Claude Bosi at Bibendum in South Kensington
When Claude Bosi announced that reservations opened for Bibendum, I booked my table for the very first service. Being a fan of a restaurant is like being fan of a band, and when a chef comes back with a new lineup you just want to be first to see them live. I had, however, to exchange my “tickets” for their second “show”, as a friend from Dubai came to pay a visit and he isn’t into that kind of music. You could also see a restaurant as a football team, and ten days ago the World Cup kept me busy, delaying this review once more. However, despite the hiccups, I had the opportunity to think a bit longer about that meal.
The former headquarters of Michelin, one of London’s most iconic 20th-century buildings, turned into a restaurant in 1987 after Terence Conran took interest in it. In 30 years of history it never scored a michelin star and now, with Claude Bosi taking over the kitchen, it’s almost certain it will. The renovated dining room has a very upscale feel and takes advantage of the beautiful stain-glassed windows (sadly replicas of the original pre-WWII) of this Art Nouveau-meet-Art Deco establishment. The menu is exclusively a la carte – a clear change from Hibiscus’, Bosi’s previous restaurant – and each course sounds unashamedly French – with a British touch.
Whenever a skilled cook is involved, the Veal Sweetbread is something that should be tried; however, we were after creative dishes and we ordered the Wheat-free Spring Vegetable Dumpling too. Before our starters were served, we were treated with a series of amuse-bouches and, of course, bread and butter; the butter, which was an highlight itself, as it lay on a very cute tyre-shaped plate with a little bibendum man sitting on it. These appetisers were partly a taste of what Bosi did at Hibiscus – Parmesan gougères; foie gras ice cream; mushroom, coconut and curry powder en cocotte – and partly new – the molecular-era spherical olives served below the branches of a tiny olive tree and the fried chicken skin together with a chicken mayo.
My initial disappointent for the dumplings vanished as I tasted what was probably the best prawn broth I’ve ever had. The dumplings and pieces of raw prawn were delicious but the highlight was what they were immersed in; sipping the broth was like sipping the essence of the little ten-legged crustacean. On the other plate, the sweetbreads were fantastic, tender and tasty, with an intense cooking jus (although lying on a too-garlicky gremolata).
For the main courses we stuck to one of the classics of Bosi, the Cornish Turbot (ok, it was cod at Hibiscus but it’s a similar concept) Grenobloise – a sauce typical of Grenoble, the city by the French Alps, not too far from the chef’s hometown, Lyon – and the Somerset Kid. The small goat was well executed and it played on a pairing with elements from the sea world: razoral clams and a sea beet sauce. It’s hard, however, to describe the perfection of the turbot; the texture of the fish, the salt dosage and the superlative balance of the richness of a foam that does not cover any of the flavours were admirable.
Claude Bosi at Bibendum brings a bit of authentic, formal fine-dining west of Knightsbridge, an area not particularly trendy for gourmands, which is, however, recently becoming more popular. While the service still needs some mileage (the champagne wasn’t chilled enough, the courses took much longer than expected to get to the table – yes, it was day two, but the cost was full price), the food side of the restaurant was clearly outlined. All in all, it’s great to have chef Bosi back in the game.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Claude Bosi at Bibendum, 81 Fulham Road London SW3 6RD, call 020 7581 5817 or visit here.