Monday, 20 July 2015

Hibiscus: 15 Years and 8 Memorable Dishes with Claude Bosi

Last month The Chap took me to London for my birthday; he'd done his research, and where we were going was meant to be a surprise, but quite frankly he could not keep it to himself! I don't blame him though; he'd pulled out all the stops by getting a reservation at Claude Bosi's Hibiscus.

Coincidentally, we were going during the month that the restaurant was celebrating its 15th anniversary, and throughout June they were offering diners an extra special eight course tasting menu, based on guests' favourite dishes from over the years. Quite a few people had cast their vote in the poll, which was then whittled down according to season and availability, producing a menu of the finest summer combinations... A summertime "Greatest Hits" if you will.

Claude Bosi originally opened Hibiscus in Ludlow, before relocating to London in October 2007. It has held two Michelin stars since 2003; has five rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide 2015 (retained since 2003); it has a 9/10 rating in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015, and is ranked 5th in the UK. Flippin' heck.

Bosi brings together classic French cooking with modern techniques and the best ingredients from the British isles; a formula that has proven highly successful. And so, the celebratory £135 tasting menu - the crème de la crème of Hibiscus' 15 years - was one that we couldn't miss. And although we weren't going to go down the wine flight route (especially at an extra £95 each), after a chilled glass of Billecart Salmon Rosé from the Champagne Trolley - YES, A CHAMPAGNE TROLLEY - we were totally sold on the idea. We're weak, I know.

Looking back on it now, it probably wasn't the wisest decision, especially as our table was at 9.30pm, which was also way too late to embark on a mega tasting menu (we didn't have our final course until gone midnight!). No doubt these factors fueled the fire with the snooty people on the next table, and unfortunately their "we're so much better than you" attitude completely ruined the end of my spectacular birthday meal, leaving me exiting the restaurant in tears (the wine flight definitely didn't help with that either, haha). But enough about that, it happened, and we're actually returning to Hibiscus next month to make sure we leave with a smile.

The menu kicked off with Foie Gras Ice Cream, mango and sherry vinegar caramel, served with a fine flute of Alfred Gratien Champagne Brut, 2000. Since posting a picture of this on Twitter, I received a backlash of animal rights comments from randomers, but hell, it was worth it! A mini cone filled with sweet mango puree, topped with an unexpectedly light liver-y ice cream, swirled with a tangy caramel, and sprinkled with what can only be described as 'savoury crunch'. It gave your typical cornetto a run for it's money.

Next was the Clarence Court Egg with pea, coconut and Thai curry. I've had a "filled egg" at many a restaurant now - it's particularly favourable around Easter - but just like dippy eggs and soldiers at home, it still brings out the child in me. Fresh and fragrant, it made sure I was ready for more food, and the fantastic bread that came out (courtesy of Mikael Jonsson of Hedone), slathered with salted butter, certainly hit the spot too.

The delicate and dreamy Devonshire Crab dish, with gel like pearls of elderflower and new season almond was served with a 2013 Karner Gabor Rizling from Hungary; a beautiful match, and a beautiful wine! (No surprise - we're riesling fiends!)

The Spring Onion Ravioli was one I was looking forward to after seeing some photos of it on Social Media. With broad beans, lime, Moroccan mint, and a creamy sauce, the humble pasta pillow was elevated to new heights, and it confirmed that I should definitely order ravioli when eating out more often. It was partnered with a crisp glass of Les Enfants Sauvages Cool Moon 2012,  from the Roussillon region of France; the floral, stone fruit nature of the blend of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc, ticked all the boxes against the very 'green' flavours in the dish.

Although the Cornish Cod ‘Grenobloise’ isn't the most attractive plate of food you'll ever see, I must remind you that you should never judge a book by it's cover. Grenobloise is a classic French sauce, composed of capers, nutty brown butter and lemon - simple - but Bosi's version sees a cream coloured foam covering the entire plate. It's a rich-but-sharp sauce that, thanks to the aeration, doesn't leave your mouth feeling coated with butter, therefore, letting you really enjoy the other textures in the dish (i.e. the meaty flesh of the cod). It was matched with a glass of biodynamic Eugenio Rosi, Anisos, 2011, Trentino, Italy; the honey, blossom and nutty flavours complimented the cod 'Grenobloise' wonderfully, and the bitter finish cleansed the palate.

The next dish was Native Lobster with fresh cherries and black pepper sauce; a plate of food containing lobster and cherries totally has 'Lucie' written all over it. There were also some little deep fried lobster ravioli served alongside, which I could've scoffed all night long. The wine match for this was an orange wine, tasting a little sherry-like, Domaine Julien Courtois Savasol, 2008, from the Loire Valley, France. It was probably the only wine of the night we were unsure about.

Both of us agreed that the tenderest hunk of Milk Fed Veal with girolles, apricot and chervil was THE BEST course. The fact that it came with our only glass of red wine probably influenced this; Broc Cellars “Syrah 13.1” 2012, Sonoma County, California. The sweet meat melted in the mouth, and the earthy mushrooms were backed up by the black pepper, spice, dark fruit, and powerful tannins from the wine. Neither of us wanted it to end.

Photo Credit (as mine was blurry): Genuiness Blog

Our first dessert was Gariguette Strawberry, celeriac and szechuan pepper; a mini trifle of sorts. The combination of strawberries and pepper is not an alien concept, however, the nutty celery flavour with the szechuan Asian punch, felt inspired. It was partnered with Vial-Magneres Banyuls 2009, Roussillon, France; tinged gold, with full fruit flavours, it ensured us that we were in 'sweet' territory, then the final course sealed the deal.

A deliciously dark chocolate tart case, filled with a mousse of New Season Peas, infused with mint and topped with pop corn, toyed with our taste buds. The most perfect quenelle of snow-white coconut sorbet added an extra dimension; an English garden with a twist of the Caribbean! And with just enough naughtiness from the chocolate, freshness from the peas and mint, and creaminess from the coconut, it was a stellar end to the tasting menu.

Upsetting experience aside, Claude Bosi's Hibiscus rightly lived up to it's reputation; every course was a delight! And I'm just thankful that we get to go again in a month's time...

Hibiscus, 29 Maddox Street, Mayfair, London W1S 2PA

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