Located in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge is Daniel Boulud’s London outpost Bar Boulud. I had lunch there just after it opened – see post Bar Boulud – Busy! Buzzy!Burgers! I enjoyed it on that visit and certainly thought about returning to try more from the Bistro inspired menu. It’s amazing to think that was over 18 months ago and I am only now returning, this time as part of a larger group.
This visit was for lunch on a Saturday and we experienced a much less frantic environment than I remember. The ambience was actually very relaxing.
I choose from the excellent value fixed price lunch menu – seriously good value at £23 for 3 courses. I started with a lovely creamy and tasty pumpkin soup, followed by a very tender lamb shoulder dish served with baby carrots, eggplant, almonds and apricots and finished with a quite stunning chestnut sable & mousse covered in a lovely shiny chocolate glaze served with some light and refreshing pear sorbet.
My companions were visiting Bar Boulud for the first time and quite rightly ordered the burgers. The Yankee and the Frenchie being the most popular choice. The best burgers in London was the general consensus there – great fries too.
The other dessert pictured is the gâteau noisette et poire – hazelnut mousse with caramelized pears and caramel ice cream. It was a stunner.
I tried very hard to resist the allure of the Mandarin Bar without success. My intentions for having a reasonably priced lunch were dashed by the pricey but delicious cocktails. The pictured cocktail is a Lychee Martini, the cocktail menu also had some delightfully named cocktails like the Orient Expresso and the Ginny Henricks.
I am sure I will return to Bar Boulud again in the not too distant future. It’s such a good refuge from the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge.
UPDATE : December 2012, returned for the good value set lunch menu (which unfortunately does not include the famous burgers). Same high standard of food and service. The tables are very close together, so you will find it hard to avoid a bit of people watching, we witnessed a couple of incidents where the staff were working hard handling some of the very demanding customers that frequent Bar Boulud.
The new restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental may seat 140 guests, but getting one of these seats is not easy. We reserved our table in January not long after the booking lines had opened and got the earliest table available, which was a 2.30 lunch sitting in March. This meant we had been looking forward to “Dinner” for what seemed like ages. Could it possibly live up to the hype or more importantly to my mind could it justify the loss of The Foliage?
Interestingly there does seem to be a restaurant review pattern, in that the food bloggers are less wowed than the professional critics. A pattern I am afraid we find ourselves following. To be fair Heston in interviews has emphasised that Dinner is not trying to be a fine dining restaurant, it is not an outpost of The Fat Duck. The staff also made that very clear to us on our visit. So we tried hard to adjust our expectations accordingly.
During the summer months the terrace overlooking Hyde Park will be used for al fresco dining and it may well take until the summer to get a reservation. The Restaurant is apparently fully booked to the end of June. Reservations are even being offered as prizes and being sold on ebay!
It was really nice to be greeted by the last two surviving members of the Foliage staff. As a welcoming treat we were given a sample of the famous Meat Fruit, enabling us to effectively “tick the box” on that one. It was a perfectly fine chicken liver parfait cleverly shaped like a Mandarin Orange in homage to the hotel. I then ordered the Hay Smoked Mackerel starter with lemon salad, Gentlemen’s Relish and olive oil. I found it to be a tasty and refreshing dish. For main course I chose the Pigeon, which was delicious, but in retrospect did not really justify the price which was actually more than the cost of the entire set menu. The standout dish for me was my dessert choice – no not the famous Tipsy cake with pineapple. I was a bit more adventurous. I went for the Brown Bread Ice-Cream, even though I had been warned and perhaps a little put off by it being described as having savoury elements. It was unusual, but for me it really worked with the yeasty Ice-Cream contrasting well with the caramel sauce and oats. I found it really quite moreish.
My companion was less successful with his choices. He started with the Rice and Flesh which combined flavours that he did not particularly enjoy. He also ordered the Powdered duck. The meat was moist with subtle flavours but he did not like the contrasting hard fennel. On the whole he felt that the historically inspired flavour combinations were a bit incongruous, sadly reminiscent of the cooking style at Oliver Peytons National Dining Room.
He then had what he described as the “Krispy Kreme” doughnut like Tipsy cake with spit roasted pineapple. The Tipsy cake was OK but the smoky after taste from the pineapple chunks was less successful.
We finished the meal on a “high” note though with a small cup of Earl Grey ganache and some caraway biscuits. This was rather playful in that it conjured up the taste of accidentally picking up and drinking a long discarded cup of cold tea – until the sugar rush kicked in! This sweet treat seemed to be closer in concept to the type of food served at The Fat Duck than to Dinners historically inspired menu.
The restaurant with its £4 million make over looks good, but not stunning. With that sort of money I expected this flag ship restaurant to have the same level of glamour as achieved by Moments at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona for example.
It was also strange to find ourselves seated at the same table location as we had during our memorable last meal at the Foliage. Maybe it was just a coincidence or perhaps it was intentional, indicating the level of customer care the Mandarin is famous for.
