Located in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge is Daniel Boulud’s London outpost Bar Boulud. I had lunch there just after it opened – see post Bar Boulud – Busy! Buzzy!Burgers! I enjoyed it on that visit and certainly thought about returning to try more from the Bistro inspired menu. It’s amazing to think that was over 18 months ago and I am only now returning, this time as part of a larger group.
This visit was for lunch on a Saturday and we experienced a much less frantic environment than I remember. The ambience was actually very relaxing.
I choose from the excellent value fixed price lunch menu – seriously good value at £23 for 3 courses. I started with a lovely creamy and tasty pumpkin soup, followed by a very tender lamb shoulder dish served with baby carrots, eggplant, almonds and apricots and finished with a quite stunning chestnut sable & mousse covered in a lovely shiny chocolate glaze served with some light and refreshing pear sorbet.
My companions were visiting Bar Boulud for the first time and quite rightly ordered the burgers. The Yankee and the Frenchie being the most popular choice. The best burgers in London was the general consensus there – great fries too.
The other dessert pictured is the gâteau noisette et poire – hazelnut mousse with caramelized pears and caramel ice cream. It was a stunner.
I tried very hard to resist the allure of the Mandarin Bar without success. My intentions for having a reasonably priced lunch were dashed by the pricey but delicious cocktails. The pictured cocktail is a Lychee Martini, the cocktail menu also had some delightfully named cocktails like the Orient Expresso and the Ginny Henricks.
I am sure I will return to Bar Boulud again in the not too distant future. It’s such a good refuge from the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge.
UPDATE : December 2012, returned for the good value set lunch menu (which unfortunately does not include the famous burgers). Same high standard of food and service. The tables are very close together, so you will find it hard to avoid a bit of people watching, we witnessed a couple of incidents where the staff were working hard handling some of the very demanding customers that frequent Bar Boulud.
There have been lots of recent reviews about Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental. Most of them hightlighting just how quickly this restaurant found its feet. Certainly on our visit, barely two weeks after opening, it was running very smoothly indeed. Especially when you consider just how busy it was.
The first thing that hits you when you sit down, is the level of service. There are a lot of staff both in the kitchen and in the dining room. It is actually quite entertaining to watch them skillfully almost dance around each other.
This is a great people watching venue. The Tables are very close together and there is an almost frantic buzz of activity and noise when the service is in full swing.
Bar Boulud menu combines French charcuterie and bistro cooking. So to start we shared a small plate of charcuterie. The waiter made a point of explaining that all the Terrines were home made. It was certainly a good varied selection (although not the best charcuterie I have had in London, Almeida does a really good charcuterie trolley which I thought had the edge on the Bar Boulud selection). For the main course we tried the now famous “Frenchie” burger (a great burger almost as good as the one in Moovida – praise indeed) and a more traditional Steak frites. The burger looked small but was perfectly cooked and actually very filling, as was the equally well cooked steak.
For dessert we choose the lightest dish on the menu, a sort of tropical fruit sundae with lovely moist coconut biscuits in it. It seemed to be the most popular dessert.
We ordered a la carte and had some expensive wines so our bill was over £100 for two people, but Bar Boulud can be more reasonable, the set menu for example is £20 for 3 courses.
My only criticism is that it was all a bit frantic…but then that’s what a busy bistro is. So do not expect a quiet lunch.
Last Post for the Foliage, not last post for No Expert – we are still going strong. The Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental however had a farewell lunch service today. It was lovely to be there but tinged with sadness, as it marked the end of an era for us.
The team pulled out all the stops. We started with a complimentary glass of superb champagne and some very tasty canapes. This was followed by the amuse bouche. We then had the opportunity to go off menu to choose some of the dishes. One of the standouts being the Sea Diver Scallops with chicken and mushrooms. It was also impossible not to order our last gnocchi, one of the Foliages sublime dishes. For main course we choose the lamb and an off menu beef dish, the wine selection chosen to go with this was absolutely stunning. Indeed all the wines selections were off a very high standard. I especially enjoyed the Trocken Beerenauslese, Nittaus, 2004 dessert wine.
The ever attentive staff were on hand to bring us up to date on the progess being made to complete the Daniel Boulud Restaurant (Bar Boulud) in the basement, due to open in May, and the Heston Blumental Restaurant which would be the Foliage replacement, due to open towards the end of this year. It is just a shame that a such a fine restaurant is closing prematurely to make way for these changes. It was good to see the Head Chef Alex Marks come out of the kitchen to talk to some of the regular dinners, where he received some direct praise for his teams work over the years. It was also a nice touch to be presented with a copy of the menu signed by members of staff as a memento.
So it’s a fond fairwell to the Foliage. We and the other regulars will miss you.
As you will see from the earlier post – Fairwell to Chris Staines, the Foliage is not going to be with us for that much longer in its current form. I do not know the exact date of its demise. According to our sources, the plan is to combine the space currently occupied by the Foliage and The Park Restaurant to provide a new 140 cover restaurant (Heston Blumenthals London flagship). Most of the area currently used by the Foliage will become the kitchen. A new (temporary) restaurant will be housed in the basement while this work is going on.
Update : November 2009 – Looks like the basement restaurant is not going to be temporary after all, as New York restauranteur Daniel Boulud is opening Europes first Bar Boulud restaurant in a previously unused space beneath the hotel.
Update : January 2010 – The latest information seems to be that the Foliage will be closing sometime in March.
Update : March 2010 – We attended a fairwell lunch at the Foliage, for details see post: