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Restaurant review: Bar Boulud at The Mandarin Oriental, London

Bar Boulud
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
020 7201 3899
Cuisine: French
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Daniel Boulud has just mixed me the sexiest cocktail in NYC. Well, his head mixologist Xavier Herit did- complete with white cranberry juice toted over in his own luggage. The White Martini is a belter- French vodka, St Germain elderflower liqueur and that juice poured over a single rose petal-filled circular ice cube, which Xavier assures us will take a full two hours to melt.
Bar Boulud has so successfully recaptured the clubby, lounge-bar vibe of its New York predecessor that we linger almost long enough to test his claim. From the sleek bar, to the flawless service, to the food, absolutely everything is a point. Especially the food.
Oh, the food! Boulud's menu is a Lyonnais dream, so lengthy you feel replete merely perusing it. You could dine out for a week- nay, a month, without the slightest trace of menu fatigue. If only. It's charcuterie-heavy, with Boulud championing the wares of his Parisian charcutier, but salads and delectable marine offerings vie admirably for the gourmet's order.
Figure consciousness amongst foodies is nothing new, but Boulud is one of the few chefs to acknowledge and respect that, delivering hearty Lyonnais classics re-interpreted for the modern British palate. Proof? A slight woman of my acquaintance manages an unctuous, cherry-rich Gateau Basque, despite previously indulging in two courses of unashamed 'man food'.
Wines are just as good- and the sommelier at once charming, knowledgeable and unobtrusive. We leave our pairings entirely at his discretion, utilising his expertise to our great advantage. An acidic Marsanne slices through the richness of Provencal pulled rabbit, carrot, courgette and herbs; whilst a creamy, full bodied Bourgogne Pinot Blanc tips my Grilled octopus with babaghanoush and chickpea panisse from the sublime to the realm of the positively ridiculous. We love it all- can you tell?
Mains are no less impressive. Craving warmth on an unseasonably chilly evening, my companion is seduced by the special- Braised lamb shoulder with vegetables on creamy polenta. It's intriguingly paired with chunks of orange- delicious, and, Daniel tells us, tres Provencale.
Daniel? The man himself is here, and he greets diners warmly, chatting about the new venue and the food with that typically French bon viveur. He's shipped his NY staff over for the opening period, too- ensuring their British counterparts can seamlessly replicate the Bar Boulud experience as they're phased in.
Even the presence of the Grande Fromage can scarcely distract me from my own main- a glorious agglomeration of Butter-poached halibut, asparagus, spring chanterelles, and mousseline, administered with sips of Sancerre Chavignol. The Truffled boudin blanc is pretty diverting, too- even a side of Vegetables Jardinière is inspiring.
Dessert? Oh, go on then. This is one experience neither of us wants to end. the companion relishes the aforementioned Gateau Basque with a swarthy Domaine du Maurinais- the perfect hangover from her lamb course. Meanwhile, I'm lost in a combination of caramel ice cream, mocha tart, and caramel sauce. Don't speak to me- I'm all a-savour. Although I will take a moment to rhapsodise about the accompanying honey-d Muscat.
The meaty menu certainly appeals to a certain demographic- seated nearby, hard-man Ross Kemp seems as taken as us with Bar Boulud. So, though, do all our fellow diners- despite it being mid-week, the place is buzzing.
With Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud delivers a true celebration of Lyonnais cuisine with a lightness of touch- that rare culinary restraint which is so gratefully received. We'll certainly return- if we don't take up permanent residence first.

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13 May 2010
By: Zoe Perrett
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