You don’t go to Bar Boulud
for the only occasionally in residence star chef Daniel Boulud, and you don’t go purely for the burgers either, despite what you may read. No you go to Bar Boulud for the wine and the eccentric but delightful sommelier, David Vareille. From the moment you walk into the restaurant in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental it is clear that wine is a major focus. Cellared wine behind glass lines one of the walls, the Rorschach ink blot like art is meant to be wine stains and even the lampshades are “inspired” by wine barrels.
The bar overlooking the kitchen – great for solo diners
I was invited to review Bar Boulud along with Krista
, Laissez Faire
. The advantage of being invited to a restaurant with a group is that you get to really explore the menu. The six of us worked our way through a lot of what was on offer. From our experience, here’s what I’d order and here’s what I’d skip.
You must order the astounding charcuterie platter, but make sure you go for the large board (£28) to experience the full range of piggy products. Ours included creamy grand mere paté made from chicken liver and grand pere paté which features foie gras, thick folds of ham, a wedge of duck carnard, slices of salami and for the adventurous, head cheese.
You must order one of the famous burgers. I tried the French burger (£13.50) and the Piggy burger (£13.50 ) both featured densely packed quality meat but for me it was the additions on the Piggy burger which stole the show, namely the slow cooked to a point of sweetness pulled pork that topped the beef patty. Great, crispy accompanying fries as well.
Cross section of the Frenchie burger
Continuing on the meat fest theme, you also shouldn’t miss out on the sausages. The porky and super spicy Thai sausage (£8) was a firm winner at our table but if you want a total cardiac arrest on a plate try the rich and creamy truffled boudin blanc that comes on a bed of even creamier mash (£11). This is baby food for grown ups but it’s good stuff.
Grilled sea bass
For a little balance, order a chop chop salad (£6) which is a meal in itself with lettuce, mushrooms and even cashews in the mix along with lashings of creamy dressy and some lobster on top if you are feeling flush (£15). Don’t miss the grilled sea bass (£19 ) either. Lightly pan fried fillets of fish have just the right amount of a tang of lemon and come on a bed of crushed new potatoes. From the desserts on offer the best of the bunch was the chocolate tart (£8) which was a dense, chocolatey wedge of tart with a scoop of about-to-melt caramel ice-cream.
In the kitchen
Here’s what I’d skip. I’d pass on the alioli platter (£18) as while I do love the concept of a whole platter based on seafood and garlicky mayonnaise goodness, it just didn’t compare to the charcuterie. Don’t bother with the asparagus salad (£11), as while it was delightful in simplicity (just white and green asparagus with a soft boiled egg) it was a little small and so didn’t offer as good value for money as the other salads. The only truly horrible thing I ate was the coupe peppermint (£8). This should be avoided at all costs even if you are a fan of the peppermint/chocolate flavour combination like me. It looked spectacular but tasted like mouth wash.
Each of these dishes, whether a hit or a miss in my books, was perfectly matched with wine by the sommelier, David. The wine list is pricey but prodigious in its breadth with a focus on the French regions of the Rhone valley and Burgandy. On our visit we skipped our way through what David described as a “powerful but feminine” Domain Sylvian Loichet chardonnay (£15.50 a glass) to the ice cider (£15 a glass) as a dessert wine made from 23 varieties of frozen apples. Each wine I tried was a new and welcome discovery.
So go now, order the sausages and burgers, spot the celebrities (Margaret Thatcher and Jon Bon Jovi were both there on our visit, although obviously not together), chat to David and whatever you do, don’t order a beer.
Details: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 86 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge SW1X7LA (Ph 020 7201 3899) Tube: Knightsbridge
Damage: Pricey but complimentary on this occasion
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Bar Boulud.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my reviews of nearby Zuma