After our late lunch we met up with some friends in the adjoining Mandarin bar for a quick drink that lasted about 6 hours! The cocktails were on the whole really enjoyable, served by the super efficient staff. One annoyance was that they no longer offer bar food, just the room service menu if you are a resident. I suspect this is a side effect of losing the The Park Restaurant.
So in conclusion I have to say unfortunately Dinner is not somewhere that I would rush to return too. Indeed if in Knightsbridge, I would be more likely to make a return visit to Koffmans or perhaps even Bar Boulud. We have no doubt that these changes will bring financial and critical success to the Mandarin Oriental and certainly getting Heston to open his first London Restaurant here is quite a coup, but from our perspective sadly we feel that the Mandarin has lost more than it has gained.
UPDATE : October 2011 : The 2012 Michelin Guide has unsurprisingly awarded Dinner a star.
At long last we managed to have lunch at Moments restaurant. The delayed opening meant we missed the chance on our last visit to Barcelona. We were pleasantly surprised by the interior, as the Mandarin Oriental website does not do it justice. It is a beautiful room that is both stylish and comfortable.
We were greeted by a familiar face, Carlos formerly of the Foliage in London. One of our regular haunts. He presented us with a glass each of Carme Ruscelleda’s 20th anniversary Cava. Without hesitation we decided on the tasting menu (125 euro’s ouch!) along with a lovely selection of wines by the glass.
The meal began with the famous Appetizers Micro Menu which consisted of four appetizers one for each season. We then had a very artistic dish based on “Miros Bird” the original which we understand hangs in Carme Ruscelleda’s restaurant in Tokyo. This was followed by a very refreshing dish of cuttlefish and peas then a very moreish crayfish dish with morel cream. Next came an unusual but successful combination of flavours. Sea Bass with strawberry chutney. There was a choice of main courses. Tuna Cheek or Iberian Pork. The Tuna cheek in particular was stunning. We then moved on to the cheese course and two desserts simply named “Red” and “White”. We both agreed that the Red was our favourite as this was a standout dish and not just because it used popping candy!
We finished the meal with the Eight Pastry Divertimenti. A selection of Petit-fours presented on a three tier cake stand.
After the meal we were introduced to the head chef Raul Balam (Carme Ruscelleda’s son). It’s always nice to be able to tell the chef how much we enjoyed the meal.
The restaurant is too new to have been awarded a Michelin star or should I say stars as it will undoubtedly pick up more than one in the not too distant future, it is certainly a rival to its 3 star sister restaurant Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mer.
WARNING:Dining at Moments can seriously damage your appreciation of other restaurants. Every other restaurant, even ones you really rated start to look scruffy and unprofessional in comparison. The attention to detail at MO is second to none.
UPDATE December 2010 – Moments awarded a Michelin Star in the 2011 Michelin Guide. In my view they merit two. For more information, see :-
Last Post for the Foliage, not last post for No Expert – we are still going strong. The Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental however had a farewell lunch service today. It was lovely to be there but tinged with sadness, as it marked the end of an era for us.
The team pulled out all the stops. We started with a complimentary glass of superb champagne and some very tasty canapes. This was followed by the amuse bouche. We then had the opportunity to go off menu to choose some of the dishes. One of the standouts being the Sea Diver Scallops with chicken and mushrooms. It was also impossible not to order our last gnocchi, one of the Foliages sublime dishes. For main course we choose the lamb and an off menu beef dish, the wine selection chosen to go with this was absolutely stunning. Indeed all the wines selections were off a very high standard. I especially enjoyed the Trocken Beerenauslese, Nittaus, 2004 dessert wine.
The ever attentive staff were on hand to bring us up to date on the progess being made to complete the Daniel Boulud Restaurant (Bar Boulud) in the basement, due to open in May, and the Heston Blumental Restaurant which would be the Foliage replacement, due to open towards the end of this year. It is just a shame that a such a fine restaurant is closing prematurely to make way for these changes. It was good to see the Head Chef Alex Marks come out of the kitchen to talk to some of the regular dinners, where he received some direct praise for his teams work over the years. It was also a nice touch to be presented with a copy of the menu signed by members of staff as a memento.So it’s a fond fairwell to the Foliage. We and the other regulars will miss you.
Felt a bit odd returning to the Foliage our favorite restaurant following the regime change. Alex Marks is now the Head Chef, he was Chris Staines Sous chef for a couple of years and had formally worked at The Square. The menu still retains a number of Chris’s dishes, and a few new ones from Alex. One of Alexs’ dishes the gnocchi was a particular success, which although it contained no meat, seemed to deliver the essence of Sunday lunch.
The new Heston Blumental restaurant is yet to be named and is due to open in October 2010 with perhaps as many as 200 covers. Time will tell if all these changes are for the best. One thing is for sure is that we will miss Chris Staines and the Foliage once it goes for good. I just hope the staff are kept on under the new regime as Heston would be unwise to lose the talent in the kitchen and front of house.