“Brunch you say? Well, there are several places on my (neverending) list that I fancy, can I tempt you to Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental? It looks lovely for a weekend lunch? Ok, cool, all booked. Yep, already! See you there!”
If only all life decisions were that easy. It was a grey old January Saturday, so with our scarves snugged tightly in around our earlobes, we met at our corner table in Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. At the edge of Hyde Park and Knightsbridge, Bar Boulud is a delectable, cosy bistro by Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud and sister restaurant to Bar Boulud in New York. Perfect for a leisurely lunch catch up.
We began with cocktails, as all good catchups do – and the options the cocktail menu offered all sounded so delicious that our waitress popped over no less than 3 times with a smile whilst we nattered and made up our minds. Eventually, she good-naturedly gave up, so we actually paused for breath to peruse the menu before grinning to her.
I (eventually, there were just so many delicious sounding options) decided upon a White Cosmopolitan – a sylph-like libation of French vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime & white cranberry, whilst my lunch date chose the To Bee or Not To Bee, a stronger cocktail deftly mixed with lime infused gin, elderflower cordial, soda water, dill and cucumber bee pollen. I adored the simple touch that because the flower embedded ice sphere in my glass is so large, that my cocktail came with a delicate glass jug ready with the rest of my drink to pour straight into my glass.
We began with identical starter choices – pate de campagne – a traditional pork pâté, with baby lettuce tendrils, cornichons, pickled silverskin onions & mustard with lashings of fresh crusty bread and butter.
For my lunch main, even though I eyed up the juicy burgers appearing on the other tables, I couldn’t resist the Onglet, a 6oz hanger steak, with pommes Dauphines, celery & sauce Bordelaise. It was a perfect lunchtime portion, a rich taste of France.
Across the table, I was quite envious of my friend’s Loup de Mer – grilled seabass, roasted carrots and salsa verde. I definitely could have taken better photos with an actual camera, but I didn’t want to stick my lens in her face and her dish. This time.
Again, deliberating over the dessert menu – the souffle, the mont blanc, the Groseille et Chocolat – I plumped for the Abricot Fume, a vanilla choux, apricot gel, caramelized apricot sorbet and smoked compote.
It was heavenly. If I could only have two flavours for the rest of my life, they would be apricot and vanilla. The obsession is so bad, that Mr Kiwi put a vanilla-scented candle in the fridge the other day, assuming it was a dessert. This perfect balance of the two flavours.
My friend chose the Pom-Passion – hazelnut dacquoise, roasted apple sorbet, passion fruit jelly and vanilla mousse.
Would it be inelegant to say how much dessert envy we both had of each other’s dishes?
But, best of all? The Bar Boulud team helped me pull off a sneaky late birthday treat, much to the surprise of my lovely friend, who was quite lost for words. And I haven’t seen that very often from either of us…
(The absolute sneakiest I’ve ever managed was with another friend who went so far to not celebrate her birthday, that she spurned all manner of social events for at least 3 weeks either side of her birthday. So keen to outfox her, we subtly got dinner in the diary more than a month later and as the pianist began the opening refrain of Happy Birthday, she turned to us and exclaims “ooooh, it’s someone’s birthday!” I had to stare out a window not to start giggling as our waitress approached our table with a small cake, and my friend began to whack me on the shoulder… #BirthdayNinja)
Inside, Bar Boulud is understated elegance, hearkening back to the New York branch of Bar Boulud – and is newly refurbished after the fire in the Mandarin Oriental hotel late last year.
We’re already planning a repeat visit to Bar Boulud for cocktails, cake and a cheeseboard visit… I’m sure we can rustle up another excuse, birthday or no birthday! Visiting Bar Boulud also made my mouth water in memory of our visit to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal also in the Mandarin Oriental.
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