I had a delicious and fun lunch at Hibiscus Restaurant last week, and it stands out among the blur of meals I’ve had lately. If you follow any bit of London dining news, you’ll know that Hibiscus earned two Michelin stars in its Ludlow, Shropshire location before shutting down and moving to London a few months ago. Time Out gave the new London location a rave review, but the Telegraph wasn’t keen on it. (And obviously diners the world over were waiting for me to weigh in on this debate).
Things I liked about Hibiscus even before eating there: (1) it’s owned and run by a husband-wife team (because isn’t it nice that a luxe restaurant isn’t part of a celebrity-chef empire?); (2) it’s located super-close to the Oxford Circus tube station (because when I bust out the fancy shoes for a fancy meal, I appreciate not having a long walk from mass transit); and (3) it’s not resting on laurels (the move from Shropshire being something like trying to swim with the big fishes).
The restaurant’s decor is all warm woods and sleek slate. Bobo chic. The service was friendly, attentive and unobtrusive, and I appreciated that Claire Bosi, co-owner and wife of the chef, was gracious when I had to ask a million questions to understand how the menus worked: £25 for a two-course lunch; £35 for a three-course; £55 for a fancier three-course a la carte; and £65 for the tasting menu. Surprisingly, there was no requirement for the entire table to get the tasting menu, so my party of four was able to mix it up. I went for the tasting menu (surprise, surprise).
Because I didn’t take any notes during my lunch, my descriptions below are my best guess about what the ingredients were.
I think my first dish (photo above) was a mushroom ice cream on an island of something beetrooty, all in a sea of nutty cauliflower veloute. Cold-and-warm, crunchy-and-creamy, earthy-and-sweet. Very intellectual. I cook just ambitiously enough to appreciate how tough this thing was to pull off, but it’s not something I’d crave.
The crab-avocado filling with honey and sesame oil was one of my favorites. Juicy and sweet, the crab mixed well with the creamy avocado, and the hint of sesame and sweetness from the honey sauce added kick. Refreshing.
Another ice cream, this time of foie gras, served in a “brioche emulsion” and sprinkled with trendy pomegranate seeds (how sad is it that fruits can now be trendy?). The foie gras ice cream was pretty good, actually. It’s certainly fatty enough to be in an ice cream, and I enjoyed how extra-smooth it tasted in that form. As the foie melted into the brioche emulsion, it became a nice, meaty soup, and the juicy pomegranate seeds added crunch as well as colorful prettiness.
I’m usually non-plussed to see salmon on a menu, mostly because I think it’s best served simple, and I can cook simple at home. But the slow-cooked salmon at Hibiscus was luscious. Too silken to have been seared, and too flavorful to have been poached, I was super impressed. Sous-vide (aka plastic bag cooking) at work, perhaps?
The roasted partridge was tender and juicy, and I loved whatever the green mash was. I particularly liked the partridge because only the breast fillet was served. (Because partridge has so many small bones, there’s no way I could have made my way through a whole partridge with dignity intact).
Ending the meal with a kaffir lime pie and mango salsa was nice, because again, the kaffir lime filling had been chilled (maybe it was another ice cream?), so it acted as a palate cleanser.
There were a few amuses served during the meal, and the chef came out afterwards to greet every table, which was nice of him to do. I enjoyed the wine as well as my company, so it was as close to a perfect meal as it gets, I think. I’m looking forward to going back.
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