29 Maddox Street
Tel. 020 7629 2999
Food type: French
Food rating: 7/10
Nearest tube: Oxford Street
(Editor’s note: In the 2009 Michelin Guide, Hibiscus regained its 2 Michelin Star status)
It is hard to keep up with my blog what with the work starting to pile up. My current placement at Farnborough accompanied by dead punctual 8 am starts means I have to wake up at the ungodly hour of 6 am to travel in everyday. Of course all this results in me falling asleep at 10 pm every night – usually after dinner. Speaking of Farnborough, there is a pretty good restaurant located just opposite from Princess Royal where I am working at right now – I have visited it twice now and I will post my review of it during my next update. For now, I need to get back up to speed with my backlogged reviews starting with my visit to Hibiscus.
Hibiscus was formerly a 2 Michelin star restaurant located in Shropshire. Coincidentally, I was in a talk earlier in the day on Domestic Violence where the lecturer was previously working at Shropshire and couldn’t stop harping about how the whole place smelt of cow dung. Back on topic, Hibiscus relocated to London in 2007 where it was downgraded to one star although one of the main reasons for this was that the restaurants opening in the month of October did not give the restaurant enough time to fire on all cylinders before the publication of the 2008 Michelin guide. Many people believe that this restaurant will regain its 2nd star in the 2009 guide.
We arrived at the restaurant for our 6.30 pm booking and were the first table served. As such we had the full attention of the front of house. The menu offered up loads of sumptuous goodies which made for some very difficult decision making – for example, I had to choose between Sweetbreads, Scallops, Langoustines, Foie Gras and Ravioli with White Truffle for my starters.
Some Cheese Goujeres were brought to our table for us to nibble on while we made our decision. These cheese puffs contained a good strong aroma of the Gruyere which it was made with with the smell exploding out when they were bitten into. Each bite was light and fluffy with a crisp exterior. (7/10)
Only one kind of bread was on offer – a country brown, brought to us in a brown box – although this was very well made with a good crunch to the crust whilst the interior being soft and light. This was served with butter which had a lovely amber colour. Upon further enquiry about the butter, I was told that it was churned in-house from unpasteurized Jersey milk. (6/10)
Pineapple & Hibiscus Soda with Cracked Black Pepper
An amuse bouche of Pineapple & Hibiscus Soda with Cracked Black Pepper was in one word ‘interesting’. There was some very high technical expertise in this starter – the pineapple balls here were akin to the apricot balls that was featured in Pierre (Hong Kong). While I do appreciate the level of difficulty in this dish, this fizzy drink more akin to Lilt simply didn’t go down to well with me. I certainly wouldn’t want to start of my dinner drinking a glass of Lilt. (4/10)
Ravioli of Hen’s Egg Yolk & Smoked Potato, Alba Truffle, Caramelised Cevennes Onion
My starter of Ravioli of Hen’s Egg Yolk & Smoked Potato, Alba Truffle, Caramelised Cevennes Onion arrived with a metal lid covering the dish. Upon lifting of the lid, I was hit with the wonderful earthy aroma of the truffle. Indeed, the aroma was so strong J was complaining that she could not smell her dish at all. The dish itself consisted of two large ravioli and abundant shavings of the gorgeous alba truffle and of the caramelised onion at the side. The pasta was silky smooth and filled with a runny egg yolk and some smoked potato. The balance of this dish was spot on and served to enhance the truffle and did not detract from it. While eating this dish I was wondering whether this dish would have worked better with a single raviolo with a duck egg yolk but in retrospect I think that it was indeed the right choice to go with the hen’s egg. (8/10)
J’s starter was a Roast Foie Gras, Raspberry Vinegar Puree, Crushed Figs, Figs Cake. I have to say that despite all the luxury associated with Foie Gras, I have often been been disappointed with the various renditions of it as I find that the chef has not been able to get the maximum flavour out of it. The rendition at Hibiscus was also rather disappointing. While the balance of the dish was very good with the individual acid components, the roast foie gras was somewhat bland and was lacking slightly in seasoning. I am a firm believer that the foie gras should be scored to allow seasoning to better penetrate it. (6/10)
My main course was Tripe a la Lyonnaise which consisted of a Gratin of Tripe and Cuttlefish, Caramelised Pig’s Ear & Parsley Cake and a Fricasee of Jerusalem Artichokes and St. Andre Onion. This was simply down-to-earth, honest-to-goodness food the way food should be. I was informed that the original recipe consisted only of tripe, but Chef Bosi later added cuttlefish to it. Of course, the Chinese have been cooking tripe with cuttlefish for some time now. The tripe arrived in a cast iron pot and was cooked to perfection – each mouthful was simply melt in your mouth experience. The gratin was sprinkled with some parsley – something which raises alarm bells for me because most chefs do so for aesthetic purposes without thinking of the overall balance of the dish. Plus, I am not the greatest fan of parsley. That said, the parsley added some freshness to the dish. The accompanying Pig’s Ear & Parsley Cake was a nice treat although it could have done with a touch more salt. I am quite a big fan of head-to-toe eating. The Fricasee of Jerusalem Artichokes were also nicely pleasant. (7/10)
J’s Roast Cornish Dover Sole stuffed with Ceps, White Onion & Kaffir Lime Jus, Wild Mushroom Pomme Anna was simply magnificent. The sole, perfectly cooked was lifted by the kaffir lime jus and served with an unadvertised portion of crushed peas (a witty play on the British love for cod and mushy peas). (8/10)
I could not resist sharing a platter of cheese with J seeing as it is sourced from Bernard Anthony and Neal’s Yard Diary. Naturally it featured Anthony’s aged Comte – of the 36 month variety. The cheese were of uniformly of good quality, no doubt due to only 5 cheese being on offer and were served with treacle bread, crackers and some grapes. (8/10)
A pre-dessert of Granny Smith Apple and Celeriac Jelly with Chestnut Puree unfortunately had the unavoidable aftertaste of celeriac which overwhelmed my entire palate. This dessert simply did not work for me. (2/10)
My dessert was a Fine Cream Tart of Sweet Cep Mushroom, Macadmia Nut Sorbet, Blood Peach Gel. This was another dish which was interesting but also tasted much better than it sounded. After all the Japanese have been sweetening their shitake mushrooms for ages so the idea of sweet ceps worked from a conceptual point of view. Still, while the dessert tasted fine and was memorable for its unusual ingredients it certainly wasn’t outstanding nor a dessert I would revisit anytime soon. (4/10)
Much more delicious was J’s Hibiscus ‘Tarte au Chocolat’, Indonesian Basil Ice Cream. This was as much as tart as it was a chocolate fondant with a molten interior of rich, dark chocolate. While J didn’t like the peppery basil ice cream, I personally thought that it complemented the tart very well. (7/10)
Overall, this was a very good dinner with a high level of technical execution. In particular, I was impressed with the ability of the kitchen to produce a lovely meal irrespective of the ingredients used. It was a pity that we were both too stuffed to get some coffee and petit fours to end our dinner. Service was relaxed and pleasant. In addition it was nice that for once wasn’t pushy for us to order wine. I find it pretty annoying when some restaurants pressure you to place your wine order despite not having decided what to eat! This was a very enjoyable experience from start to end with serious cooking although a little less experimentation from the chef would have been much appreciated.