The Michelin House (Bibendum) building in South Kensington was the home of the Michelin tyre company, built in 1911 in just five months. The company vacated the building in 1985 and was converted into a restaurant in 1987 by Terence Conran, and achieved considerable critical success (though never a Michelin star) under chef Simon Hopkinson. In March 2017 it was relaunched with chef Claude Bosi at the helm, who had previously been at Hibiscus in Maddox Street, and prior to that had earned two Michelin stars at Hibiscus in Ludlow in 2004 before moving to London in 2007. The restaurant now holds two Michelin stars, which is has held since the 2018 guide was published.
The upstairs dining room is very light and airy, with lovely stained-glass windows and a high ceiling. It is one of the most striking dining rooms in London. Your temperature is taken on arrival by an elaborate looking machine, tables are well spaced, and of course the staff wear masks these days. The tasting menu was notionally £165, though there was also a three course £75 lunch menu as well as a la carte, with three courses at £115. We went with a “special” tasting menu arranged in advance that was pricier and featured many luxury ingredients.
The very extensive wine list had 775 full sized bottles and ranged in price from £30 to £9,990, with an unusually high median price of £144 and an average markup to retail price of 3.1 times, which is high but not the worst in London these days. 48% of the list was from France, but there was plenty of choice from elsewhere, with bottles from Uruguay, Canada and even a rare 1931 vintage from the Crimea. Sample references were Disznókö Tokaji Dry Furmint Disznókö 2017 at £43 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £19, Yoshiaki Sato Riesling 2015 at £68 compared to its retail price of £18, and Petit Syrah 39 North Wine Company 2010 at £95 for a wine that will set you back £30 in the high street. For those with the means there was Alttus Finniss River Salomon Estate 2010 at £260 compared to its retail price of £95, and Château Léoville-Barton 2008 at £352 for a wine whose current market value is £91. There were some badly overpriced bottles with for example the lovely Vega Sicilia Alion 2003 at an absurd £309 compared to its retail price of £90, and L’Avion Roussanne Stolpman Vineyards 2015 at £115 compared of its shop price of £26. Even with prestige wines, the mark-ups were generally stiff, with Chateau Petrus 1960 at £9,900 compared to its market price of £3,381. It should be noted that there were some quite reasonably priced wines on a separate “bin end” list, but obviously these particular wines may not be around for long by their nature – still, this offered some relief for anyone looking for value.
The meal began with a sphere that looked like an olive but was actually olive stuffed with ratatouille and basil, a nibble that worked nicely. The next canape was artichoke and foie gras, an effective combination with the earthiness of the artichoke balancing the rich foie gras. Even better were chicken scratchings with chicken mayonnaise, the scratchings delicate and the mayonnaise having lovely flavour. Finally, there was a little onion tart with Alsace bacon and thyme mousse, which had excellent pastry and good flavour, the smokiness of the bacon really adding to the onion (17/20 canapes on average). Sourdough bread was from Hedone bakery.
This was followed by a prettily presented dish of duck jelly topped with caviar, accompanied by a cylinder of smoked sturgeon in filo pastry. The caviar was from a large supplier called Petrossian, a hybrid called ”Daurenki Tsar Imperial”, derived from breeding kaluga (”river beluga”) and schrencki sturgeons, and was of good quality. The duck jelly had pleasing texture and went well with the briny taste of the caviar, with the filo pastry cylinder providing a contrasting texture (17/20).
Scallop pieces had good natural sweetness, topped with toasted rice and resting in a consommé made with almond oil, garnished with edible flowers. On the side was a scallop crisp combined with shrimp powder. This was very enjoyable, the contrasting textures working well (17/20). Beetroot tartare was seasoned with verjus (a juice made from unripe grapes) and garnished with a blob of Daurenki caviar, alongside burrata that was produced in London, accompanied by a beetroot sauce. This was a pretty dish, the earthiness of the beetroot an interesting contrast to the brininess of the caviar, itself balanced by the burrata (17/20). Poached Scottish langoustine rested in a brown butter sauce with dashi and finger lime. This was particularly good, the langoustine tail plump and sweet, carefully cooked and with the finger lime’s acidity nicely cutting through the butter sauce (18/20).
This was followed by an unusual dish, elvers (glass eels) fished by Mr Bosi himself in Wales, topped with shavings of white truffle. The elvers were precisely cooked and had lovely flavour, the truffle adding an air of luxury to the dish (17/20). Adour foie gras came with a coating of cauliflower a la Grecque (olive oil, lemon juice and herbs) along with capers and coriander. This was high quality foie gras from the Landes, and the hint of acidity from the sauce nicely balanced the richness of the liver (17/20).
The final savoury course was game, in this case primarily duck, pithivier with Grand Veneur sauce (“huntsman’s sauce”) with mulled wine and pear. The sauce is a rich concoction based on sauce poivrade, a pepper sauce made with root vegetables, wine, vinegar and meat bouillon, with added game blood and a little cream. The pastry was good, the pie contents having deep flavour and the sauce being suitably rich (17/20).
A refreshing pre-dessert was a simple but enjoyable golden apple purée and chartreuse granite (15/20). The main event was a classic chocolate souffle with Madagascar vanilla ice cream. The souffle itself was light and airy, cooked evenly through (17/20). Coffee was from Drury, one of the cheaper suppliers out there, and seemed rather out of character for a restaurant of this level and price point. Service was very good, and drinks topping up was flawless. The bill came to £387 per head, of which the tasting menu was £220. This was certainly a very good meal, and much better than my initial meal here. The main issue would be the high price point, though there was certainly no shortage of luxury ingredients on display. This particular menu was arranged by a supplier of the restaurant, though most of the dishes were from the menu. It certainly involved plenty of technical skill that showed off the luxury ingredients to good effect. This was the best meal that I have eaten here.
Further reviews: 03rd May 2017