Monday, July 12, 2010

Bar Boulud: Lowering the Expectations of the Average Londoner

Once in a while you come across a new restaurant that is worth all the hype, that truly warrants the media fuss, press coverages and swarms of people desperate to try out the new place to be.

Most of the time, unfortunately, you don’t. Bar Boulud in the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park is one such destination.

Saying the restaurant is an exercise in disappointment is a bit excessive. A bit. I suppose it depends on how high your expectations are in the first place. If you are looking for a perfectly pleasant dinner, be reassured, you’ll get what you expect. No more, no less.

If you think all Michelin-starred chefs serve up turds of overrated and overpriced junk and approach with this mindset then guess what. You are in for a TREAT! The food at Bar Boulud really tastes far superior to a turd.

Raise your expectations higher than either of these two options and you’re setting yourself up for a disappointment. So I suppose that it was really my own fault that I found this restaurant to be so overwhelmingly lacklustre. Expectations were just too high and I take full responsibility.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Some of the food was decidedly on the side of brilliance – the Boudin Blanc sausages came with a truffle sauce that didn’t really taste of truffles but was unarguably the highlight of the night. A plump little saucisson lying sexily on a mashed potato base and drizzled with the sauce.

The cheese board too was pretty stellar – the Stinking Bishop comes highly recommended. But I hope I am not the only one that sees the discrepancy between three (three!) Michelin stars in New York and a dinner where the sausage and the cheese are the stars of the show. Thought not.

A brief run through: charcuterie – ok, scallops – large but lacking in flavour, chicken – same story. Meh.

Service was friendly but unreliable – the sommelier only popped up halfway through the meal, even though we’d asked for wines to be matched to each course. For the first course, we were left to our own devices wine wise, not a tragedy but not quite up to standard. Otherwise, glasses were dropped, wine was spilt... teething stages I’m sure.

One of my biggest gripes was the sheer number of people they had packed into the space. It’s a large restaurant by anyone’s standard, so is it really necessary to pack the tables so closely together that punters feel like wiggling and jiggling like a sardine as the surroundings are so conducive to doing so?

It was a Friday night and it was heaving. I could literally hear the woman next to me inhale as she finished chewing and was far too close to another table’s plastic-surgery face fest than is ever comfortable whilst eating. Diners were squished together closer than the rails of Next on the first day of the sale.

In short, go to Bar Boulud if you want to eavesdrop on society’s ‘finest’, complete with a step by step runthrough of what they’ve just purchased in Harrods but don’t go forthe food. You’re setting yourself up for a fall and will be far better saving the pennies for Blumenthal’s restaurant in the same hotel later this year.

Waiting rating: Ditzy would be a compliment
Scoffing potential: Not as good as you'd want it to be with all the fanfare
Wallet buddy: Not particularly friendly, especially in light of the actual food
The crowd: London's wannabe hip crowd and those with more money than tastebuds

66 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LA
020 7 201 3899


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