, however, was delicious, as was the barley and mushroom cassoulet it came with and the ham-hock cannelloni (odd sounding but good tasting!!).
And then came the desserts, which were the biggest disappointment of the evening. They were completely pedestrian, not particularly interesting in presentation or taste. In fact, they were pretty bland.
Overall, the food ranged from amazing, to bland and boring. Even excluding the desserts, the discrepancies in quality seemed unjustifiable in light of the high ratings and particularly in light of the high prices. I could have gotten a similarly priced meal at Scaramouche, and I know it would have been more consistent, and likely just better across the board (with the sole exception of the soup).
I wouldn't say 'skip it', but be forewarned: in my opinion, at least, the food just doesn't measure up to LH's reputation.
My significant other and I have not had dinner there, but several years ago we tried the afternoon tea. We thoroughly enjoyed the traditional sandwiches, scones and pastries. Scones were served with true clotted cream and excellent fruit preserves. I would recommend afternoon tea highly.
Pretty glowing piece by Chatto in the June '08 Toronto Life. I've only visited LH for a corporate event, so while meals were well done (it's a lovely location and seems to have a reliable kitchen for events), obviously no adventurous menu choices, so I hadn't frankly considered it for personal dining. Curious now...
I'll third that sentiment. Went for dinner last year and it was just okay for the four of us. For me, I'd heard so many great things about the place - it just didn't live up to my expectations. It was fine but nothing memorable sticks outs. And I do recall that our rooms had a funny odor to them. For the price, I was not blown away.
We live only less than 20 minutes from this restaurant and always overlook it because of the "just okay" food. We've been a couple of times and both times while good, we've never left saying that for $350 it was worth it!
At that price point, there are so many other restaurants that I'd rather spend my money on. Too bad, it's so close and would be ideal for special occasions.