Friday, April 19, 2013

Bibendum: London's Art Deco Michelin Restaurant

One of my favourite restaurants in London, Bibendum is a visual feast for the eyes as well as being a treat for the taste-buds. During the day, light streams through the spectacular stained glass windows, and the evening brings a sense of elegance, glamour and the right combination of welcome, attentiveness and professionalism that has been honed to perfection over the restaurant’s 20-year history. Dining at Bibendum always feels like a special occasion.

One of Bibendum's fabulous stained glass windows 

In 1987, Sir Terence Conran, Simon Hopkinson and Lord Paul Hamlyn opened the doors of the iconic Michelin Building that was the newly refurbished home of Bibendum Restaurant. Twenty years later, Matthew Harris, who had started on that first day as Chef-de-Partie, is still there now as head Chef, having taken over the mantle from his mentor, Simon Hopkinson in 1995. Chef Harris continues Simon Hopkinson’s legacy of producing classic French food with a strong British influence, using the best quality seasonal ingredients, and results in Bibendum's consistently excellent cuisine.

The fabulous Flower Market on the main floor at Bibendum, 
in the original garage

On the main floor of Michelin House, in the tire company's original garage, is the beautiful Bibendum Flower Market and Café. The ideal place to pick up some fresh tulips, a dozen fresh baked croissants or enjoy a light lunch with a glass of champagne, unless of course you're one of the lucky few with luncheon reservations upstairs at Bibendum — so off we go!

A Taste of Spring - pots of tulips 

Simon Thomas, Bibendum's Café and Crustacea stall manager and staff

Named after the iconic Michelin Man, also known as Bibendum, the restaurant is housed inside the century-old Art Deco Michelin Building, the former headquarters of the tire company. Inside, the restaurant is divided into two levels: a casual downstairs café and oyster bar, which is decorated with small round tables and Michelin-themed artwork, and a more formal upstairs restaurant, designed with white tablecloths, bright blue upholstered chairs and stained-glass windows depicting Bibendum.

Upstairs, on the 2nd floor of the original Michelin House, is Bibendum. 

One of the original ceramic tiles on the exterior of Bibendum

Bibendum's Oyster Bar, on the main floor beside the flower market

Staff in the Oyster Bar...

...all elegantly attired in black and white

It's been said that that "relaxed and chic, the oyster bar is ideal for the local ladies seeking shopping sustenance." Who can argue?

The crustacean counter in the Oyster Bar

Seated at a lovely table with a fabulous view of one of Bibendum's spectacular stained glass windows, we were in heaven. As I found out, the original stained glass windows were removed by Michelin in 1939 at the outset of WWII and were subsequently lost. When Sir Terence Conran and the late Lord Paul Hamlyn bought the building in 1985, they commissioned new windows using photographs and posters to replicate the originals — and what a joy they did.

The gorgeous stained glass windows at Bibendum

With such a splendid view and a table at one of my absolute favourite restaurants, we ordered a Hendrick's Gin and Tonic and glass of Prosecco to begin our meal, as we perused the menu, nibbled on a bowl of warm olives and dove into the warm bread that was freshly baked downstairs at the Café, served with a lump of fresh churned butter in the Bibendum butter dish.

A refreshing Gin and Tonic in Bibendum's iconic rounded glasses

A chilled glass of Prosecco

A bowl of green and sun-dried black olives

The Bibendum lunch menu

Homemade honey and nut bread

A lump of fresh churned butter in the Bibendum butter dish, 
that for £14 is now in my kitchen at home!

How wonderful to find a menu with so many delicious offerings. We finally decided to start with the Salt Beef Hash with Mustard Sauce and Fried Egg as well as the Veal, Pork & Sweetbread Terrine with a fig chutney and sweet gherkins served with toasted brioche. Both were perfectly cooked, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. 

