Bar Boulud Knightsbridge – Escape from Harvey Nichols
We were booked to dine at Bar Boulud in the Manderin Oriental, Knightsbridge as guests of the Hotel, but arrived just a little early. I have to say, while I generally like hotel bars, on a whim I suggested we went to the 5th Floor bar at Harvey Nichols rather than wait in the Manderin Oriental. And, it proved a mistake. The red carpet was out and there were already crowds of sad, cold looking onlookers waiting for Victoria Beckham to arrive. Once we reached the bar, half empty at 6pm on Friday night, my impression was that we really were not welcome – perhaps because they clearly had a big event in the private room next door. We made the mistake of sitting down at what looked like an unreserved table. And got told very abruptly that ‘we could sit at the bar’. So, we perched on the two remaining shiny white bar stools, blasted by air conditioning and waiting for someone to ask us what we’d like to drink. The man next to us was so drunk that the staff refused to serve him anything other than water. And, he was smoking a pipe, half hiding it with his hand, so in the end I was grateful for the air conditioning. Meanwhile the ‘reserved’ tables remained empty for our entire 30 minute stay.
About the best you can say about the bar is that it is good for watching Only Way is Essex girls who aspire to Made in Chelsea. And, my champagne cocktail was pleasant enough, though my friend’s vodka martini was pronounced not cold enough and weak flavoured. We made our escape, close to £30 worse off. I was disappointed, having eaten in the restaurant and café and enjoyed both, albeit some years ago.
On to Bar Boulud where as guests of the hotel treatment was impeccable. But, one thing I do if I am dining by invitation (being just a little sneaky) is check around to see how other people are being treated and whether we are getting the same as them to eat. And, all I saw was smooth, slick, helpful service and fabulous looking food.
I love Lyonnaise food. I spent a lot of time in my teens and early 20s in Chambery and then Lyons. Sometimes with a French family and at other times taking part in the Berlioz festival in Lyons itself. So, the idea of trying the menu at Bar Boulud really appealed and I spent some time checking the options before we arrived. But, as it happens the staff were incredibly helpful and everything was explained in some detail. Daniel Boulud , the Michelin 3 star chef of the eponymous restaurant ‘Daniel’ in New York also runs a collection of brasseries in the US and a few other cities world wide. Bar Boulud is a kind of fusion of French meets USA food, with a lot of influence from Lyons noticeable in the charcuterie and sausages.
We chose a small charcuterie platter to share as a starter which arrived with a couple of rounds of toast, some pickles and a small dish of celeriac and apple. I thoroughly enjoyed the terrines, in particular the Pate Grande Mere and the Tagine d’Agneau, an unusual Moroccan spiced lamb terrine. And the sweetest and most succulent Paris ham I’ve ever tried. The charcuterie is predominantly made in-house and is not to be missed.
Our procrastination about main courses were solved by an offer by the bar to let us have tasters of the burgers. We ended up with half a ‘Frenchie’ and half a ‘Piggie’ each. The Frenchie was a burger to die for. The perfectly cooked meat, topped with delicate Morbier cheese, peppery rocket and confit pork had an excellent balance of flavours and textures. According to my dining companion, the Frenchie was the best burger he has ever tasted. The Piggie suffered from a slightly dry cheese bun.
I have to admit, at this stage I was really very full!. However, I’d ordered a duo of boudin, mostly because REALLY wanted to try the boudin blanc, a white pork sausage made with tiny morsels of black truffle with mash and apple to accompany it. It’s something I ate regularly in France but have never dared try over here! It was light, tender and really beautifully balanced. My second sausage was the beaujolaise, a classic combination of pork, mushroom, bacon and bacon with potatoes. It was excellent – again, just as I remember boudin from my stays in Lyons and Chambery in my teens! Our helpful sommelier suggests a glass of Batisiolo Barolo 1989 as something we could both enjoy
My dining companion’s paleron had a great depth of flavour and was fantastically tender. It looked and tasted like a true brasserie dish.
Now, I admitted defeat! But I’d seen some pretty plates of macarons being taken to other tables so asked for some to go with my coffee. Meanwhile my braveheart dining companion went on to choose Gâteau Basque, a classic french cake served with brandied cherries and vanilla ice cream. The cake was reported to be moist in texture, complimented by the ice cream and striking the right balance of taste without the vanilla ice cream overpowering the delicate cake.
We were also served a pretty basket of madeleines and a glass of Muscat de Riversaltes. The perfect end to a wonderful feast.
This is not fine dining, nor is it priced that way, with a sharing platter of charcuterie for £16 and burgers for around £12. You could bring your (well behaved) children here and they would enjoy the menu. But, everything is beautifully flavoured and really tasty. Good honest French brasserie food with a New York twist in elegant and comfortable surroundings.
Manderin Oriental Hotel