According to my non-city dwelling Mum there can’t be a recession if a restaurant is packed on a Monday night. I see her point but don’t necessarily agree. To me there are two other possibilities. 1) said restaurant is very good and therefore merits being busy or 2) you are round the corner from the hedge fund Mecca that is Berkeley Square home to bankers who aren’t traditionally stereotyped as poor. Or it could be a combination of both. Let’s see…
Upon entering we were greeted by not one smiling member of staff, not two, or even three but FIVE people. Quite the welcoming committee. Bar Boulud itself was loud, very loud indeed, mainly due to the quantity of people crammed into the bar area. If a quiet romantic dinner is your agenda either avoid or make sure you get a table in the back room I reckon. It’s also pretty male dominated but for some reason I’ve never found that to be a problem….
I had been wanting to try Bar Boulud for ages having devoured one of my top 5 meals of all time in Daniel in New York in late 2010 but for some reason just hadn’t got round to it. Weird considering I had been so excited at the idea of Daniel Boulud’s first London outpost but que sera. Decor wise, I loved the wine themed art; stained glass windows in the shape of wine glasses and literal wine stains on blotting paper and the layout of the restaurant stops it feeling too huge and impersonal for such a large number of covers.
Bar Boulud’s menu is constructed in quite a hotch potch kind of way where sometimes the price seems to be the only way of determining if something is an entrée or a main course- although even this doesn’t necessarily follow. There is also a very wide selection of food on offer, do they specialise in sausages of which there are many options? or burgers? or seafood? or charcuterie? Its a minefield but who cares, its all good. Due to this we ended up ordering quite a lot of food. Most of it pig based.
As a kind of pre-starter or “Little Bite” as they call them, we ordered the Croustillants de Porc- essentially pork scratchings, ears and some roasted crispy pork belly. No pictures this time I’m afraid as my iphone battery had bitten the dust- its a shame as the charcuterie really deserved a picture. The pork scratchings had a five spice/star anise type dusting which was much tastier than I had expected it to be.
We followed this with a large mixed charcuterie platter consisting of “Pâté grand-mère”(a smooth pâté of chicken liver & pork flavoured with cognac), “Pâté grand-père” (a more coarse pâté including foie gras, truffle juice and port)some jambon de Paris and some other sliced meaty bits and bobs and tiny little onions and cornichons. My dad deemed the ham to be the best he had ever tasted and the Pâté grand-pèreto be excellent which is no slight praise at all coming from a man who spends hours smoking and shooting things (not in that order) and making various pies and terrines.
I had the “Piggie Burger” as my main and never was a dish more accurately named. Of course two previous courses of pig would be enough for a normal mortal but no, I couldn’t resist the charms of a burger offering a topping of bbq pulled pork. The burger was excellent on its own, nice and pink inside and oozing greasy loveliness. The cheddar topped bun made a nice change to the recent rash of brioche burger buns (not that a brioche doesn’t have a valid place in burgerdom). In all honesty I wasn’t getting much flavour in the “green chilli mayonnaise” but this didn’t bother me as personally the highlight ingredient was always going to be the pulled pork. Shiny and rich with tangy barbecue sauce, the pork melted in the mouth and would have slid straight off the burger if not secured with a wooden stake.
Despite being a wildly inappropriate side order to have with a burger, I just had to try the truffled mash which at £4.25 seemed like a pretty good deal. It tasted sublime. Nice and truffly and clearly the chef had been following the cardiac arrest inducing 50% potato vs. 50% butter/cream rule judging by the way it slid from its mini pan in a neat dollop on my plate.
Having protested that I couldn’t possibly fit another mouthful in (and in all honesty probably shouldn’t have) I fell foul of the temptations of the Coupe Peppermint. What was described as a flourless sponge was heavier than the description suggests and essentially a very rich dense chocolate brownie. Don’t take that as a moan however as it was deliciously moist and the dark chocolate hot sauce and mint choc icecream were beautiful. Although chocolate based, it was one of the more unusual chocolate desserts that I have eaten recently. It was also the first time in years that I have breached my (admittedly very weird and utterly unexplainable) rule of never mixing hot and cold foods together – call me a freak but normally I hate it.
I really, really wanted to try the madeleines and macarons but even I have some limits to gluttony unfortunately.
There was an excellent wine list at Bar Boulud but I’m afraid all I can remember is lashings and lashings of pig. It was nice wine though and went well with pig…….
Ultimately, if you cook me a meal that involves pig, foie gras, truffles and peppermint chocolate I’m going to be hard pushed not to be happy about it (unless you mix them all together in one dish, that would be just horrid). Would I go back? Yes. Especially as they do a prix fixe menu for £23 for 3 courses at lunch and early doors every day.
So in summary and back to my two options from the opening, was it so busy because its good or because of the bankers? A bit of both I guess but definitely more of the former, maybe those bankers just have good taste!
PS Did I mention that they serve pig?