Sometimes you want a restaurant that features fine dining, micro-portions, obscure ingredients and innovative cooking techniques. Sometimes you want somewhere with a bit of glitz and glamour, which focusses on classical gastronomy and hedonistic oppulence. Bob Bob Ricard in London’s Soho is certainly a restaurant that falls into the latter category and when I got my bonus from work I immediately knew where I wanted to go for a celebration with Mrs M.
As you walk into the restaurant you are immediately met with the impression that you have walked into a fashionable nightclub from the 1930s in New York, London or Berlin. We were taken to the downstairs part of the restaurant known as the “Red Dining Room” owing to its distinctive red and gold motifs. As you walk in you find yourself in a grand and opulent room with low ceilings. Immediately opposite you is a bar which in true nightclub style has some very classy stools that you can perch on. You step out onto what looks like an elegant backgammon board; all around are booths that are once more decorated in red trim, each booth featuring a rather charming downlit table lamp. The lighting in the restaurant is low, giving once more that old-fashioned night club feel.
“Press for Champagne”!
When you are looking to celebrate most people think immediately of champagne. Fortunately, Bob Bob Ricard specialises in champagne and claims to serve more of it than any other restaurant in the UK! In fact, champagne is so much a part of what Bob Bob Ricard is about that each of the booths features a rather nifty button labelled “Press for Champagne” – how could you not press?? As soon as you press the button a light comes on under the table and one of the ever-friendly waiting staff scoots over to you and is there to take your order or top up your glass – incredible!
I decided that we would go for a 2007 Cristal from Louis Roederer (a slightly Pinot Noir-dominant blend with Chardonnay). I had never drunk Cristal before, it usually seems to be associated with rappers, footballers and bankers. On an evening where I was looking to splurge to celebrate my bonus (and all the associated hard work that I had put into earning it) I thought that it would be appropriate. The staff brought it out with some ice-cold glasses and poured it out. The nose was bright and direct, full of lemon-fresh acidity. On tasting it was all green apple and crunchy, slightly under-ripe pear; there was an additional more-gentle peach note that came to the fore in the mid-palate. The finish was clean and bright, but not overly long. My thoughts? I wasn’t overly delighted, especially when taking the price into consideration; I would honestly say that I have had bottles of English sparkling for £30 – £40 a bottle that I would say were of about the same quality as this wine. Furthermore, for me the joy of vintage Champers is the secondary profiles that you get of toasty and buttery goodness – this didn’t have any of that. Would it have gotten some with further ageing? Maybe. I’m unlikely to find out however… Still, it was a stellar name off my hit-list, next up… Dom Perignon!
From Champagne to Caviar…
Where to next in my quest for excessive indulgence? Caviar, of course. I have had caviar in small amounts before on the tasting menu of some of the restaurants that I have visited; however, these were always small garnishes, rather than full dishes – hardly surprising with the price tag! On an evening of luxuriant gratification it was time to give caviar a proper whirl. We went for a 20g jar of Russian Osciatera Sturgeon caviar, which was served with blinis and soured cream on the side. The eggs were quite large and had a dark black-ish hue to them.
I loaded up my blini with a smear of soured cream and a dollop (can you use the word “dollop” when referring to caviar?) of caviar and went in. Wow. The first thing I noticed was that the eggs were so soft and smooth, I expected to feel more texture from them. The taste was just divine – fishy, as one would expect, but not overly so; it had a mackerel like taste to my palate. The addition of the soured cream was very pleasant – it just gave the whole mouthful an extra dimension and added some freshness.
As a first real impression of caviar, I was very pleased with this. Clearly, it won’t be an everyday occurrence (much to my wife’s chagrin, as she was also greatly enamoured with it!) but I will certainly be looking to have some more in the relatively near future.
From Napoleon to Wellington…
After luxuriating in Champagne and Caviar, traditionally thought of as associated with French aristocracy, we decided to move on to the most English of all dishes – the Beef Wellington (although it is not believed that this dish has any connection with the famous Duke).
We had to wait a fair time for this to be made, but gosh was it worth it. It was brought whole to our table (one Wellington was to be shared by the two of us), so that we could revel in its magnificence, before our waitress took it away to prepare some slices for us. Magnificent, indeed, is the only word that can really be applied to this dish. The beef was fillet beef, it was cooked to perfection and was delightfully pink in the middle. It was incredibly succulent, soft and juicy – the stuff of legend. The meat was coated in a mushroom duxelles which was made even more decadent through the addition of foie gras (of course!), which gave it an added richness. This was in turn layered by a pancake and some puff pastry. All in all this was, without doubt, the best Wellington that I have ever had (and I have made some damn good Wellingtons of my own in my time!). We ordered some fries and a caesar salad with this, which with hindsight were not really required as the Wellington was an absolute whopper!
To have with the Wellington we each had a glass of 2011 Chateau Mauvesin Barton (Medoc, Bordeaux), which stood up pretty well.
From Wellington to Y’quem…
So, how can you top that? Well, how about moving on to one of the most famous names in wine… Chateau Y’quem. Bob Bob Ricard is proud that it is the only UK restaurant that is endorsed by the Chateau themselves to serve its heavenly nectar by the glass. This evening they were serving the ’98 and I was extremely excited about trying it as you can probably guess! The nose was just astounding, it was full of passion fruit and lychee with some slightly perfumed notes that reminded me of lily and honeysuckle. I took a sip and was instantly transported to my own personal nirvana – this was an astonishing wine that was profound and complex, it evolved as you tasted it in an experience which lasted well over two minutes. The initial flavours were of passion fruit and mango, as you would expect, but then what surprised me was that some slightly warmer flavours came through – these reminded me of a relatively soft ginger. Truly an exceptional wine.
What to have with this wonderful wine? I went for a Sour Cherry Soufflé which was served with a Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream and garnished with a Brandied Cherry. The soufflé itself was a very impressive thing to behold – it had risen magnificently and sat proudly above the rim of its ramikin. Indeed it was so tremendous that it was almost too much of a shame to break into it – almost. The inside was coloured with the bright pink from the sour cherry which gave it a nice tang. The accompanying ice cream was also divine, so creamy and smooth but with a beautiful covering of the most raspberry of raspberry sauces. All of this set alongside the beautiful Y’quem made for one very happy diner!
This was never going to be about fine dining. This was all about decadence and extravagance. Boy was it a fun experience! The quality of the food was excellent, the waiting staff were friendly and fun and the ambience made you feel like you had been transported back to the opulence of the 1930s – I half expected to see Jay Gatsby wandering through the restaurant.
If you were looking for somewhere to celebrate and indulge yourself in some good old-fashioned hedonism, then I would whole-heartedly recommend Bob Bob Ricard!
Where would you go for your dinner if you were looking to splurge?