Review: Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental
Published 5 December 2010
Knightsbridge – the heart of exclusive, sophisticated London. Its streets boast a clutch of high-end retailers, such as Harrods, and the area houses some of the priciest real estate known to man, including the most expensive flat in the world: One Hyde Park.
Newcomers in the area would do well to feel a bit nervous setting up here. Cue Bar Boulud, a relatively new addition at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Namesake of head chef Daniel Boulud, Bar Boulud opened in May this year with high expectations – with Boulud’s ‘Daniel’ in New York having received rave reviews and three Michelin stars since opening in 1993.
It’s safe to say that Bar Boulud is a fine dining establishment. And although I don’t normally like to talk about myself during a review, I feel it’s necessary to explain something before I begin. I haven’t done fine dining before. I’ve never been waited on in a particular way. Only one set of cutlery (or chopsticks) has sufficed in other restaurants I’ve been to, and I’ve never been told about a wine in detail before. I don’t even drink alcohol. This is all worth mentioning because this is what Bar Boulud is great at – the details away from the food.
To start off, there are the extremely polite and helpful staff, literally waiting on hand and foot – offering ready sliced bread in napkins for example. Sommelier David Vareille was fantastic, even handing out his details to all before we left, should we ever need wine expertise on tap. Tables were laid out immaculately, with more than one fork and one knife. The décor was warm and inviting, and the open kitchen was a treat. The place just oozes charisma and elegance with a French swagger.
Starters arrived promptly after myself and a whole host of London bloggers were seated. A ‘dégustation de charcuterie’ was served to share, consisting of a plethora of pickles, mustards, pâtés, terrines, veg and seafood to pick and nibble. A highlight of the charcuterie board was the pâtés, which all were all very meaty, delicately spiced and flavoured, stunning to look at and nicely textured. Cured slices of ham and salami were simple but my favourites as they melted in the mouth. The boards were served with a 2007 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc and 2007 Pinot Noir from Domaine Cantin in Irancy, Burgundy (which my companions claimed to be lovely, complementing the charcuterie boards well.)
And onto the mains. Being informed that the burgers at Bar Boulud are particularly good, I plumped for the Frenchie burger. The dish was beautifully presented, but the burger itself didn’t do it for me. Asking for a very well done patty, the beef was vivid pink as soon as it was cut into, which I found disappointing. That said, the beef was juicy, and the addition of confit pork belly to the burger just added to the meatiness, giving the burger a much needed salty kick. The burger could have done with more than the sparse filling of rocket, as the pepperiness of the leaf went well with the unusual cheese brioche bun. The fries were decent however, finding the perfect balance between crunch and squidge. The mains were then washed down with a 1995 Chateau la Fontain de L’audbier from Bordeaux, which seemed to be the favourite wine of the meal.
Considering the location of Bar Boulud, the food is moderately priced, with the dégustation de charcuterie starting at £14 (for a small board) and the burgers priced from £12.50 – just a fraction of what you would expect to pay at eateries just around the corner. Whilst the place itself oozes class, the food failed to dazzle – in particular the main course. It was tasty, but forgettable. One could say it lacked a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’… But then again, that’s coming from a self-confessed, inexperienced non-foodie.
Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1 (020 7201 3899)