There comes a time every so often, that this foodie craves the familiar comfort of an understatedly cosy setting, matched by a dinner that is decadently heart-warming and service that is impeccable yet endearingly-friendly.
It’s not as tall an order as you’d expect. If you know, you know Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park…
Leading straight off from the bustle of Knightsbridge, this French-style bistro and wine bar is part of Daniel Boulud’s globe-trotting family of restaurants, showcasing the celebrated Chef’s contemporary brand of classic French cooking… with an American twist!
Having momentarily shuttered its windows earlier this year, it was reopened with a subtle refresh (updates include the daily rollout of handmade pasta) but with the same welcoming look and feel as before, suffused across the inconspicuously-large room.
The varied composition of the seating arrangements is in fact one of the main draws of this restaurant for me as there is an option for every occasion – from the smart zinc-topped bar which is well suited to impromptu cocktails, small plates and an overdue chinwag with a close friend; to cosy dinners ensconced by the banquettes or larger, more convivial gatherings on the long table.
Of course, other draws centre on the contemporary finesse and American flair with which classics are executed – each imbued with a precise combination of carefully sourced ingredients, and thoughtfully paired by the wine sommelier to enhance your enjoyment.
A starter dish of burrata for instance, proved to be an instruction in the ripe freshness of heirloom tomatoes from Valencia. A skilful marinade involving oregano, garlic and Moscatel vinegar (typically used in wine production) pushed the depth of flavours surrounding this impossibly soft and creamy summer cheese. Pickled strawberries added a tangily-sweet dimension, easily complemented by the subtle fruitiness of the sommelier-chosen sparkling wine by Contadi Castaldi.
The chilled soup of the day, sweetcorn and celery – with corn bread substituting for croutons – was another delight on a muggy summer’s evening; while the gougères (gruyère cheese puffs) proffered pure happiness, a sentiment which effortlessly carried through with the soulful Mac and Cheese.
There was a surprising grace to this usually-unsubtle dish, with the little ribbons of homemade macaroni cloaked by an uplifting blend of cheddar, gruyère and béchamel. The smooth richness of Côtes du Rhône was yet another astutely-chosen wine-pairing, and one which revealed Daniel Boulud’s favoured wine-producing region – France’s Rhône Valley.
A kinawa (pronounced kan-yee-wah) salad helped dial down the lactose by a few notches. They say that you learn something new every day and in this case, my first introduction to this close cousin of quinoa was a worthwhile lesson indeed! The delicate grains packed a surprisingly potent crunch, holding their own against tender green beans and crispy shallots; while a black garlic dressing proved the final seal of satisfaction in this unexpected frontrunner of a dish.
As before, the enticingly-meaty burgers here remain a signature specialty… but on this occasion, were passed over for the lemon sole, as part of my dining companion’s misguided attempt to shape up for the beach. The saucy indulgence of the Grenobloise butter fortuitously disabused her of such fanciful notions, subsequently enabling me to enjoy her company in ordering not one, but three desserts…
The soufflé proved a new menu addition to rejoice in. Flavours change weekly, with passion fruit adding a tropical touch on this particular evening, mirrored by a foamy cocktail infused with the likes of coconut, passionfruit, orange and vanilla!
We also snaffled a few macarons (featuring a banana and peanut butter filling!) and of course, the restaurant’s famous madeleines. The zesty recipe of this mini sponge-cake remains a closely-guarded secret, the advantage being that you can always count on this fluffy, lemon-tinged pleasure at whichever outpost you find yourself in – from DB Bistro Moderne in Singapore, to Boulud’s numerous restaurants in the States.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I won’t carry on endlessly in praise of our immaculate evening.
The bottom-line of course remains validated: a gratifyingly-rich, comfort-laden dinner fuelled by high-quality ingredients and seamless service.
Until our next (re)visit then…
Bar Boulud, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
I was a guest of Bar Boulud on this particular evening. As with all my previous (independent) visits, all opinions remain mine and mine alone.