Bob Bob Ricard
I’ll admit to being quite excited to see what all of the fuss is about on my first visit to Bob Bob Ricard. Located just off Golden Square, it has been a Soho institution almost since it opened in 2008, well-known for its iconic booths, glitzy interiors and self-described “eclectic clientele”. Luisa is fancier than me and has already been several times for some (no doubt) very responsible champagne-fuelled decadence.
Tonight we are celebrating Luisa hitting 50,000 Instagram followers in true Russian style: with vodka shots and a couple of glasses of Moët Brut Impérial. Our fellow diners are indeed an “eclectic” bunch: at the table next to us, a young Chinese guy is wearing a snapback cap and jeans while his girlfriend sits shivering in a strapless black dress; next to them, an elegant Scandinavian woman is dressed up for dinner with her son; and across the room, four coiffured blonde ladies in leopard-print dresses are re-applying their make-up before dessert.
To start, we go for an all-time classic. Steak tartare is not for the squeamish, but a gastronomic treat once you get past the physical barrier of eating raw meat. The beef in this iteration is coarsely chopped (which we much prefer to minced), lightly mixed with a slightly spicy mayonnaise and finally topped with a soft-boiled quail’s egg and small crispbread. We break into the egg and shovel up silky forkfuls. Bursting capers and sharp gherkins cut through the richness, although the crispbread is too small to scoop with. If you’re feeling extravagant, you can order a glitzy version with a dollop of caviar.
Lobster, crab & shrimp pelmeni arrive swimming around in a very fishy broth, each topped with a few clustered pearls of salmon roe. I spent about six weeks travelling across Russia in 2015 and must have tried almost every variety of pelmeni – some boiled, others fried, some served dry with a spoonful of sour cream, others served in clear soup sprinkled with dill. These pelmeni are soft and tender, but it is difficult to discern the delicate flavour of each of the three crustaceans. We look on enviously at the table next to us, who ordered the Egg St. Petersburg – a glorified Scotch egg with pickled mushrooms adding a Russian element.
Our first main course is the chicken Kiev. Honestly, what’s not to love about a chicken Kiev? Tenderised chicken breast in a smart breadcrumb jacket, oozing thick garlic butter all over the place: heaven. This particular one is expensive at £26.50 (too expensive, if it were anywhere other than Bob Bob Ricard), but ticks all the boxes. We tuck into the bed of crushed, peppered sweetcorn, which is now happily soaked in garlic butter. With the Kiev, we share a bottle of 2016 Auténtico Malbec, Bodega Colomé from Salta in Argentina, which is inky, rich and deliciously plummy.
Our waiter talks us into ordering the vegetable “Humble Pie” instead of the chicken and mushroom. Apparently, the original phrase actually has no connection to the word “humble”, but comes from “numble pie”, a medieval pie typically filled with chopped or minced deer offal. Somehow “numble” morphed into “humble” over the centuries and an idiom was born. Bob Bob Ricard’s version, with champagne and truffle, is anything but humble and sits proudly on the table with their famous logo stencilled into the pastry. We dig in, as the faint aroma of aniseed and truffle rises from the filling of cauliflower, celeriac and mushrooms. A copious whip of mashed potatoes on the side provides another big punch of truffle.
For dessert, we can’t resist ordering the crème brûlée, which boasts on the menu that it is flambéed at the table. We wait as patiently as we can while the sugar bubbles and boils under the flames. A little spoonful is thick and creamy enough to coat the mouth, but – surprise, surprise – we manage to eat the lot. Chocolate fondant is not gooey enough and for some reason served with a small pile of powdered milk, which sticks to the hazelnut ice cream. We also treat ourselves to two special glasses of 2014 Vin de Constance from South Africa; notes of apricot, vanilla and honeyed acacia are the perfect companion for the crème brûlée. By the end of the meal, we are sufficiently pickled for our Russian setting.
Bob Bob Ricard is famously pricey. We dined as guests of the restaurant and therefore did not see the bill, but our meal for two would have cost north of £300. Normally this would be enough to put me off, but for pure luxury and entertainment, Bob Bob Ricard is great value – and we didn’t even mention the “Press For Champagne” button! In even better news, its little sister, Bob Bob Cité, is expected to open in the Leadenhall Building in March 2019.
For bookings visit www.bobbobricard.com