Last week’s Food Bloggers’ Dinner at Bob Bob Ricard – off Golden Square, Soho – was an excuse to stick my schnoz up in the air more than usual and open the pocket thesaurus along with other equally snooty food writers. Creatives flourish in such company and a “tasty plonk” is instead noted as a “superannuated example of primitive España, long past its juncture.” At least, that’s how I talk in such company (to my own embarrassment).
Bob Bob Ricard was fashioned by its owners Bob and Ricard (actually Leonid and Richard – go figure) and designed by architect and restaurant designer, David Collins. The design is reminiscent of an Orient Express carriage fused with Liberace’s kitchen (possibly not the intention? Maybe this is what Cloud Cuckoo Land looks like?), and has a clean-cut interior with a splash of exuberance. The art deco furnishings are nostalgic of a bygone era and evoke images of a Hercule Poirot murder scene. Vintage children’s tin toys and train sets sit alongside pink and black artworks – rather like a Pink Panther finger painting or punk-styled Rorschach test.
The menu is surprisingly simplistic, offering minor twists of Russian flair to traditional British dishes: caviar with blinis and zakusk canapés is an example. Caviar and champagne is a staple here, perhaps even Bob’s two favourite things in the world? There’s a story about Bob discarding Beluga caviar after a high-society London party. If I told you how, you’d cry. Each table is fitted with a champagne button so it’s literally available when required. Press the button, titled, “Champagne” and a waiter will arrive at your table – dressed in a fitted pink blazer, turquoise for the girls – with glasses of fizz. It’s like they say, the best things in life are…well, about as much as a good bottle of champagne.
Upon arrival we were given the BBR signature drink of pink rhubarb gin and tonic. A welcomed relief after exiting the humming and muggy-evening streets of Soho, and it had a glamorous and sparkling punch. A pre-starter followed of jellied ox tongue with creamed horseradish served with Vodka Imperia by Russian Standard served at -18c. I can’t make up my mind if the jelly was beautiful art on a plate or just a wobbling casing for animal mouth? It’s like that episode of The Office when Gareth says of jelly, “I don’t trust the way it moves.” However you consider it, it tasted damn good and the light creamy horseradish lifted the flavour and melted in the mouth. And that’s from someone who doesn’t even like the stuff. The vodka had an initial sharp texture but developed down the throat with a sweet finish, and is indeed, best served chilled.
Russian salad with black truffles was the starter and lacked the personality of the prior dish. It was again accompanied by chilled vodka: Kauffman Special selected vintage 2006 served at -18c, which is, according to Bob, “the most delicate vodka in the world.” Again, there was sharpness to the nose and texture, with hints of anise, but developing characteristics in the mouth resulting in an overall softer finish, which I’m told is inherent to a honey-based vodka.
The main of veal Holstein was the best dish. There’s Bob Veal from calves that are slaughtered when they are a few days old, up to 150lb, but not sure if this was Bob’s Bob Veal? Buttered breadcrumbs were reminiscent of veal Parmigina and encased the juicy and robust veal and truffled creamy mash potatoes underneath soaked up the surprise of a ‘Secret Sauce’. There was a quail egg on top (for pretty effect) with slithers of salty anchovies to heighten the flavour.
Our wine was a 2008 Rioja Tinto, Bodegas Navajas, and a great match for the veal. It’s a youthful Rioja noted for its intense raspberry and black cherry overlay, but there is also a finishing hint of vanilla oak which sweetens just a little and calms the saltiness of the anchovies.
We had a choice of two desserts and I opted for the lighter Bramley and Cox apple jelly, the prettiest dish of the evening. Served with crème, corrugated apple and deliciously crumbly shortbread, the careful presentation of soft yellows and greens invoked images of Kent countryside and picking apples in woodland. The thinly cut apple slices were positioned in the crème and were sweet and crunchy. Surprisingly, the jelly maintained all the juices from the Bramley and Cox without diluting.
The other dessert option was ‘Chocolate Glory’, consisting of chocolate Jivara mousse and chocolate brownie with passion fruit orange jelly and meringue served with fresh raspberries and hot chocolate sauce. Now there’s a breathless description. It arrives – noticing Gourmet Chick next to me – like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange dusted gold. The waiter then returns to pour hot chocolate over the sphere, which teasingly melts the chocolate and reveals the inner contents of passion fruit jelly and meringue – flawless theatre and downright greedy for those with a sweet tooth.
I wrapped up the evening with a glass of Sauternes (2003 Château Rieussec) that was far too thick and sweet and went down like car oil; however the girls at the table seemed to lap it up with ease. There had been careful balancing of plonk and grub up until now, and this was too candy-coated for me, the syrup and sugar tones buttock-clenching. This said, The Wine Spectator rated it 95/100, so what do I know?