Bob Bob Cite is the sister restaurant of Bob Bob Ricard, and finally opened in June 2019 after considerable delay in the fitting out process. Located in the “cheese grater” building in Leadenhall Street, you gain access via a dedicated lift (elevator if you are a visiting American bond trader) from street level. The phrase “no expense spared” is often thrown loosely around, but since this restaurant cost £25 million to fit out, in this case it seems justified. You can see from the interior photos attached to the review that, as they say in Hollywood, “the money is all up there in the screen”. The main room, divided into booths just like the original Bob Bob Ricard, seats 180 diners at one time, with a further 60 seats in three separate private dining rooms. The booths feature a “press for champagne” button, which illuminates the table number that pressed it on a display running around the wall, and summons a waiter to bring your urgent glass of fizz.
The a la carte menu features brasserie staples including onion soup, steak tartare and lemon tart, created by a large team of around twenty chefs per service. The kitchen is led by the irrepressible Eric Chavot, who in an earlier life earned two Michelin stars for The Capital Hotel. Grilled sea bream at £35 and a grilled hispi cabbage side dish at £8 gives you an idea of the pricing level.
Given the emphasis on the wine list here, I will spend a bit more time than usual discussing it. The wine list had 228 bottles plus many magnums and other large format bottles, ranging from £36 right up to £10,950 for a bottle of Romanee Conti La Tache 2000 (whose current retail price is £4,518). The median price was a hefty £148, and the list is heavily skewed towards the wealthy end of the customer spectrum. Just 9% of the list was under £60, yet 12% was over £1,000. To be fair, there were five wines under £40, though these were heavily marked up. Given the “press for champagne” button in the booths, it is no surprise that fully 20% of the bottles listed are champagne. Sweet wine lovers of considerable means will also be pleased to see a long list of Chateau d’Yquem vintages dating back to 1928. The list was 80% French, but there were a few interesting wines from other places dotted about the list, including one from China.
The average mark-up to retail price on the list overall was a whisker under three times, which is not wildly excessive by the rapacious standards of London, but is far from kind. There were some oddities in the pricing, little minefields for the unwary, such as Chateau Cheval Blanc 2003 at an chunky £1,050 (plus service of course) compared to its retail price of £485. Also, who is going to order the relatively off-year Chateau d’Yquem 1984 at £890 (compared to its market value of £329) when you could instead drink the much superior 1983 vintage of the same wine for £650 (retail price £457)? Those in search of value could opt for the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits ‘La Croix’, Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret, Vosne Romanée 2016 at £99 for a wine that will set you back £84 in a shop, followed by the lovely Vin de Constance 2015 dessert wine at £94 compared to its shop price of £83. There was one wine (doubtless soon to be fixed by the sommelier) that was below its market value, but that was the hardly cheap Échezeaux Grand Cru Domaine Jean Grivot 2005 at £1,050 for a bottle that currently retails at £1,500. In general the champagnes offer better relative value than the still wines. The average mark-up to retail price on champagnes was 2.1 times, but it was 3.2 times retail price for still wines.
Back to the food, a Waldorf salad (£12.50) was very pleasant, with crisp romaine and baby leaf lettuce, spicy pecan nuts and compressed apples and grapes (13/20). Other starters available include snails with garlic and parsley butter, as well as a selection of oysters and caviar.
Our main course was beef Wellington, brought to the table whole and then cut open. This is available for two people only, priced at a chunky £96, but there was a generous amount of it. The dish was very enjoyable, the beef having good flavour and being nicely cooked, the pastry fine (14/20).
Lemon tart had nice pastry though for me the tart filling could have had smoother texture and even been a little more, well, tart. Still, it was pretty to look at and nice enough (13/20). I preferred a rum baba that avoided the dreaded drying out that can easily afflict this dessert (14/20). I had a chance to sample some other dishes, and a fruit gratin featuring grilled red fruits with a pistachio sabayon was particularly good. Coffee was from Julias Meinl in Vienna, a good brand.
Service was excellent, our very professional waiter having previously worked at The Ivy. The bill came to £87 per person, with just water to drink. If you ordered three courses and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might come to £100, so you are definitely paying for all that lovely décor. Overall, Bob Bob Cite is a strikingly beautiful albeit pricy brasserie that will fit right into the City of London: a little brash but very well heeled.