Tuesday 11 May 2010

Bar Boulud - London

It’s not that often I get to visit restaurants when they’ve only been open for a few days, where the menu is still being tweaked and the paint is barely dry on the walls, but last night I ate at New York Chef, Daniel Boulud’s brand spanking new initial foray into the London restaurant scene ‘Bar Boulud’.

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 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.

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.

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’.

Bar Boulud

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge

Telephone: 020 7201 3899



Anonymous said...

Note to self: must not read your blog when I'm already hungry...

Am seriously impressed by Boulud's presence in the kitchen - and at your table! Will have to try and make a reservation for the next time I'm in London...

Anonymous said...

I really want to go try their burgers.. they all look amazing .. and look at these macarons.. I have never been to the Madarin Oriental but I think I don't have any excuse anymore!

Emyr Thomas, Bon Vivant said...

That's quite a feast you had! Great to hear continued praise for the place.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Am I envious?


.... Hell, yes! Glad to read it's everything it's cracked up to be, though - that's great news. Definitely on my list to visit asap.

franmouse39 said...

Lovely, funny, write-up Dan. Glad that you had such a good meal. The burger sounds seriously tasty.

Greedy Diva said...

Ooh I'm going on Friday and getting more and more excited by these good reviews I'm reading. Naturally, I have my eye on that burger.

Niamh said...

Very nice! Looking forward to trying it soon.

The Ample Cook said...

God, that all looked good Dan, particularly the terrines.

Lovely amusing write up :)

Dan said...

BristolBites - I was seriously impressed too! If you get the chance, give it a try.

Mathilde - Im sure it wont be long before you pay this place a visit, especially with so many strong dishes from your homeland on the menu.

Bon Vivant - All deserved I'd say!

Helen - Would love to hear what you think of it when you visit.

Fran - Thanks very much :)

Carly - Oh wow - make sure to heft the big camera out on the table then!! Cant wait to read your review of it.

Niamh - Get in there :)

Jan - The Terrines were bloody superb, and thanks :)

Anonymous said...

why has no one pointed out that a half pint is £4.50?

Dan said...

Annonymous - Hah, you just have! I drank wine on my visit and didn't look at the beer prices, but if that's true...that's some heftily priced pint action. Guess I wont be stopping by for a quick after work pint then.

Grumbling Gourmet said...

Cracking! Can't wait to get there in the next couple of weeks..

Another great review, though I think I'm most envious of the pork belly amuse / slight bribe... that sounds phenomenal. Is it on the menu from us lesser mortals ;-)


Dan said...

Grumbling Gourmet - Thanks very much...hahaha amuse/bribe!
Yes it is on the menu as Rillons croustillants au poivre

Graphic Foodie said...

Great write up and nice of Boulud to be so lovely to you all. Te tasting plate at the top looks particularly fantastic, I'd be happy with a couple of those and a few glasses of wine!

Anonymous said...

Great review, but must point out that "Boulud" is misspelled numerous times!

Dan said...

Fran - Thanks. The Charcuterie tasting plates were very nice indeed. Believe they were priced at £14 for the small one that we shared, and £28 for a larger one.

Anonymous - Thanks, and thanks for bringing it to my attention. Fixed!
I wish I had a better excuse other than I'm a bit stupid/lazy :)

Food Urchin said...

I don't know, you boys and your big cameras, thwumping them on tables for all the world to see ; )

Great review mate, having been hearing about this "pulled pork" a lot lately, what exactly is it?

Dan said...

Food Urchin - I like to think my big camera compliments my mungus wang nicely. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Thanks, and as for pulled pork - I swear I didn't look this up on Wiki and I can just reel information off at will - thus:-

Pulled pork is a form of barbecue originating in Mexico. It is known as Carnitas in Mexico. It is a method of preparation in which pork, usually shoulder cut (sometimes referred to as Boston butt) or mixed cuts, is cooked using a low-heat, long-cook method. With these extended times at low temperatures, the meat becomes tender enough that its weakened connective tissue allows the meat to be "pulled", or easily broken into individual pieces.

and *breathe*.

meemalee said...


Unknown said...

Interesting review by you and Chris - guess that is the disadvantage of your new amazing camera that it is not so discreet - but the advantage is your lovely pics!

Paunchos said...

The Frenchie burger with confit pork belly sounds too good to be true. Essentially an amazing sausage in burger format.

Dan said...

MiMi - Right back atcha! Double Dweeb

Gourmet Chick - Actually not a new camera, just a new lens - Ive always lugged it around with me to restaurants...I think the difference here was a very prominent centrally located table right next to the open kitchen, and loads and loads of staff!! They noticed the camera within minutes of me sitting down. Thanks for the lovely pics comment.

Browners - hahaha yeah, it sounds right up your strasse!!

Hollow Legs said...

Oof. That all looks pretty damn good.

gastrogeek said...

wow dan this looks amazing!! another one for the hit list....

Dan said...

Lizzie - Yep, looks as good as it tasted. All good.

Rej - yep, it's well worth a visit.

Su-Lin said...

And it goes on the list!

Dan said...

Su-Lin - 'The List' hahaha - my 'The List' is ever expanding.

Katie Parla said...

The piggie is absolutely exceptional. It should, in theory, be heavy, but is really nicely proportioned and doesnt sit on the stomach all day as the Hawksmoor burger does. Sorry gotta disagree with you on London's best burger. My vote is for Bar Boulud's piggie followed by Goodman and The Hawksmoor ranks 3rd.

Dan said...

Katie - Interesting that you preferred the Piggie, my preference was for the Frenchie without a doubt. But everyone has an opinion on what makes the perfect burger. Have you tried the burger at Bob Bob Ricard? it's seriously good, and is a real contender when compared against Goodman's and Hawksmoor's offerings.