|The bar at BBR|
BBR is the creation of Leonid "Bob" Shutov and Richard Howarth. Allegedly Leonid owns two thirds of the shares, hence the repetition of his name. The interior is really like nothing I've seen before. I can only describe it as shockingly decadent and absolutely bonkers. I love it. Designed by David Collins (who also designed The Wolseley) it features electric blue leather lined booths, plenty of polished brass, geometric tiled flooring, and garish wallpaper. The overall effect is to teleport you to a luxury liner or first class carriage on the Orient Express in the early 1900's. The kitchen is run by head chef James Walker (ex-Le Pont de la Tour) who presides over an Anglo-Russian menu of hearty classics.
We started with some zakuski – Russian hors d’oeuvre served with vodka. The idea here is to down your shot of vodka and then immediately take a bite of the food so as to bring out its full flavours. So, shots of Russian Standard Imperia (£4.75) served at a mouth-numbing -18°C were dispatched with much gusto, swiftly followed by mouthfuls of jellied ox tongue. Dense meaty pieces of ox tongue, peas, carrots and quail’s egg had been beautifully encased in crystal clear jelly. A dollop of horseradish cream added some zingy freshness to the mix.
Again with the vodka. And now some cool spears of malosol cucumber pickles (£1.50). Here cucumbers have been very lightly brined with garlic, dill and horseradish so as to retain their fresh crunch.
A warm starter came next in the form of meat pelmeni (£12.50). Rib-sticking beef and pork filled dumplings were served in a white wine vinegar sauce with some sour cream on the side. These were very moreish; the richness of the dumplings was lightened by the sourness of the cream and acidity of the sauce.
” button. So naturally we pressed it. Within a few seconds a cheerful waitress appeared asking us if we’d like some Champagne . I don’t know why we seemed surprised that pushing a button labelled “Press for Champagne” would lead to an offer of Champagne, but the speed of her arrival (and most likely the effects of the earlier vodka) caught our befuddled brains somewhat off guard, so we all sat there for a few silent seconds looking like simpletons pondering the question we’d been asked. Why yes. Yes, we would love some Champagne ! So a bottle of non-vintage Pol Roger Réserve was ordered at the bargain price of £55, which the menu boasts would set you back “£88 at Gordon Ramsey [sic]”. These buttons should be installed everywhere in my opinion. Champagne
|The obligatory BBR "money shot"|
Another friend had venison steak tartar served with raw quail’s egg, curly croutons and green salad (£8.75), which seemed to fall short of the mark. In fact, when the waiter accidentally knocked over a shot of vodka all over the half-eaten tartar my friend reported the dish to have been improved immeasurably. Joking aside, I was a little disappointed that no replacement dish was immediately offered, although we would probably have politely declined if it was. Also, I’m not sure if the cost of this dish was removed from the final bill as I didn’t keep the receipt, but I have a feeling that it wasn’t. At least the glass of vodka was refilled gratis.
My starter of caviar with blinis and sour cream (£50 for 30g) was also disappointing. I suppose when it comes to caviar you get what you pay for and the malossol-method caviar made by Spanish producer Riofrío wasn’t a patch on its more expensive Russian and Iranian counterparts. It was quite hard in texture, without that smooth butteriness and pleasing ‘pop’ of high-quality sturgeon caviar, and was timid in its flavour. So much so that it was totally overwhelmed by the taste of the blinis and sour cream.
By now, the Champagne button had been commandeered as a "Press for Vodka" button – a punishable offence I was subsequently warned over Twitter by co-owner Leonid Shutov. Although I am pleased to report that the penance is a compulsory glass of Champagne.
Desserts, therefore, arrived in a bit of a hazy blur. My friend’s Chocolate Glory (Mark II) (£9.75) was visually spectacular (reading that back, it sounds so wrong). A golden orb of Valrhona Jivara chocolate arrived, magically melting away as hot chocolate sauce is poured over it. Nestled inside were a chocolate brownie, passion fruit and orange jelly, and meringue.
Bob Bob Ricard is by no means perfect. Although great in parts, the food didn't quite hit the spot for me, and at these prices I was hoping for something a little better. The wine list, though, offers some great choices at some of the most competitive prices in London. The atmosphere and quirky interior are wonderful, transporting you to a bygone era. It's not the sort of place I'd go to if I was taking Mrs. Nibbler out for a romantic dinner, but for an exuberant meal with a group of friends it fits the bill perfectly. So go and check out Bob Bob Ricard for yourself, it's a bloomin' brilliant riot of fun, and isn't that what eating out should be all about?
Food: 6 / 10Service: 7 / 10
Ambiance: 9 / 10
Bob Bob Ricard
1 Upper James Street
London W1F 9DF
Tel: +44 (0)20 3145 1000