This was our first time at Bibendum, although the fourth time that we’ve eaten Claude Bosi’s food – we go back with him to Hibiscus when it was in Ludlow in, I think, 2006, before he relocated to London.
So, with that prior knowledge of how he does things, there was no surprise that the food was a delight; inventive and elegant and served by folk who are at their top of their profession, managing that difficult mix of being “proper”, yet friendly. In all things, Bosi has this restaurant lark absolutely nailed.
One of the things that appeals about Bibendum is that they offer a proper carte, alongside their tasting menu. It suits us better these days to eat a traditional three courses of dishes we really want to eat, rather than having to wade through multiple courses of a tasting menu, some of which are guaranteed not to quite sit well with one or other of us… And, oh yes, the room itself is great. Although the building predates the Art Deco period, it has a Deco feel to it, not least in in the stained glass windows which portray the Michelin Man. And there’s comfy seats – always something that, at our time of life, gets a big tick when we’re going to be sat on them for a while.
So, to the food. There’s three canapes to start. Very delicate and intricate. But I can’t remember what they were. I do remember the amuse bouche. It may have been the best thing I ate all evening. Served in an eggshell, it was a light as anything foam, made from Jerusalem artichoke and coconut, topped with vanilla powder. Just lovely. And then there was excellent bread. Served with a quality butter which hadn’t been mucked about with as many high end places seem to want to do.
There was a perfect balance of flavours and textures with a scallop starter. The scallop has been marinated but is otherwise served raw and thinly sliced. It’s paired with thin slices of radish and thin rounds of a mushroom duxelle. It’s all set off with a truffle sauce. The other starter involved a bit of showmanship. It’s presented as a lovely looking pie which is cut open to reveal a lightly cooked veal sweetbread and smoked eel. It’s then taken away to have “stuff” done to it. It returns, almost disappointingly without the pie crust, with the sweetbread now topped with a beetroot gel and surrounded by the eel which has been turned into a sauce. This is very clever cooking – and a perfect example of why this restaurant has two Michelin stars.
Fallow deer was bang on for seasonality. It’s a restrained dish which allowed the flavour of Bambi to come through. The fillet, wrapped in strips of, I think, quince; a little tart with braised shoulder and an outstanding sauce. The other main course was perfectly cooked John Dory “a la Grenobloise” – a thick butter and lemon sauce with potato and small croutons. No, it isn’t that much to look at but, yes, it tastes fantastic.
For desserts, “Opera” wasn’t quite the expected patisserie cake but a passionfruit mousse encased in chocolate. There’s blobs of jelly, cubes of pumpkin and there’s nothing that’s overly sweet. Also not overly sweet was their take on a Tarte Tatin. It’s a small thin, crisp tart, filled with an apple mousse, topped with bits and bobs of apple gel, cubes of apple, etc. It works, in spite of it not being overly apple-ey.
We finished with good coffee and very good petit fours.