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Page 57


1 Upper St James St, W1F 9DF

WORDS: SARAH RODRIGUES ‘How many times do you think they’ll let us

press the button before they boot us out?’ whispers my companion, as we shuck off the darkening Soho streets and enter the luscious opulence of Bob Bob Ricard. Since the restaurant purports to serve more champagne than any other restaurant in the UK, and the button she’s referring is infamously labelled ‘Press for Champagne,’ my hope is that the answer to her question is ‘endlessly.’ Such a level of decadence is easy to believe amid these sumptuous interiors. Swarms of birds are frozen, mid-murmuration, on the wallpaper and antiqued mirror panels on the ceiling pick up the gleam of gold and brass fittings, casting a flattering light over the moody sensuality of dark wood, deepblue leather, swirling marble and Art Deco tiles. With its curved, intimate booths (such a welcome change from central London’s ad nauseam communal dining tables) it calls to mind the glorious era of rail travel: the clink of glasses, the tinkle of piano music and elegantly moustachioed waiters deftly navigating the narrow, travelling aisles of the Orient Express. Murder notwithstanding. Murder may well be on the agenda, actually, when I learn that the lobster macaroni and cheese on which my heart is set cannot be made in a gluten-free incarnation. I content myself with savagely jabbing the champagne

button, and swiftly downing one of the two crystal-cut flutes that are summoned. There’s enough variety on the menu to comfort me though; indeed, comfort food, albeit with a side order of luxury, is what Bob Bob Ricard does best. It’s British basics twisted with Russian extravagance, the unexpected marriage of a barrow boy and a Tsarina, a greasy golden spoon. If they served fried eggs, they’d be Fabergé fried eggs. Amuse-bouches of oysters and caviar are slurped back with perfectly chilled (-18 °C) vodka shots before we move on to starters lobster, crab and shrimp pelemi served with glistening salmon roe and swimming in broth for my companion; a mound of hand-picked crab topped with chilli and a mousse-like avocado for me, finished with a sharp tomato and basil consommé, exuberantly poured at the table. Mains include an array of pies, Pavé steak, plaice goujons and roast cod - plus, of course, the lusted-after lobster mac’n’cheese. Hearty and seemingly simple, it’s the extravagant flourishes that maketh the menu – the addition of champagne to a chicken and mushroom pie, a side (or two) of truffle fries, a beetroot and ruby port purée elevating a simple roast cod. My friend’s chicken Kiev comes on a lavish mound of parsley-root pureé, oozing with garlic and parsley butter; my sole, with a lobster and champagne velouté, looks less indulgent but causes no fewer eye rolls of the ecstatic sort: it’s light yet rich, creamy yet flaky, delicate yet filling.

As full as we are, the four or five depressions of the champagne button we’ve managed so far have lubricated our greed, as much as anything else, so dessert is most definitely on the cards. A Crѐme Brûlée is flambéed to a blazing confection at the table, its crisp top shell yielding to a toothsome unctuousness when cracked. It’s heavenly; completely unnecessary, but heavenly nonetheless. It’s understandable, given the fin de siѐcle glamour of the surroundings, that people would think Bob Bob Ricard is best saved for a celebratory meal or special occasion, but I disagree. Life is for living, champagne buttons are for pressing and decadence is for diving right into. There’s enough bland misery afoot elsewhere to deny yourself the BBR experience – why wait for a reason?

ADAM HANDLING CHELSEA Belmond Cadogan Hotel 75 Sloane Street, SW1X 9SG


How many lobsters do you think you could eat in two hours? How many spoonfuls of caviar? Slices of charcuterie? And could you squeeze in a few cakes at the end? We tested the limit of our indulgence at Adam Handling’s frankly Bacchanalian all-you-can-eat Sunday lunch. Arrive at Adam Handling Chelsea, at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel hungry, or for best results fast for a few days before your booking – this is a lunch that requires logistics and artful planning: knowing which station to hit first, balancing density by quantity and making hard compromises where needed. For £75 a head (plus an extra £25 each for the Classic drinks pairing, which we found very generous), you’re unleashed on a kingly buffet, before choosing one main meal then ransacking tiers of dainty desserts. It sounds simple enough, but before you accept this challenge, you must understand what an evil genius Adam Handling is. He’s loaded up the buffet with hampers full of lobster rolls, precision-cut sandwiches (chicken with tarragon and tomato jam, roast beef with horseradish cream), a smoked salmon counter with no less than six kinds (gravlax, Glenfiddichand Hendrick’s gin-cured, beetroot-infused, hot and honied), charcuterie platters with the finest of Italian deli meats and a large bowlful of caviar with house-made blinis. If you make it past round one, there’s the seafood: boxes filled with oysters from Colchester, Maldon and the like; trays of half lobsters; glasses teeming with fat bay prawns;

delicate pre-prepped crab claws… And then there’s the salad counter where you can regain some health points. At the table, waiters deliver warm pillows of bread with chicken-fat butter, truffled cheese doughnuts and other tidbits, as well as the lunch’s signature drink: a muddle of blueberries, champagne and a croissant liqueur made using the leftovers from the hotel’s breakfast. But wait – there’s more. This is the point when you thud heavily back into your chair and order a main dish: pork belly; beef Wellington; haddock, chilli and leek gratin; or yeast-roasted cauliflower. We plump for the first two, a meaty, powerfully mushroomy beef Wellington with fluffy pastry and a tender-allover pork belly with crackling. Clotted-cream mash (yes, you heard right), ‘millionaire’ chips (the compressed, crispy roast potatoes that are all the rage at the moment) and spring greens come on the side. The end is in sight – we struggle over to the platforms of pâtisserie, still undefeated. We leave no piece untried: the lemon and thyme pyramid, praline and chocolate opera, mandarin and ricotta shortbread and strawberry and green tea gâteau. Now, we can hibernate for the winter before returning for brunch in the spring. This is a delightfully gluttonous gorge, where you could easily make your money back in a few platefuls (especially if you’re fond of caviar). There’s a chance that Adam Handling is trying to kill us all – but, honestly, we love him all the more for it.



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Christmas 2019 Edition  

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Christmas 2019 Edition  

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