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Classic French fare in the heart of St James
Guest Feature by Russell Bowes
Last year, after a long absence, Boulestin returned to the London restaurant scene. Originally situated in Covent Garden the ‘Old’ Boulestin was opened in 1926 by French expat Marcel Boulestin – one of the first celebrity chefs. It remained an elegant fixture purveying fine dining to famous faces until 1994. The ‘new’ Boulestin opened at the quieter end of St James Street last year and has been quietly building a following ever since.
I was invited to Boulestin ahead of the launch of their Christmas menu which after perusing and dining on the à la Carte I can assure will be something very special indeed. Head chef Andrew Woodford has crafted a menu fitting for a festive treat featuring dishes such as Duchy of Cornwall Native No 2 oysters, fillet steak, foie gras & Madeira with truffles and daube de bœuf & purée de celeriac.
The main dining room, situated at the back of Boulestin is elegantly decorated with just enough of a classic ‘French’ feel for you to be subtly transported to a cafe on the Rue de Rivoli. The tables are set up in such a way that you don’t feel enclosed or crammed in, something which can be all to common in a London restaurant of this size.
When it comes to dining you have several options for choice of ‘location’ and menu. At the entrance is Cafe Marcel, perfect for a pre or post theatre meal with set menus from £14.50. Further in you’ll find the main dining room which is perfect for smaller parties and has a fantastic selection of dishes. For special occasions you can hire the sumptuous downstairs private dining room.
On arrival we were greeted with a glass of champagne, perfectly chilled and invited to view the private dining area before taking our seats ready for an evening of fine dining.
I had expected to be ordering from a set menu so it was a real treat to have free rein on the a la carte menu. After some careful consideration I opted for Noix de St-Jacques, Topinambours, Truffes Noires – Pan-fried Scallops, Jerusalem Artichokes, Black Autumn Truffles (£17.50). The scallops were meaty and perfectly cooked, almost falling apart when I delved in with my fork. I felt the sauce was almost a little too overpowering but I’d be more than happy to order this dish again and again. Whilst I wasn’t adventurous enough to try the Oysters (featured in the festive menu) several others in our party did. I can’t vouch for the taste but if presentation is anything to go by they would have been perfect.
Our starters were served with a glass of a crisp yet dry white wine which washed the scallops down perfectly.
On to the main course. I was tempted into trying one of the dishes which will be featured in the festive menu such as the daube de bœuf which looked rich and heady when my friends plate arrived and fell apart when her fork touched it. I almost regretted not ordering it when I saw the pink beef under that dark glazed exterior.
Instead I opted for a good old favourite, Foie de Veau Grillé et Bacon Pommes Lyonnaise – Grilled Calf’s Liver & Bacon, sautéed Potatoes & Onions (£22.50). The liver was served with a good portion of pink colouring in the middle. As soon as it hit my tongue the liver melted in my mouth. The creamy liver was perfectly paired with the salty crispy streaky bacon. The potatoes and onions were lovely as well.
As I opted for a red meat for my main I also plumped for a nice glass of deeply red wine. The rich deep colour belied the lighter fruity aroma and taste which inhabited my glass. An excellent choice.
Along with our main courses our party also shared several side dishes. Dishes of puree potatoes, chips, green beans, spinach and my personal favourite, the decadently rich Pommes Anna. So rich, so buttery but so very, very much worth having.
After a rich and filling starter and main course I decided to plump for what I thought could be a lighter dessert, Crème brûlée. The last Crème brûlée I ate was back in the summer, sitting in cafe in Montmartre Paris. Cracking the burnt sugar with my spoon instantly transported me back to that Parisian summers evening. It was a gorgeous way to finish a lovely evening.
The selection of cheeses also looked an excellently balanced dessert. The chocolate pudding, which I tried a little of, was gorgeously indulgent and chocolaty.
The evening was wrapped up with a nice coffee.
The menu comprises a fantastic range of classically French dishes. The adventurous among you may wish to try snails as a starter or calf’s head as a main. Vegetarians aren’t left out either with a lovely sounding Provençale Vegetable Gratin on offer.
5 St James Street,