Open daily 6am–11am; midday–3pm; 6pm–11pm; Bar open 11am–1am
Bar Boulud, Knightsbridge’s newest arrival on the restaurant scene, is located in the bowels of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The low-ceilinged interior was designed by Adam D. Tihany as a contemporary interpretation of a wine cellar; lots of vintage oak and burgundy red banquettes given a modern twist with bare bulbs in red box chandeliers and a brightly illuminated open kitchen. The other diners were a pleasant mix of girlfriends taking a post Harvey Nics meal, families celebrating and businessmen impressing clients; rather than the usual lonely traveller who frequents restaurants in a hotels.
Despite the location and clientele there is nothing pompous about the set-up and one could have worn black tie or jeans and a t-shirt without feeling like a sore thumb. At times it feels as though there are more waiters then customers, but they manage to avoid any uncomfortable hovering and there is always someone at your elbow when a glass needs topping up or plate needs clearing. The menu is long and slightly confusing but at the same time an interesting mix of the French, American and down-right random. We started with an exquisitely light Dorset crab salad with apple gellée and celeriac remoulade (£11.75) and Viennese saucisson (£9), a mixture of pork belly and smoked Emmenthal, served with German potato salad which was decadently delicious despite being a tube of pure fat.
My expectations were set very high by our starters so I was slightly disappointed when the mains weren’t quite up to the same standard. My sea bass cooked à la planche with roasted fig and fennel (£19.75) was very good and perfectly cooked but just lacked a certain something. It felt like an upmarket version of a dish that one can find in any vaguely smart restaurant; I had hoped for something a touch more exciting. The beer-braised feather blade (£18.50) was along similar lines; a top quality cut of meat which was sadly marred by a heavily reduced, retro jus and accompaniment of mediocre root vegetables. We both felt that we should have tried one of the house burgers or gone for another delicious starter. We did enjoy two very nice glasses of wine from an extensive wine list suggested by our very knowledgeable waiter; bottles range from £21.50 to £6,500 for a bottle of Burgundy so there should be something for everyone.
We ended on a high with the puddings; the lemon souffle (£9) was beautifully light but could have done with a bit more of a citrus kick and the gâteau basque (£6) was simply sublime. A crisp, sponge enclosed a silken, soft middle that just blew the taste buds. Definitely one to remember. Washed down with a glass of Japanese plum wine, Akashi-Tai (£10), it was, all in all, a magnificent dining experience and one that I would happily repeat.
Meal for two, with wine, around £100.