The Gannet, voracious bird that he is, will happily eat lunch perched on a stool in a scruffy café or on a bollard by a street stall if the food is up to snuff. Sometimes, however, it is a huge pleasure to sink into a comfortable chair and have one’s every whim fulfilled in a beautiful dining room.
There is none more beautiful, I think, than Bibendum, the first-floor restaurant in the old Michelin House on Fulham Road. Light floods through the giant stained-glass depictions of Bibendum himself, the pneumatically corpulent Michelin Man, bathing contented diners in a warm glow; tables are well-spaced, the service is friendly and professional, and – I am pleased to say – the food is terrific.
This, appropriately, springs from the appointment of the multi-Michelin-starred Claude Bosi as chef/partner in the restaurant. While Bibendum made its name under the great Simon Hopkinson and his refined but unfussy version of cuisine bourgeoise, Bosi’s cooking is unashamedly haute cuisine: he has two stars here already, and surely has ambitions for a third.
Such ambition is evident in an intricate, exquisite starter of smoked sturgeon with oscietra caviar and duck jelly: glittering like a piece of vintage costume jewellery, the fish is a ring of tiny cubes that cradle the excellent caviar, a chestnut disc of jellied consommé beneath, surrounded by dots of spring onion cream. Veal sweetbread is perfectly cooked: firm but yielding, with the fruity bitterness of Taggiasca olives, the fermented tang of black garlic, the zestiness of yuzu and a hit of chlorophyll from a mint “gremolata” sauce. Pigeon arrives dark pink, doused in a limpid jus, with a flavoursome little sausage attached to one leg: Tennyson’s line “red in tooth and claw” sprang to mind.
The chef’s personality is stamped all over the menu, but nowhere more than in a dish inspired by Bosi’s mother: a gratin of tripe and cuttlefish, braised chunks of the latter miraculously cleansing the former of its farmyard pong. Alongside, a slice of “pig’s ear and ham cake” is laced with sticky threads of slow-cooked ear: there is a hefty grating of Parmesan in the mix, too, adding an umami-rich savour. A healthy little herb salad seems almost satirical.
Desserts are as picture-perfect as the starters: another portrait of Bibendum appears as a disc of chocolate (pictured) above the lightest of whisky soufflés, into which a quenelle of chocolate and coffee ice cream is plunged, and a cracking, crackling millefeuille is anointed with white peach custard and paired with a delicate Earl Grey ice cream.
Richness and intensity are everywhere: despite his sometimes audacious combinations of flavour, Bosi’s cuisine is more ancienne than nouvelle, an inclination for which gourmands like The Gannet are profoundly grateful. The original owners left Michelin House in 1985, but be warned: you might still leave with a spare tyre.