Claude Bosi is the chap who had the two Michelin starred restaurant Hibiscus in Mayfair, where I enjoyed a rather delicious lunch back in 2014. It was good news to hear, after the sad news of its closure, that he was taking over the kitchen at Bibendum in Chelsea.
For those not up to scratch on tyres or Michelin stars, Bibendum is housed in Michelin House, the first permanent UK headquarters for the company back in 1911. The white rotund bloke made from tyres, Bibendum, being their trademark.
In the first floor dining room he’s everywhere, from the blue stained glass windows we’re seated next to (glorious when the sun shines through them) to the butter dish which he’s sat on. It’s a simple space that lets those windows do the talking. We can also see into the kitchen which adds a bit of theatre.
We avoid the more reasonable £25 for the carving trolley, glass of wine and coffee option (only available at lunch) and instead order a la carte. gulp
First, a few nibbles to amuse the bouche – something you see less of these days. Nuts dusted in a tangy vinegar powder, cheese gougeres, chicken skin crisps, an olive made from chocolate and a mini foie gras ice cream 99. They’re all things that make us smile.
Potato bread is next with some of the finest butter you’ll ever taste – it’s the work of Grant Harrington FYI. It comes with an egg shell filled with a curry pea mousse which is lush.
My starter of frog legs (£26) comes covered in a frothy butter sauce. There are balls of the frog leg, which are perfectly cooked, and the king of the mushroom world, the morel, which never cease to please. The sauce is so good I mop it up with the bread.
The veal sweetbread (£24) is the largest I’ve ever seen. It comes with gremolata, a herby sauce, which knocks me for six with garlic. I love it.
For main, anjou pigeon “satay style” (£39) sees two juicy breasts of the pigeon and a quenelle of satay sauce, thicker than you’d expect, with some luminous green dots of something else – it’s a sexy looking thing. I even get a side of pommes soufflé, all light and delicate and super salty.
My gentleman companion’s suckling pig “porchetta” (£36) is rich and fatty – most enjoyable but it could do with something to cut through it. Maybe something as exciting as the pommes soufflé.
For pud, we share the chocolate soufflé (£12), which comes emblazoned with our dear friend Bibendum on the top. It’s served by Claude himself, who drops a quenelle of Indonesian basil ice cream through the middle. It’s more than big enough for two to share and it’s a perfect example of a perfect soufflé.
Restaurants like this make me truly happy, poorer yes, but I just love a bit of pomp and glamour. They even give you a separate napkin for your dessert course. In a world of Brexit and General Elections, give me Bibendum any day of the week.
Would we go back? Yes