Located in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, (Which is also soon to play host to Heston Blumenthals first London restaurant), Bar Boulud specialises in what could be best described as rustic French food with a New York slant.
Chef Daniel Boulud has a serious reputation across the pond, and indeed globally to those in the know. His Big Apple flagship restaurant ‘Daniel NY’ has three Michelin stars, and was recently ranked eighth in a list of the best restaurants in the world. Naturally, being the serious gourmet that I am, I’d never heard of him before this week – but then I don’t visit too many 3* restaurants (OK, I haven’t been to any) and have only been to New York once, long before this blog existed.
Nevertheless, I was very excited when I arrived and took my seat at the table, there’s a definite buzz about this opening and I couldn’t wait to see what the fuss was about. But, first of all – I just needed to withdraw my completely unobtrusive and discreet, massive Nikon digital SLR camera from its handy rucksack, and place it on the table with a definite ‘thump’.
It wasn’t long, before one of the staff spotted it and enquired whether I was a journo – “No, food blogger/Dweeb*” I responded with a dazzling smile and flashing a used train ticket by way of introduction. My fellow diner, Chris of the blog ‘Cheese and Biscuits’ then politely asked whether it was ok to take photos. Expecting a cheery “Knock yourself out” – I was surprised to hear a bit of a lukewarm initial response, and a “Well, I just need to check with the chef first”.
The “chef” being Daniel Boulud himself. Who, I had just noticed was overseeing operations in the open kitchen two metres from where we were sitting.
A tense few minutes later, and we were informed – yes it would be OK to take photos but to please refrain from using the flash or taking snaps featuring our fellow diners. Fine with us. At this point our final dining companion Ben of ‘Food and Drink in London’ arrived, plonking down an even larger Nikon on the table, and we were ready to start ordering.
We agreed to order a few dishes to share, before following up with a main each. So, first up was a charcuterie tasting plate. The pates and terrines featured are made on site, under the direction of ‘one of Frances most acclaimed charcutiers Gilles Verot’. As always, having my finger firmly on the pulse on all gastronomic comings and goings, I’d never heard of him, but after eating one incredible pate and terrine after another I didn’t need much convincing as to his skill. Really impressive, the provençal pulled rabbit and the shredded slow-braised beef cheek with onion confit and pistachio terrines in particular being incredibly good.
The platter came with a selection of rather nice hors doeuvres (beetroot with horseradish and hazelnut, carrots with coriander, celery-apple remoulade and mushrooms a la grecque), pickles and mustards, all of which were very tasty indeed. All in all, a great start. The charcuterie plate was pretty generously sized considering that three of us were tucking into a small platter.
Next up, a dish of Boudin Blanc, truffled white sausage with mashed potato. This was delicious, the sausage being almost as soft and creamy as the accompanying beautiful mash. I liked this dish a lot.
As we were finishing up our starters, a dish of Rillons croustillants au poivre - crispy and tender pork belly with cracked pepper appeared on the table ‘compliments of the chef’ – (it appears the large cameras and an apparent Google search of Chris ‘Cheese and Biscuits’ who had made the reservation was paying dividends here). These were really rather tasty, thick rustic squares of tender pork belly with some Dijon mustard for dipping…what’s not to like about that?
Ordering our Mains – Coq au Vin and Roasted chicken breast with wild garlic potatoes and artichokes respectively for my dining companions and the DBGB Piggie burger for me (so called because it contains BBQ pulled pork), we sat back drank wine and chatted. At this point a smiling Daniel Boulud came out of the kitchen and over to our table, shook our hands and asked us what we’d thought of the food, and indulged us in some general chitchat about our respective blogs. He came across as a really pleasant, genuine guy. It was a really nice touch and it’s great to see a chef of his calibre actually in the kitchen overseeing operations.
Insisting that we try ‘The Frenchie’ burger as he returned to the kitchen, our mains arrived.
As regular readers know, I’ve got a real love of a decent burger and the offerings at Bar Boulud don’t disappoint, my ‘Piggie’ burger, cooked medium as specified was perfectly constructed, and beautifully loose and moist with a really good brioche bun. The accompanying fries were really rather good as well. If I’m honest, I still prefer the Burger at Hawksmoor and more recently, a offering at Bob Bob Ricard, but.... that is until the promised ‘Frenchie’ burger (who’s main defining characteristics are confit pork belly and Morbier cheese) was sent out from the kitchen for us to sample, cut into three pieces. It was cooked medium rare, and it was bloody delicious far, far better in my opinion than the ‘Piggie’ burger that I’d ordered. I’ll have to return to sample a whole one to be sure, but it could be a real contender for best burger in London.
A quick word about the service, it was impeccable. Some of the key staff apparently being transplanted from New York to ensure a smooth opening, and it showed.
A plate of Boudin Noir with mash was sent out for us to sample, and like the Boudin Blanc from earlier in the evening it was extremely well cooked, silky smooth and tasty, working very well with the mash.
At this point I was stuffed silly. So much so in fact, that for once – I just couldn’t face dessert, the table agreed – dessert was out…but some extremely subtle up-selling by our waiter saw us giving in and ordering a round of macarons to finish off the meal.
The strawberry flavour was pretty good, and it was commented upon around the table that it had a ‘jammy dodger biscuit’ flavour to it.
The Hazlenut macaron was much nicer, really very good…. although perhaps, not Pierre Herme good. (Of whom it must be said was visiting the restaurant later that evening as a guest of Daniel Boulud, along with seemingly just about every chef worth his salt in Britain and Paris – the guest list we caught a glimpse of, reading like a who’s who of world class chefs).
Settling up and another chance to exchange a few words and shake hands with a cheery Daniel Boulud and his restaurant manager, I left feeling extremely happy with the food I’d just eaten. The various terrines and pates on offer are very good indeed the Boudin blanc is bloody delicious and the burgers are excellent, particularly in my opinion the ‘Frenchie’, which based on what we were served is perhaps best eaten medium rare.
I think the highest recommendation I could make is to say that without a doubt, I will be visiting Bar Boulud again in the future.
*For explanation of Dweeb – See link ‘Here’.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Telephone: 020 7201 3899