Never let it be said that we would turn down a friend in an hour of need. Especially when said friend is offering dinner. Travel blogger Heather Cowper (who so expertly guided the Smith blog around the gastronomic delights of Lisbon not too long ago, and penned a review of Hotel Avenide Liberdade to boot) recently invited us to join her and a flotilla of fellow foodies to Knightsbridge’s latest dining sensation: Bar Boulud.
This sprawling, woody, wine-themed eatery on the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental is the much-anticipated London outpost of restaurateur Daniel Boulud, whose name will doubtless send stomachs a-flutter in any New York epicures who’ve sampled the fare at Café Boulud in The Surrey hotel. Daniel is soon to share venue space with Heston Blumenthal, who’s at last wading into the London restaurant ring. See? Exciting things are happening in Knightsbridge: I went along to eat some of them.
Joining the party were a selection of seasoned food and travel bloggers, all worth a link-check: Londonelicious, Laissez Faire, Gourmet Chick, Last Minute, and, of course, Heather on her Travels. We also managed a celeb spot or two, but in the interests of discretion, I won’t let the cat out of the bag, but let’s just say that Arthur Scargill would be well advised to dine elsewhere…
Bar Boulud arrived in London on a wave of anticipation. In New York, its burgers are spoken of with the sort of hushed reverence normally reserved for holy relics, and its charcuterie – from the school of expert meat-manipulator Gilles Verot – could, if not turn a vegetarian exactly, at least make them whimper a little.
The accolades are more than merited. The first platter placed before us was the most delicious heart attack imaginable – spice-laced lamb-leg terrine, shredded beef-cheek compote, a dainty slab of foie gras and figs: a whole farmyard distilled to its tastiest components.
This was followed by Boulud’s signature sausages, which the restaurant touts as a starter. Smith’s vote is split between the spicy Thai variety and the meltingly rich boudin noir. Meat is clearly what Boulud does best – that and wine. The seasoned sommelier, David Vareille, navigated us through the commodious and bewildering wine list (27 pages, no less) with the requisite cheeky French charisma, telling a lengthy, picaresque tale about a vintner’s grapes changing colour overnight and ending it abruptly by declaring ‘but that is a lie’, after I’d made detailed notes on the event.
We’ve already established on the Smith travel blog that we’re not quite the wine experts we’d like to be, but I reckon I can get away with recommending the Domaine Sylvain Loichet Ladoix 2006, a creamy, appley white that should keep even the anti-chardonnay brigade happy.
And yes, the burgers. Boulud does three: the Yankee (which I’ll have to call the ‘plain one’), the Frenchie (in brioche, with confit pork belly), and the Piggie, which is the one that’s inducing near-orgasmic yelps of delight in foodie circles and on Twitter. It’s a multi-meat concoction of grilled beef and BBQ pulled pork, dressed in a slinky green chilli mayo and topped with a cheesy bun. Oh my days.
There were other things that appeared on the table (I have vague visions of asparagus dipped in soft egg, and an array of interesting-looking desserts), but by that point: a) my taste buds were still obsessing about the burger like a stalkerish ex who just can’t let go to the happy memories of your time together, and b) I was absolutely stuffed.
By the time I swayed out the door, I was lamenting the fact I wasn’t staying at the incredibly convenient Knightsbridge Hotel across the road, but instead had to drag my burgered up self across London to get home. If you’re in the Kensington area, though, in a meaty mood, and don’t mind the fact that the dining room itself is a tad generic (barring the slightly abattoir-evoking wine-stain artwork), then book yourself a table sharpish. Even if you draw the line at mammal-based meals, pop in for a glass of wine: David regularly hosts panier de vin evenings where he uncorks a vintage jeroboam of something special to serve by the glass. Recent stars have included Bollinger cuvée, and a 1986 Domaine Delaport Sancerre, and he tells us that September will see a selection of Ermitage reds from Chapoutier, so you can bet we’ll be back.
Bar Boulud 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
+44 (0)20 7201 3988; barboulud.com