I have quite a belief in the wellbeing provided by being served good food in an inspirational environment, but this time I really took some liberties. After a 20 hour day before, I’d crawled in at 2am, showered, got a second wind then finally said hello to my bed at 3am, and all the while knowing I had a 6.45am alarm call the next day. Was I bleary eyed? You betcha, but I had a visit to Claude’s finest table booked for 1pm.
This was going to put my theory quite severely to the test. Two Michelin stars gets you a receptionist downstairs who`s only job it is to glance at the reservations and confirm its ok to climb up to the hallowed ground, but it does make it feel that touch more exclusive. The upstairs room probably doesn’t need too much introduction, with its beautiful stained glass Michelin men windows providing a stunning interplay of colours that cascade across the grey suedette seats and bright open spaces. The waiters are very trad French in style (though several are Italians) and the Maître D’ and Sommelier have two button suits, with one button artfully undone, because,hey, zis is a relaxed place, but serious on the food. That’s why all the chefs that you can see when you look through to the kitchen have toques that are a half a metre tall.
Bosi has a rumbustious reputation, sometimes full of charm, other times it’s not only fools he refuses to suffer. What’s never been in doubt, though, is the desire to surprise and to elevate food to art. Not every combination is going to work for everyone, but it’s ok to have favourites; just as long as you recognise the endeavour and the thought that it provokes. After that pre-amble, you know where I’m going; it’s got to be the tasting menu with the accompanying flight of wine, and damn the expense. This is a place for feeling special, and celebrating something. Today it’s sunny and warm, let’s celebrate that!
The fun starts straight away when a miniature olive bush is set before us, containing two “olives” of cocoa butter encasing a perfect little amuse bouche of citrusy mojitos. It’s very cleverly done, and technically stunning. You freeze the core then dip that into molten cocoa butter, then allow the core to melt whilst just preserving the integrity of the cocoa butter outer shell. Fantastic, and there’s still eight courses to go. Bibendum egg, of course, is just a vehicle for coconut foam supporting a thin scattering of curry powder, and the Duck Jelly with special selection of caviar sounds almost modest too, but it isn’t. Each caviar egg looks like it’s been carefully placed with tiny tweezers then gently levelled off to sit exactly alongside its neighbour and its tastes subtle but sultrily divine. Then there’s another amuse of crisp of chicken from the neck, along with the chicken mayo (which takes on the taste of a heavily reduced stock, yet is still somehow fresh and clucking)
I’m looking forward to my Cornish Crab which is separated into 3 layers: brown meat at the bottom, immaculate flakes of white, and then a jelly that has sealed in the taste of the sea. My companion, originally from Pompey greatly approves. Now we are into a bit of “I’m so good I can get away with this”: Seasonal Nosotto, chicken oysters, 24 month Comte and Lancashire Mead. I had my doubts, but it was brilliant. Tiny matchheads of potato imitate the rice,the seasoning was robust but perfect for the portion size, and that unlikely set of ingredients sat well with each other. The Pompey lass once again gave it the thumbs up.
I haven’t mentioned the wines so far, and the Sommelier does deserve your applause. Throughout this menu he’s ranged across borders that do credit to his taste and imagination, and popping a Madeira into the middle of proceedings was not just an expression of virtuosity. What do you give a man with his Cornish Turbot A la Grenobloise? I’m going to let you discover that for yourself, but imagine what might go well with sherry vinegar fine potatoes, capers and a foam. As a small clue, it’s not the outstanding Pieropan Amarone, that comes later. The French Veal Sweetbreads are totally encased in Arabica coffee to cook, then released for a final finish before being served withpickled walnuts and a macadamia nut purée. Very special, and likely to convert you to what is after all a pretty alien dish to many palates.
The next dish is introduced with a smile and a whispered “surf and turf!” It’s a mile away from a huge steak and the usual slightly overcooked lobster beloved of lesser establishments. Brittany Rabbit sits alongside langoustine and artichoke barigoule. It could all fit comfortably on a saucer, but in this menu it’s enough, and once again scores a home run. Crème fraiche, Alphonso mango and Corsican pomelo cleanse the palate, making way for the not-too-sweet finale of Asparagus, white chocolate, black olive and coconut. It’s become a bit of a thing to finish with something that sneaks in a bit of olive, and in this case it works. Coffee, wonderful service, smiles, and my equilibrium has been returned. Clearly, I should stay out to 2am more often!
Claude Bosi at Bibendum,
Michelin House, 81 Fulham Rd,
London SW3 6RD
Reservations on 020 7581 5817.