Bar Boulud, London

Bar Boulud is an interesting concept: A French born 3* chef, who has the bulk of his establishments in New York opens a restaurant in London, serving traditional food from Lyon and other regions of France. That it is the only restaurant in London that does a serious saucisson brioche, gateau basque, and offers a nice selection of excellent terrines, is also interesting. After having read a few very favourable reviews, I decided it was time I have a look at what’s happening in the Mandarin’s basement. Boy, I didn’t think I’d be this enchanted by the food they serve here, the place itself and the service. There was only one problem: The wine list.

I don’t like to compare retail prices with mark-ups in restaurants, but if one looks at the prices here, and those, one finds in other restaurants in London, or Paris, it is rather frightening: To find, for instance, Jean Francois Coche-Dury’s village Meursault at a higher price than in the 3* Ducasse restaurant of the Plaza Athenée in Paris is frightening. But, there are also a few decently priced ones too: We drank a 2005 Coche-Dury Bourgogne blanc, which is always great, and wasn’t too expensive. There is a large choice of wines under £50, which is worth mentioning. On the whole, I thought that it was rather expensive for a bistro however.

Starting off, with a glass of Ayala Rose, we had a charcuterie selection. There was some cooked ham, a rosette de Lyon, a few terrines and pickles. All of the charcuterie is made in house, which shows in the quality. The tourte de canard, foie gras et figues was tasty, well seasoned and supremely satisfying. Just as the spiced leg of lamb, the braised beef cheek terrine and the pate grand-pèère. Excellent!

This was followed by a perfect cromesquis of veal head, served with a sauce gribiche. A classic, that was served in one of the best versions, that I have ever eaten. Glorious traditional rustic cooking, given a rather sexy contemporary look. What more do you want? The very fair price, £7 doesn’t seem over the top to me. Excellent.

A crab salad was a decent portion, featuring very fresh, perfectly prepared Devon-crab, which was served with artichokes and a few leaves. Just the way you’d like it, faultless and very well made.

Then came the sausage in a brioche (a more or less literal translation). A classic from Lyon, this dish is pure pleasure. It’s simple, but oh so very well made here. The brioche is warm, with a fine crust, and airy centre, whilst the sausage is amply truffled with pistachios and very tasty. Another winner.

But, but, but. The BEST part of the dinner was about to come: The burger. I haven’t ever had a better one. Even if I have limited experience with this American delicacy, I can hardly see how this could be made much better. The patty is made from the sirloin of beef, the bun is baked in house (three different buns for the various burgers), and the cheese from La Fromagerie. If you ask for it to be medium-rare, it comes as that, and not well-done, which is already much better than 99% of your burger joints can do. Finally, the fries are excellent: Crunchy outside, a little creamy one could nearly say inside. I’m already looking forward to the next one. Excellent to outstanding for what it was.

Desserts continued in just that direction. Perfectly executed, well thought out, and really really enjoyable as such. I enjoyed the chocolate and raspberry combo, which proved to be rather sophisticated, and very good.

A gateau basque was good, although the pastry wasn;t really what I have eaten in gateaux basques in the Basque country. That issue taken apart, it was a very capable tart. Good.

All in all, this was a great meal. Bar Boulud does what is say better than any other restaurant in London. That is, rustic French bistro food, with the perfect burger as a most welcome trans-atlantic addition. If you add the excellent service, and good if pricey wine list, you have a great new restaurant.

It seems on Sunday and Monday, the do the famous DB burger, now that’s good news…

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