Plusses: Lunch deal, great desserts, non-alcoholic cocktails
Minusses: stressful environment, average food (not two star quality)
As we are back from London, it is time to reflect on all the nice meals and drinks we had; starting with Hibiscus, a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Mayfair. I don’t think I can rally enough about the great lunch deals one can find in London. If you are a bit of a foodie, but don’t have an endless supply of money, you can get a taste of top-chef action for less than 50£, if you just go to the restaurant for a lunch. Some of the offers are better and some worse, but I have has a four course lunch with two glasses of wine, petit fours and coffee at Alain Ducasse (three stars) for 55£. Compared to the price in the evening, it is a serious bargain.
Off course a lunch deal can have its ups and downs. During lunch you have quite a narrow menu, the wine is selected for you (or you have like two options) and you can be quite sure that it’s the B-team operating the kitchen. However, what you get is a good flavor for the restaurant and its style. And the B-team at a three star still cooks pretty awesome food.
Hibiscus is the restaurant of frenchman Claude Bosi. The restaurant was first founded in Ludlow, where it gained its two stars, but moved with the chef to London in 2007. Bosi uses molecular gastronomy to enhance the flavors in some of his dishes, however, I would rather characterize Hibiscus as traditional French rather than a molecule kitchen. AT least if you take a holistic view. The set lunch that is served includes three courses and a half a bottle of wine (!!), and costs 49£.
We took different dishes with M, as usual. There were three of each course to choose from. The menu included wild garlic soup, quail with apple and truffle, barbecued Poussin (French chicken) and braised ox cheek with carrot. For dessert we had rhubarb soup with vanilla ice cream and lemon cake with meringue. All good dishes, but I think what stood out were the desserts, the rhubarb soup especially. This is something I tend to experience with French restaurants, the desserts are always the best. We were also served an amuse bouche egg (with curry) and petit fours: chocolates, banoffee cake and nougat.
The look of the restaurant is very light. Cream colored walls and white table cloths. Contrast is brought by colorful tableware, especially glasses. I was very happy to see that the restaurant used Zalto wineware. Shows good knowledge on wine. The space is quite small though. After the meal we concluded that there was something unsettling about the environment, and that is was caused by the massive amount of staff walking around in a small space. All of the staff were very poised and quiet, however you could not ignore their movement in the space. Perhaps there were just too many.
Now to the highlight of the review: the wine. There were two choices with the menu: a Cotes du Rhone and a Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon from Margaret River. I chose the white to go with my lovely skinny French chicken and M took the Cotes du Rhone as a companion to the ox cheek. Both were a bit disappointing, except for the fact that I think the staff did not really count the glasses that they served to us (half a bottle was included). We said after three glasses that we had had enough, it was lunch time after all. The Semillon came out too strong in my white wine and the Cotes du Rhone was just plain boring. That’s the problem with these wine deals, the more we get into wine, the more dissatisfied we will be with “house wines”.
All in all a fun experience, but I must admit I have had significantly better starred meals. I am not sure this lunch will encourage me to go there for a second run.