Notes: (1) This post was heavily edited by HRH the Queen of Kutch (2) some photos were blurred and hence inserted from elsewhere.
As is our wont, we started researching London restaurants soon after we booked our air tickets and booked our hotel. Besides all the usual suspects, the one new restaurant we absolutely wanted to visit was Claude Bosi at Bibendum. Opened just a few months ago in the iconic art deco building that was formerly the UK headquarters of tyre company Michelin. The restaurant Bibendum was owned by the designer/architect/restaurateur Terence Conran and the publisher Paul Hamlyn. The chef Simon Hopkinson was a minority holder. The restaurant achieved great fame. In 1994 Simon Hopkinson described what he suffered as a `mini breakdown’ and left. The restaurant slowly fell in standards and finally shut its doors. The news that Claude Bosi a French Chef who had achieved two stars in Michelin with his restaurant Hibiscus had decided to resurrect this iconic place which would be renamed Claude Bosi at Bibendum caused more than a few flutters in the restaurant world.
Arriving at the building the first thing that strikes you are the stunning blue tinted stained glass windows of Bibendum himself, more colloquially known as the Michelin Man. The ground floor hosts a small florist and fishmonger store as well as a casual oyster bar, while the more formal restaurant seating just 65 is located on the top floor. This is a staggeringly attractive and unusual restaurant. With the light streaming through the stained glass windows, high ceilings, a skylight, Michelin guide books on the walls, Bibendum making his presence in many quirky ways and a plush blue carpet. Truly a stunning room.
At the entrance to the restaurant we were thrilled to see Claude Bosi standing and peering into the guest resister. A quick handshake with him and we were shown to our table where our friend the Ms. Doctor Businesswoman was already seated.
Aperitifs ordered, we settled down to study the menu. A few minutes later an enthusiastic greeting made us look up and we were delighted to see Enrico, our friend from Le Gavroche was now restaurant manager here. He was quick with his recommendations and all three of us found ourselves agreeing with his suggestions and settling in for the evening.
A selection of nibbles and hors d'oeuvres started flowing out of the open kitchen starting with vinegar salt crusted cashews (addictive) and some delicious Gougeres with Parmesan. Delights of pillowy dough balls with a deep Parmesan flavor. These were devoured with our aperitifs – two glasses of Champagne for the ladies and a Gin & Tonic [Tanqueray No 10 please] for me.
Gougeres with Parmesan
Then a waitress brought a bonsai olive tree (gimmicky) under which were three olives made from an olive flavoured cocoa butter shell filled with a liquid Ratatouille, stunning in composition. Then came a Pea and Coconut Foam with Curry Powder served in an eggshell (interesting) and probably influenced by the Potato Mousse and Truffle egg at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Lastly, a Foie Gras Ice Cream cone with sprinkles of an unknown origin (fun).
Pea and Coconut Foam with Curry Powder - Note the Bibendum motif
Foie Gras Ice Cream cone with sprinkles
Before I get onto the food I must say the service was amongst the best I have ever experienced. Friendly, efficient, extremely attentive and very witty. They really did add to the charm of the evening.
The motif of Bibendum was carried onto the butter dish as well as the egg stand. The Dessert Napkins had the motif too.
The photos and captions below will tell you more about the food than a wordy paragraph ever will. All three of us had deliberately ordered very disparate dishes and each one was a true winner.
HRH the Queen of Kutch Veal Sweetbread starter was caramelized on the outside, melting inside and the Gremolata was a knockout sauce. The dots of Black and White Garlic puree added to the flavor and were not just decoration. Her main of “My Mum’s Tripe and Cuttlefish Gratin” was funky and bold and absolutely delicious. But to make it even better were two crusty slices that turn out to be Pig Ear and Ham Cake to soak up the funk of the gratin.
My Mum’s Tripe and Cuttlefish Gratin
Pig Ear and Ham Cake & Parsley
The doctor Businesswoman had the Cornish Cock Crab with an Elderflower Jelly as a starter and the highly recommended Rabbit with Langoustines for her main. Both delicious.
Cornish Cock Crab with an Elderflower Jelly - Note the Samphire sprouting, just like in the ocean!
Rabbit with Langoustines
I had the Scallops with a Strawberry Dressing. I thought it was a little bland, unfortunately. For my main I had a dish carried over from Hibiscus, the Turbot Grenobloise. In French cuisine a dish described as Grenobloise is —literally, "of Grenoble", a city in southeastern France—is served with a sauce of browned butter, capers, parsley, and pieces of lemon Here the dish was reformatted. I had a piece of steamed fish, on a bed of crushed potato, caper and lemon with a foamed butter sauce. Beautiful.
Scallops with a Strawberry Dressing
Desserts were an Indonesian Chocolate Soufflé with Basil and Vanilla Ice cream which was rich, dark and bitter. I had a Cherry Vacherin. This comprised of Cherry Compote as well as some whole Cherry inside a spiky Meringue – something like an Eaton Mess. The knockout dessert was ordered by HRH the Queen of Kutch. This was a Millefeuille of Chocolate, Mint and Peas. Yes Peas.
Indonesian Chocolate Soufflé with Basil and Vanilla Ice cream
Millefeuille of Chocolate, Mint and Peas
A word about my impressions of Claude Bosi’s cooking style. The menu you see online is a sample menu and was not given to us. Even so, three factors stand out. First, to keep costs down, there are a lot of ingredients that are not luxury, but far cheaper. Tripe, Cuttlefish, Rabbit, Sweetbreads, Pigeon, Frogs Legs are all cheap. That does not in any way detract from the deliciousness of the food. This makes a lot of sense. My second observation was that a lot of the dishes had a sort of Surf & Turf feel. Rabbit with Langoustines, Cuttle Fish & Tripe, Artichoke [I know it’s a vegetable] and Prawn and so on. The last was the artful and intelligent combining of vegetable & fruits in the food both in the savory and sweet part. The Strawberry dressing with the Scallops. However the most brilliant combination was HRH the Queen of Kutch Chocolate Pea and Mint Millefeuille. We all know that Pea and Mint combine. Chocolate and Mint also combine. So why not combine all three. Especially when you get such beautiful sweet English Peas.
The best though was yet to come. Enrico invited us to visit the kitchen and meet Chef Bosi. That was an honour because this Chef is truly a star. If I was a betting person I would say this restaurant will have a Michelin star before our next visit.