Five years in the making and 16 months behind schedule, Bob Bob Cité has finally opened in the Cheesegrater. So much about the Soho original – luxe interiors, opulent private dining rooms, Anglo-Russian comfort food and the legendary ‘press for Champagne buttons’ – felt tailor-made for City boys and girls that this Square Mile outpost seems destined to be a smash hit.
If anyone can find it, that is – we were stopped by security attempting to ascend the escalator into the Leadenhall Building itself and politely but firmly directed instead to a dedicated glass lift which whisks diners to the third-floor restaurant.
Interiors are as eye-popping as the £25 million build cost: 24 bespoke chandeliers twinkling with 1,200 light bulbs, 8 miles of mirror-polished steel trim, walls panels lined with Japanese bookbinding paper, LED tickers running around the dining room. In place of the Murder on the Orient Express intrigue of Soho, banquettes upholstered in buttersoft blue and white leather look more like a jokey homage to a 1960s American airline – a Pan-Am pastiche cruising at 100 feet over the Cheesegrater's atrium.
Any misgivings we had about the sheer ostentation of it all were dropped like a hot brick with the arrival of the food. Eric Chavot is in charge of the kitchen and like his countryman Pierre Koffmann is one of those rare chefs who is just as at home – perhaps even more so – cooking bourgeois French food as the Michelin-starred haute cuisine that made his name (in Chavot’s case, at the two-starred Capital).
Deeply flavoured onion soup tastes like the very essence of onion and comes with a gooey slice of Comté-topped grilled baguette slowly sinking into the soft brown mush. Crab mayonnaise is a simple but prettily presented assembly of sweet, creamy meat, almost outshone by a wedge of baby gem lettuce dressed in the most entrancing vinaigrette we’ve ever tasted.
Chicken pie tastes of every one of its distinctly flavoured ingredients (morels, king oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrot and Sauternes) and is topped with a lid of burnished pastry embossed with Bob Bob’s logo – this is an Insta-ready restaurant branded to the nines. Four cheese lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, meanwhile, is as lusciously decadent as it sounds.
To finish, Chavot’s rum baba is a masterclass in undiluted joy, but his ile flottante is in a different stratosphere of pleasure altogether, a snowdome of meringue not so much floating on a sea of custard as anchored to the plate with caramel. It is one of the best puddings in London, heaven on a plate.
Wine prices, alas, are destined to bring you crashing back down to earth; there’s very little for under £50 and rather a lot for at least double that. Still, you pays your money and you takes your choice from some of the most iconic wines in the world: Château d’Yquem stretching back to 1928, Taylor’s port to 1945 and the biggest names in Bordeaux and Champagne available by the magnum and jeroboam, double magnum and methuselah.
Diners on tighter budgets should take a deep breath and look to the two dozen available by the glass but if the cost of it all still leaves you needing a sit-down, do take your time – Bob Bob Cité has a no table-turning policy.