BOB BOB RICARD: TAKING THE A- TRAIN
At this time of the year I like indulging in a little something. I know it’s bad. I know it’s wrong. But I do it anyway. I just can’t help myself. I do feel a smidgeon of shame afterwards but that’s soon wiped out by the waves of pleasure coursing through my body. Yes, the Pret Christmas Lunch Sandwich really is that good. I eat one every day and still have the figure of an athlete. Albeit one who has been retired for many years and owns a pub. It’s not so perfect, however, that I can’t pimp it up a bit from time to time. Preferably with a few slices of Kelly Bronze Turkey. Go hard brother number one indeed.
Talking of pimping things up, I went to Bob Bob Ricard the other day. It’s a new all-day brassiere that’s just opened in London’s fashionable Soho on the site of the late, unlamented Circus and the inside looks like Mr Westwood (Big Dog) has got his hands on it, although I’m told it was actually the ubiquitous David Collins.
I’m sure there are people who will like the restaurant-as-orient-express-waiting-room look but after a hard day at work I prefer something less visually challenging. Something say, that concentrates on providing, er, oral satisfaction.
The staff have been pimped up as well. Oh, how the owners must have chortled as they picked out the salmon-pink waistcoats for the waiters and chequered jackets that only French stageurs thought cool and smart. And that was in the Eighties. The bread offered to me tasted like it might also have hailed from that era, being as tough as Arthur Scargill.
At this point, as you may imagine, I was mentally sharpening my quill pen, ready to write some barbed and witty comments on the horrors that were to follow. But apart from some terrible coffee right at the end it never happened. It was one of those happy occasions where things were much better than my expectations.
My choices were more or less forced as offering an all-day eating experience seems to equate to a severely abbreviated list of dinner options. I didn’t fancy fish, I didn’t want comfort food (I’d had my PCLS) and I didn’t want a £32 Grouse. So Steak it was.
But before that a rather fine dish of Potted Pork (Middle White). Served with a nice perky jelly made from Perry, the pork had been confited nice and slow, carefully shredded and mixed in with some julienne of bacon. Served at room temperature it spread easily onto freshly made melba toasts and delivered a good fatty/porky hit.
One of the waiters noticed me getting down and dirty with the pig and brought over a finger bowl. A nice touch. In fact the service throughout the evening was excellent: friendly, attentive and efficient, not surprising given many of the waiters and managers had previously worked in top places like J Sheekey, The Ivy and Galvin Bistrot. Which makes the outfitting of these professionals – for that is what they are – all the more crass.
Back to the food. That steak was pretty good. Ok, it wasn’t the absolute best tasting beef I’d ever had but then rare is the steak that gives me an O-face these days. It was cooked perfectly and rested to give a even bloodiness. The chips that came with it were actually wedges but had been properly blanched then deep fried to give a light interior and crisp exterior. There was also a tasty little riff on tomato ketchup that had horseradish and anchovy essence in the mix.
A Passion Fruit Soufflé to finish wasn’t as ethereally light as Corrigan’s version, being just a bit too eggy, but was fine just the same A scoop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream was everything it should have been.
Apart from the minor irritation of a room I didn’t like and not forgetting the stupidly small thimble-like wine glasses, BBR pretty much did the business for me on the food front. My only concern is how long an (obviously) good chef is going to be happy knocking out what are essentially short order plates with a few poshed up comfort food dishes.
My concerns were further raised when I overheard talk of “opening another branch”, “it’s not just about the food” and “we’re opening a bar downstairs”. Phrases that never were nor ever will be synonymous with good restaurants.