Salt Beef Hash with Mustard Sauce and Fried Egg

Served with braised leeks and a creamy tangy mustard sauce,
the dish was exceptional - an inspiration

Veal, Pork & Sweetbread Terrine with a fig chutney and sweet gherkins

Served with toasted brioche

With a selection of 20-30 wines by the glass or carafe, 
we selected an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with lunch

The original Michelin Company motto was Nunc est Bibendum, which is etched into Bibendums wine glasses and means 'let us drink', which was to illustrate that Michelin's tyres could absorb everything in their path — much like us over lunch! Our fabulous entrées were Rump of Lamb with Wild Garlic Greens and a Duxelles Bearnaise Tart and Sautéed Pork Filet with Toulouse Sausage braised in Beaujolais with aioli were served with sides of Broccoli and slivered almonds with Potato Croquettes. 

Rump of Lamb with Wild Garlic Greens and a Duxelles Bearnaise Tart

Broccoli and slivered almonds with Potato Croquettes

Sautéed Pork Filet with Toulouse Sausage braised in Beaujolais with Aioli

With such luscious desserts like Marbled Chocolate Mousse Cake with coffee crème anglaise and brandy snap, Apple Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla ice cream, and Lemon Bavarois with champagne poached rhubarb, it's a wonder we settled on the Stilton, sliced apple and grapes with a pear and ginger chutney, but it was truly excellent and hit the spot...if a spot was left.

Stilton cheese, sliced apple and grapes with a pear and ginger chutney

"The day we opened Bibendum was the happiest of my life. The perfect restaurant in the beautiful building I had always dreamed of owning. 25 years later, London’s restaurant scene has changed dramatically but class is timeless and Bibendum remains as light, elegant and luxurious as it did then and continues to serve the delicious, uncomplicated food for which it has always been famous. I believe it is the best restaurant space in London, if not the world"
Sir Terence Conran

One of my absolute favourite restaurants, I bought the Bibendum cookbook 
a number of years ago and it holds a special place in my heart

Simon Hopkinson, Sir Terence Conran and Matthew Harris at the Bibendum Cookbook launch

Housed in the historic Michelin building, Bibendum restaurant has been an iconic part of the London restaurant scene for 25 years. Celebrated head chef Simon Hopkinson takes the ethos of Bibendum cooking — fine seasonal ingredients prepared simply — and brings it to the home with this unique volume. More than simply a classic cookbook, these 40 superb recipes are a gastronomic testament to an iconic landmark. This is stripped-down, stylish food at its best: easy to prepare, generous in flavour, and great to share with others. With stunning color photography throughout, this is a culinary journey worth savouring — and I have, and hope to continue for many more years.

Roquefort Salad with Pears, Endive and Walnut Oil
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Simon Hopkinson

2-3 heads red and white endive
1 large ripe pear, peeled and thinly sliced
4 oz Roquefort cheese, crumbled
squeeze lemon juice
2-3 tbsp walnut oil
freshly ground black pepper

Separate the heads of endive into leaves and soak in iced water for about 10 minutes. Dry the leaves and neatly arrange them onto a serving dish, inner curved sides facing upwards. Drape the pear slices over the leaves, and evenly distribute the cheese in and amongst the leaves with squeeze of lemon juice. Trickle over the walnut oil and grind over a little freshly ground black pepper.

Scallops Beurre Blanc
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Simon Hopkinson

4 shallots, finely chopped
4 fl oz white wine vinegar
4 fl oz dry white wine
9 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
20 scallops
dash of olive oil
salt and freshly ground white pepper
fresh chives, finely chopped, to garnish

For the beurre blanc, place the shallots, vinegar, wine and 4 fluid ounces of water into a saucepan. Set over a moderate heat until almost no liquid remains. Turn the heat down to a low setting and whisk in the butter one piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt and homogenise before adding the next. Once all the butter has been used the sauce should be pale and have a thin, custard-like consistency. Keep warm. Brush the scallops with oil. Heat a heavy-based frying pan and fry the scallops for one minute on each side, or until golden-brown on the outside. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the scallops and garnish with chives.

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