Dragging myself down to Soho on a grey Sunday afternoon in November is no easy feat, not even the promise of a decadent lunch can put some spring in my step. As I arrive at the restaurant’s entrance I’m greeted by a rather charming doorman, who ushers me out of the rain with a smile, and as I step inside it’s clear that I’m being transported to a different world.
Bob Bob Ricard is owned by Leonid (nicknamed Bob) Shutov and Richard Howarth, and has been winning over restaurant critics since it launched in 2008. But the restaurant, which serves a luxury English and Russian menu, has avoided opening its doors on a Sunday, until now.
Fans of BBR will know that the dining area is set up to resemble an Orient express train, with booths that look a lot like dining cars (each of which, has its own private cloak room), creating a ridiculously lavish, 1920s feel. Each booth is kitted out with electric-blue leather chairs, a marble table, but most importantly, a ‘press for champagne’ button.
A few minutes after myself and my companions settle into our booth, our waiter Sergio, dressed in a pastel pink waistcoat and a hot pink tie, brings over our first round of champagne. The restaurant has three Ayala champagne options by the glass. We opt for the Ayala Rosé Majeur which has a wickedly fruity finish and seemingly everlasting bubbles, before tucking into our starters.
I opt for the wonderfully refreshing Crab Salad with chilli avocado mayonnaise (served with cherry tomatoes and herb crostini), which tastes like spring and is a wonderful contrast to the grey weather outside. This dish could go either way depending on your personal tastes, but I find the texture and flavour sublime.
My friend opts for the Stinking Bishop Cheese Soufflé, which I’m told is wonderfully light and fluffy. Meanwhile our fellow companion chooses the Cornish Fish Soup, a blend of sea bass, lobster and mussels which has a very subtle and traditional taste.
After readily sampling mouthfuls of each other’s dishes, we decided to treat ourselves to another round of Ayala Rosé Majeur, after all, we wouldn’t want the ‘press for champagne’ button to feel neglected.
Our glass clinking and gossiping session comes to an abrupt end upon the arrival of our main dishes. I opt for the Lobster Macaroni & Cheese, which is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. The freshness of the lobster crustaceans mixed with the simple but rich macaroni cheese makes for the perfect comfort food.
My companions choose the Chateaubriand for one, which is a 28-day aged Aberdeenshire Scotch Beef, served with pomme fondant, mushroom, confit garlic and Madeira sauce, and the Lemon Sole Goujons, served with crushed minted peas and tartare sauce. Both dishes received positive feedback, but the side dish of smooth mash potatoes gets one of the best reactions of the day, proving that sometimes the simplest dishes are the most pleasing.
After enjoying our mains, we decide to wash them down with another glass of champagne (when in BBR…) before moving on to dessert. And let’s just say that they definitely saved the best for last. The Warm Chocolate Fondant can only be described as ‘perfection on a plate’. The texture of the outer chocolate and its warm and gooey chocolate interior work together to create a mesmerising melt in your mouth experience. And did I mention the gorgeous white chocolate and sweet, sweet berries on the side? Like I said, ‘perfection on a plate’.
It’s worth noting that Bob Bob Ricard is the only UK restaurant endorsed by Château d’Yquem as a purveyor of their wine by the glass. The prospect of a taste of this fruity delight was the only thing that could tempt us away from the champagne (though I hope we didn’t offend the ‘press for champagne’ button too much with our brief deflection).
My friends opt for the Eton Mess En Perle, which transforms from a cute ball to a pink explosion after one flick of a spoon, and the Trio of Crème Brulées, consisting of three small bowls of chocolate, passion fruit and earl grey tea. While all three desserts were a treat, I’m afraid my heart belongs to the Warm Chocolate Fondant.
I can’t comment on the food at BBR without mentioning the wonderful presentation of each dish. The use of vintage plates for certain standouts was highly effective and the carefully thought out trimmings on each plate made it almost difficult to delve into them, but we managed somehow.
After over two hours of over indulging, we opted to mix things up a bit and treat us ourselves to a glass of, wait for it… champagne.
The hours seem to disappear very quickly while inside our little train cart, so bear this in mind if you intend to pay the restaurant a visit during a Sunday shopping session. It’s difficult to prize yourself off the very comfortable chairs/sofas and you may find yourself losing precious shopping time and making some ill advised purchases after one too many touches of the ‘press for champagne’ button (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything).
’d say the better tactic would be to do your shopping first and then head to BBR to reward yourself and make good use of the personal cloakrooms, which have plenty of room for shopping bags.
That’s certainly my plan for the Christmas season and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of spring in my step the next time I head to the fabulous Bob Bob Ricard.
In fact, I’ve already put a date in my diary for my next champagne Sunday.
Bob Bob Ricard
1 Upper St James Street
London W1F 9DF