Lady Barbara Judge returns to the latest incarnation of Bibendum in Chelsea to sample the spectacular fare created by chef Claude Bosi.
I have been going to Bibendum from time to time since 1987, when it first opened and I would visit London from New York. I was first taken by a fellow foodie to this newest entrant on the city’s very thin – at the time – food scene.
Over the years, the fabulous historic Michelin building, on Chelsea’s Fulham Road, has had its face lifted and the food changed a number of times, but never reaching its original heights – until now.
The new Bibendum is a joint venture between Claude Bosi, the two-Michelinstarred chef (who used to own Hibiscus), designer and restaurateur Sir Terence Conran and his business partner Michael Hamlyn. Claude was there to greet us when we arrived, and reminded me that we had met before at Hibiscus, when he opened in Mayfair, which is always very flattering and a good start to any new dining experience.
True to form, the room was beautiful and the light of the evening sun was streaming through the windows as we sat down to a spectacular dinner – I have to say, both in quality and also in price. Still, great food is a privilege.
Before the starters came some lovely surprises, the first of which was a midget olive tree with black olives made from cocoa butter. The olives were brittle shells filled with a mixture of onions, anchovies and olive oil. Then came Parmesan gougères and an eggshell filled with wild mushroom duxelle. This was followed by a foie gras ice-cream cone, which I really enjoyed because, for me, it was like having dessert for an appetiser – something I used to do once in a while at the historic Four Seasons in New York. That, however, was a long time ago!
So now we were down to the main meal, which was extraordinary. My fellow foodie friend and I each started with a fish course. He had the John Dory, which was served with slow-baked Vesuvian tomato, lime and sweet and sour vanilla. This lovely fish is often overwhelmed by the sauce, but here it was just perfect, and all the fish flavours, together with the accompaniments, were true and sharp.
I had the red mullet with black olive bécassine sauce, which was served with a delicious small preparation of baba ganoush. I like red mullet a lot, and often eat it in the South of France, but this tasted even better than the familiar Mediterranean ones that I recall, as it had a more sophisticated flavour.
For our main dishes, we shared Brittany rabbit with langoustine and artichoke barigoule, and Anjou pigeon satay-style. Both of these dishes were interesting, each in their own way. The rabbit was more traditional, and the artichoke, had it been larger, would have been a wonderful vegetarian starter all by itself. It certainly held its own against the strong and flavourful rabbit. Surprisingly, the pigeon – as the name suggests – being flavoured by the exotic spices of South-East Asia, made for an unusual and delicious point of difference from the more ordinary method of preparing pigeon.
Of course, dessert could not be missed, as it is my favourite part of any meal. I loved the wild strawberry vacherin, with fresh strawberry sorbet and delightful little peaks of meringue to top it off. The balsamic vinegar indicated on the menu was in there somewhere, but I liked the meringue so much that I could not think about finding another ingredient.
The citrus and pineapple parfait was also lovely and light, and we were each very satisfied and happy that, notwithstanding the price, we had been well-served and well-fed, and were happily sated and satisfied. I will surely return with my best clients – provided they are foodies – and I hope that Claude Bosi gets his well-deserved third star. I am certainly rooting for him.
bibendum.co.uk / 020 7581 5817
Lady Barbara Judge is currently the Chair of the Institute of Directors and has held many posts across the corporate and charitable sector, including Chairman of the Pension Protection Fund, commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Lady Barbara has always had an abiding love for food, and her frequent international business travels have enabled her to indulge this passion in many top restaurants across the globe. Lady Barbara Judge pays all of her own expenses.