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Posts Tagged ‘Hibiscus Restaurant’

Hibiscus egg amuse

Two weeks ago, Jon and I revisited Hibiscus to celebrate my birthday.  (We were last there in December 2007, soon after Hibiscus arrived in London, and I was reminded of how long it had been since our last visit when I read Tamarind & Thyme’s rave review of her lunch there in December 2009.).

I’d had a horrible day at work and was tempted to cancel our 9 pm reservation.  But if you cancel at the last minute, you pay a hefty £75 per person fee, which is understandable, but painful when you’re so exhausted.

So I dragged myself there, and things got off to a bad start when Jon and I were wedged between two tables of men talking dealspeak.  Despite my best effort to tune them out, words like “clawback”  and “leverage” kept intruding, and I started to feel quite sorry for myself.

A delicious amuse of Moroccan-spiced-froth-in-an-eggshell came and went, as did hot puffs of cheese gougeres.  I hardly paid attention, because I couldn’t believe I’d been wedged in Dealmaker Hell.  The hazards of eating at a 2-Michelin-starred resto on a Thursday, perhaps.

So I did something I’ve never done before:  I asked to be moved.  Our servers didn’t ask why – they just moved us.   Our new table was an oasis of calm.  Much better.

scallop with a tart gelee

Jon and I had the tasting menu.  If I had to generalize, I’d say the courses at the start were more creative and “ooh ahhh” than the ones towards the end, but from start to finish, we had a delicious meal.  My initial feeling that I had been coerced by the high cancellation fee into eating an exhaustingly-long meal was quickly replaced by the joy that a well-run restaurant with a creative, talented chef brings.

Our scallop starter with a starchy puree and refreshingly tart gelee had us wondering in awe how anyone (i.e., the chef) can think to combine such startling flavors.  Because it was my birthday, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride, so if you’re looking for precise ingredient descriptions, stop reading now.

poached egg black truffle raviolo

One dish that still stands out, even two weeks later, was a raviolo stuffed with a poached egg, potato puree and studded with black truffle.  First, the technical wizardry . . . how do you get an egg yolk into a raviolo without the whole thing spilling out?  (My photo shows the yolk after I’d poked open my raviolo).  Second, the flavors – potato, egg yolk and black truffle – an understandably-classic combo.  The pungent black truffle’s flavors are absorbed into the yolk and potato puree.  Comforting flavors in an elegant package.  Brilliant.

black bream stuffed with cepes

foie gras

duck breast with black pudding and red cabbage puree

If pressed to identify a weak link, I’d single out the duck course, because the duck breast had a few tough-to-chew bits.  You know, the kind you chew for a while and then end up trying to gracefully spit out because it just won’t go down.  It was an odd problem to have a 2-starred place, which is the only reason I remember it.

apple celeriac chestnut parfait

Pre-dessert, an apple gelee, celeriac and chestnut parfait  was interesting but not anything I’d ever crave.  The chestnut layer was too starchy for the parfait to be refreshing.

parsnip tart with pear sauce and vanilla ice cream with smoked caramel

Desert was tasty and playful and ended our dinner on a high note:  a parsnip tart that looked just like a tarte au citron, but instead was wonderfully sweet and salty.   The smoked caramel-vanilla ice cream was a dreamy accompaniment.

The dinner tasting menu at Hibiscus is £90, so with a modest wine, coffee and service, our tab totaled about £280.  Definitely a special occasion-kind-of-place, and at these prices and after such an inauspicious start, it’s a wonder that Jon and I left the restaurant feeling happy and relaxed.  Thank God we’d moved tables with no fuss.  I was glad we’d revisited, and we’d be glad to go back.

Hibiscus, 29 Maddox Street, W1S 2PA; 0207 629 2999; closest tube station:  Oxford Circus
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Hibiscus Restaurant interior, Mayfair, London

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.

Truffle Ice Cream and Cauliflower veloute, Hibiscus Restaurant, London

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.

Crab-Avocado with honey and sesame oil, Hibiscus restaurant, London

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.

foie gras ice cream with brioche emulsion, Hibiscus restaurant, London

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.

slow-cooked salmon, Hibiscus restaurant, London

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?

roast partridge, Hibiscus restaurant, London

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).

Kaffir lime pie, Hibiscus restaurant, London

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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