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|Address:||Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA|
|Tel:||020 7201 3899|
|Price: £58.00||Wine: £22.50||Champagne: £56.50|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-1am (Sun -12M)|
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
I went to Daniels in New York some years back, and was severly underwhelmed. Having heard so many good things about this new brasserie, however, I thought that I'd give M. Boulud another try. (By the way, is it a brasserie or is it bistro? I think brasserie, which tends to make one think of a bigger, place, rather than smaller bistros. Despite its name, it is certainly not a bar). I wish I'd gone to Hix.
Bar Boulud isn't a French brasserie at all. It is a NY take on a French brasserie: everything screams NY, from the “you're welcome” that the (certainly non-US native) waitresses deliver Pavlovian like, to “fingerling” potatoes, corn bread and feather steak, rather than spud, polenta and rib. Even the font in the menu is NY brasserie font.
Now I like NY style French brasseries: I still go back to Balthazar when I'm in NY, many decades after it ceased to be this week's greatest restaurant of the century. I like French French brasseries too: big high ceilings, all day service (and, in some cases, all night too) and fish soup. I do not like Bar Boulud. It is authentically big, but equally cramped and claustrophobic. Of course the tables are close together. That is authentic. What is not authentic, as a cursary glance at the black and white pictures of glorious Parisian and Lyonnais brasseries that lovingly adorne the walls would testify, is the ceiling. It is low. Way too low to get the right atmosphere; it feels like a brasserie in a dungeon.
The effect is that you get the feeling of sitting on top of the person next to you. Somehow, even in the sort of Parisian place where there is only a passing nod at a gap between the tables, you feel apart from your neighbour. Here, with nowhere for the hot air to escape upwards, it is pushed sideways, and you get to be part of your next door neighbours conversation, as they are to yours. So I can tell you that the sort of people we had next to us were wonderfully stereotypical; the American's who moaned about how things in this country weren't like they are back home and so had to be much worse, and the British BB wanabe, who'se oversized shoulder bag nearly took out our bottle of wine and glasses as she sashayed between the tables (clearly only a wanabe; even I could tell that it wasn't a Birkin). Given, however, that this is a big old hotel in Knightsbridge, these are probably the sort of people that they are aiming for.
Going with the recommendations of those who have reported before, we stuck to the meats. A very pleasant plate of charcuterie, with pates and saucisse. Bit stingy for £14.50, but very pleasant. It was interesting to note too that the next door table had the same, but their waiter described the pates as being completely different to ours, even though they were identical. Did I mention that you can hear everything from the next table?
For mains, we forewent the pulled pork burger (a signature dish I believe) and went for (another signature dish, we were told) the burger with foie gras. What is pulled as a style anyway? Pork wasn't the only thing that was pulled that night – so too was the rabbit. Is it a bit like being back at the Southend Roxy: “get your coat you've pulled”?
The burger was pretty good: was done rare as asked for and came with some lovely chips (or, more probably, freedom fries). The chicken too was a large slab of breast, nicely succulent, having a light, crispy skin and with little other than its own juices to go with it and the spinach. A really nice dish.
Chocolate tart was a fine desert, not easy to mess up, but nothing inspiring either.
The waiting staff were friendly, the waitresses just the right side of familiar, without being the sycophantic, first-name-giving waiting staff of US infamy. Service is a bit hit and miss still: small things like food arriving before wine; the main course taking an hour to arrive once the starter had been cleared. That sort of thing. Not bad waitressing, but service not clicking.
Then the wine list. Clearly this is a big hotel in an expensive part of an expensive city, but this is supposed to be a brasserie (or even a bar for goodness sake). How then can more than half of the wine list be over £100, and more than a quarter be over £200? There are some good value wines in there (more so it looked to me on the white than the red), but there are as many £300+ wines than £50- ones. Why? We had only a £20 odd retail bottle, yet even with only one starter and one desert, we still managed to rack up a bill taking us over a ton-and-a-half, which leaves you wondering how? And why?
I'm sure that this isn't top of the concerns of the hotel, where they have a capitve audience and a named chef. They are not going after the typical brasserie crowd, but the hotel guests: those Americans on expense accounts who want to be back in NY; the C list wanabes who want to be seen at the in place. Then there are the rest, who, like us, seem to have stumbled in to some godawful nightmare vision. A New York brasserie in the bowels of hell.