Tried & Tested

Restaurant check: Bob Bob Ricard

24 Sep 2014 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND

Located in London’s Soho, the Russian-inspired Bob Bob Ricard was unveiled to mixed reception from food critics in 2008. Since then, it has pulled in the reigns – now offering a reliably tempting selection of “luxury English and Russian classics”. It has also stopped opening early for breakfast at 7am, and closing late at 3am.

This July saw the completion of a year-long transformation of its subterranean bar, which is now a gilded art deco hideaway that attempts to imbue a sense of the Great Gatsby with its nightly performances of circus trickery, burlesque and cabaret.

The 74-seat Club Room features, as upstairs, booth seating (for four to eight people) with buttons you can press in the wall for champagne – one of BBR’s USPs. The dimly lit décor glimmers with copper, crimson, gold and purple, providing a rich, otherworldly setting for dinner or drinks.

Note that Bob Bob Ricard has an “upscale” dress code whereby you must look “glamorous and elegant”, and it is named after its owner/founders Leonid Shutov (nicknamed Bob) and Richard (Ricard) Howarth.

At the beginning of the year, it was announced that Shutov was also opening a 250-cover restaurant called Biblioteka at a cost of £15 million. Expected to launch next year at 12 St James’s, he said it will have the “finest wine cellar in London at a fraction of the price of any other restaurant [in the city]”.

THE RESTAURANT

Located on the corner of Upper James Street and Beak Street, with windows beneath understated navy blue awnings and glass inscribed in gold, Bob Bob Ricard has a relatively discreet entrance guarded by a doorman.

Inside, beneath a mirrored ceiling, the restaurant has the look and feel of an opulent vintage railway carriage with midnight leather banquettes in private booths – each of which comes equipped with personal power points for charging your phone and buttons you can press to call for more fizz.

Waiters wear raspberry waistcoats and ties, while marble-topped tables are set with paper place mats, crystal glassware and plates also edged with BBR’s signature pink. It just stops short of bling, bordering, in fact, on tasteful. It could so easily not work, but the lighting was right and somehow I loved it. I felt transported to another realm, tucked away from fellow diners and in the safe hands of charming, attentive staff.

While I waited for my companion, I refrained from immediately pressing the champagne button, and ordered a Vodianova Clear Bloody Mary (£13.50), which had been tipped as being very good. (I also liked the sound of the rhubarb gin and tonic for £10.50).

It arrived in a crystal tumbler and was a magical cloudy pink concoction that tasted far more complex than its hue would lead you to believe. It was spicy, strong, savoury and fresh without having the heaviness of normal tomato juice, making it the perfect aperitif as opposed to traditional brunch-time hangover cure. A little bit of research led me to discover it is made with “tomato water”, a homemade essence typically made from tomatoes, fennel, garlic, shallots, herbs and spices that are puréed and then drained through muslin.

After dinner, we headed down to the Club Room for a digestif at the sit-up bar. I sampled a “snifter” of Armagnac and prune liqueur while watching a man dressed in coat and tails perform feats of dexterity with a cane and bowler hat. Also at the bar was Bob himself, treating his two immaculately dressed young children to a special evening out. (They went home to bed at about 9.30pm before things livened up too much.)

THE FOOD

I was pleased to discover the menu didn’t try and compete with the interiors, being surprisingly down to earth in many respects. However, true to its Russian roots there was plenty of caviar and vodka, as well as the likes of smoked borsch, baked oysters and lobster pelmeni.

Other dishes were British or French-leaning – Cornish fish soup, venison steak tartare (Imperial with Petrossian Alverta caviar), chicken, mushroom and champagne pie, chateaubriand, beef wellington and baked Loch Duart salmon.

To start, my guest and I shared the truffled potato and shimeji mushroom verniki (dumplings) topped with crispy onions (£8.50); the twice-baked Stinking Bishop cheese soufflé with endive, apple and hazelnut (£9.50); and the Waldorf salad with grapes, Roquefort cheese and honey dressing (£11.50). Hungry, they went down very nicely. The verniki were particularly tasty.

For the main I went for the simple lemon sole goujons (essentially posh fish fingers) with crushed minted peas, tartare sauce and a side of fries (£23.50 + £4.95). This was enjoyable – reassuring comfort food and nothing more, which was a good thing.

For dessert I had the Eton Mess en Perle, which was an childishly sweet confection served inside a pink meringue globe that you had to break open to find the cream and fruit inside. It was fun but too sweet for me (I should have known). £8.25.

You can see the full menu here.

VERDICT

Come for the fabulous interiors and private booths – pressing the button for champagne is a gimmick but one that will guarantee a smile on anyone’s face. The resplendent Club Room works well as an opulent den for after-dinner drinks or dinner with a show – be it for a date or an office party.

The food doesn’t tend to be overly fancy, which is a plus in my opinion, although I have friends who didn't rate their experience particularly. It is accessible in terms of gustatory enjoyment, and unless you go all out on champagne and caviar, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money on a slap-up dinner. I’d go back for more.


OPENING HOURS

Restaurant: open daily 12.30pm-3pm; 6pm-12am Sun-Wed, 5.30pm-1am Thurs-Sat.

Club Room: Open Tues-Sat 7pm-1am. Closed Sun/Mon.

PRICES

12g of caviar £25

Three grilled oysters £9

Starters £8.50-£34.75

Mains £16.75-£39.75

Sides £4.95-£6.95

Desserts £4.75-£10.50

Wine from £6.50 per glass

Champagne from £13.75 per glass

Bottles of wine from £29

Champagne from £65-£1,245 for the Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Rosé

Chateau d’Yquem 1998 £26.75 per 75ml glass

CONTACT 

Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James St, London; tel +44 (0)20 3145 1000; bobbobricard.com

Jenny Southan

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