From Claude Bosi – a chef who gained a reputation as among the UK’s best when his restaurant was in Ludlow – a charming and understated Mayfair dining room, if one perhaps rather lacking in electricity; in these early days, it is not clear whether the occasional wackiness of the menu will be perceived as fundamental to the establishment’s attractions, or incidental to its more classical charms.
Rarely has an opening been as keenly awaited as Claude Bosi’s new Mayfair dining room. (Indeed, legend has it that tables are already booked up into the New Year.) It’s all thanks to the reputation he made when his restaurant – also called Hibiscus – was the pride of the distant but (briefly) culinarily eminent town of Ludlow.
The new London dining room takes understatement to a very high level. Panelled, plain and well-spaced, it seems in some ways almost provincial. It is, in truth, rather too stylish and elegant for that – the simplicity here is the sort only obtained at huge expense – but nonetheless the room does have a sort of calm which seems not entirely metropolitan.
Service, largely English, chimes well with the setting. Charming and engaging, it is devoid of your classic Michelin-seeking hautiness. It is not particularly slick either, which is not necessarily a criticism. The wine list, however, would easily stand comparison with many much stuffier establishments, although prices do not seem unduly demanding.
On our visit, we tried out both the options available for each course of the lunch menu (£25). Everything was notable for consistency of quality, and elegance of presentation. The experience, however, made us think of a considerably refined version of a lunch at the celebrated (but considerably cheaper) Arbutus, in Soho. Everything about it was very good – exemplary even – but nothing was at all out of the ordinary. Puddings, for example, were panna cotta and a rice pudding. Very nice, but there’s only so much you can do…
Other reviewers, however, have complained of some combinations which were going-on wacky. These must be confined to the dinner menus, as the only real wackiness in our meal was some kiwi in the dressing of the very light and pretty rabbit terrine – not exactly something to scare the horses. Oh, and that funny (odd) amuse-bouche of Hibiscus-scented oil, which started the meal off on a (rare) off-note.
Subsequent consideration of the dinner menu reveals that it does indeed include the likes of a starter of ‘ice cream of foie gras’Âť. This is not, however, a restaurant in the mould of that of the Chemist of Bray – where there is a ‘twist’ in the menu, it seems that it tends to involve substituting a wacky ingredient for an obvious one, or twinning two relatively ‘standard’ menu items which the London diner would not generally think of consuming together.
In short, the cuisine is startling only up to a point. Only time will tell whether it is the occasional wackinesses – or the more traditional charms of thorough technique – which emerge in the popular perception as the defining feature of this charming establishment. Looking to reviews elsewhere gives little hint – they are mixed to a degree that Claude Bosi must find rather surprising.