Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hibiscus

Wish lists are for fools. To-do lists, on the other hand, urge participation.

For too long, the back of my little moleskin diary has been home to a scrawled 'wish' list of restaurants I seem destined never to visit. Now it reads 'to-do', I am finally getting on with it. Jon chose Claude Bosi's Michelin-starred Hibiscus from the list, the occasion being my birthday and our first 'date' since baby Charlie made his grand entrance. An excuse for fine dining, if ever there was one.
Two admissions: I took no photos. It was a hushed and intimate place, and there were as many staff as there were diners. It felt inappropriate, so the camera stayed in my bag. Secondly, transcribing the menu would take forever, so you have a photograph of it instead.

Seated at a cosy corner table, hugged by blonde wood panelling, we were presented by a leather-bound two-page menu and some crisp and light cheese goujeres. On Fridays and Saturdays Hibiscus serves a 'Claudi Bosi devised' tasting-menu only: choose 6 or 8 courses, according to your appetite (and credit card limit), from £85 per person. The carpeted room seats less than 50 diners at a time, and is noticeably and thankfully less corporate than nearby fine-dining institutions Locanda Locatelli, Corrigan's Mayfair, or Gordon Ramsay at Claridges.

I'll be honest, I'm a pie, mash, and one-pot girl, and butter and carbs find their way into most of my food. Bosi's food is altogether more ethereal: bright, clear, clean, and precise. It's a shock to the palate at first, as nothing sits heavy in the mouth. Most dishes hardly required mastication.

The dinner began with a shot of Chilled Hibiscus Flower and Apple Soda. It faintly resembled Appletize, and was intensely refreshing.

In an evening of too many 'ooohs' and 'aahs' to mention, only one dish lacked the magic touch, the Slow grilled Goosnargh Duck Breast. The meat was chewy, even the bespoke 'Hibiscus' engraved bone-handle knives had to break a sweat to get through the flesh, and the fat hadn't rendered and was not pleasant to eat. The two fish dishes (see menu above) were far better executed.

The highlight was the Foie Gras Ice Cream, Toasted Brioche Emulsion, New Season Gooseberries and Cardamom. Jon claimed the ingredient composition brought to mind Brian Wilson's Smile, in its sophisticated harmony (who am I to argue...). It was certainly a show-stopper, and the soft yeasty emulsion mingling with the rich and creamy ice cream, punctured by the sharp gooseberry, will not be quickly forgotten. On a par was the Ravioli of Spring Onion and Lime, Broad Bean and Mint Puree. The essence of spring, so deftly wrought. Exquisite.

The flavour combinations thrilled and amused, and a lightness of touch was present throughout, particularly through Bosi's use of herbs and flowers, though their delicate flavours could not always be detected (the bergamot seemed absent from the mackerel dish).

There are few wines under the £50 mark, though we had a wonderful Riesling for £36 (Orea, Saaris Riesling 2009, Mosel, Germany) that hit the mark and worked beautifully with the food. The charming sommelier, Romain Henry, deserves a mention. He put us at our ease, even laughed at all Jon's jokes.

Our bill, wait for it, was £316 (including service charge) for two. You may well consider this obscene, but we judged our night out had been worth the money. And when a decent hotel room in the environs (chi chi Mayfair) doesn't cost much less, I know I'd rather eat like a king and sleep in my own bed!

Hibiscus on Urbanspoon


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