BACKGROUND French chef Daniel Boulud made his name in New York and has several restaurants in Manhattan, as well as eateries in Las Vegas, Miami, Vancouver and Beijing. His first European venture opened at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in May (for more details see online news November 5, 2009).
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Like the original Bar Boulud, located opposite the Lincoln Center in New York, the London incarnation has a relaxed brasserie feel and serves up French-inspired bistro cooking. The venue is housed in a previously unused space beneath the hotel and has its own street-level entrance – it also has natural daylight from windows looking up towards Knightsbridge.
The venue comprises two main dining areas – the bigger and more serene is home to a big curving bar that you can eat and drink at New York style, while the second has a large open kitchen and is more buzzing. So if you’re dining with a client bear in mind that you will probably hear each other better in the front, though of course you will also hear your neighbours more clearly too. There are also two private dining rooms seating 16 people each. It wasn’t packed when I arrived at 7.45pm on a Friday evening but it filled up quickly.
The décor is warm and welcoming, with neutral walls, oak floors and deep red details, while the seating is a mixture of wooden tables and chairs and leather banquettes in the dining rooms, and high and low seating in the bar area. Adorning the walls of the main room are a series of black and white shots of the outlines left by wine corks on cloth, while the other room has pictures of eateries in Boulud’s native Lyon.
THE FOOD The menu is high on charcuterie and fish, with terrines and sausages among the specialities. I chose the boudin noir (blood sausage with piment despelette and scallion potato; £9) for my starter, while my dining companion had the boudin blanc (truffled white sausage and mashed potato; £11), both of which were melt-in-the-mouth and came in decent portions.
For my main I had steak frites (£18) – the sirloin was tasty and well cooked, with the chips and béarnaise sauce spot-on. My companion had the DBGB Yankee burger (£12), which he polished off with relish. Sides of creamed spinach and summer vegetables were perfectly cooked, and the sommelier helped us select a delicious 2008 Malbec wine to go with the meal – the list is vast, with French wines particularly well represented. Wines cost from £5 per glass and beers from £4 per half-pint.
My companion was too full to tackle a dessert but I gamely gave the Grand Marnier soufflé a go – it was gorgeous and as light as a feather, though I didn’t detect much liqueur in the taste.
THE SERVICE Excellent – we were welcomed immediately, and within minutes of sitting down had been attended to by at least three members of staff. The food came out quickly, though I would have liked a few more minutes between the starter and main, and we were looked after well throughout. I noted that a two-hour table policy was being adhered to, with our neighbours being advised their time was nearly up on two occasions, so don’t expect to linger.
VERDICT A excellent addition to the Knightsbridge dining and drinking scene – delicious food that’s pretty reasonably priced, and great service.
PRICE A two-course meal for two plus wine and service costs about £100. A three-course set menu is available at 12pm-3pm and 5.30pm-7pm for £20.