We’ve had some real treats lately! For part 3 of Malibu’s #BestSummerEver campaign, Jorge and I were presented with a beautiful white box from Truly Experiences (remember Ametsa?) containing a gift card for an 8-course tasting menu at the double Michelin star restaurant in Mayfair, Hibiscus. It also has 5 AA Rosettes, and was ranked #7 best restaurant in the UK by Good Food Guide.
Oakley was, naturally, curious as to what was inside. Unfortunately they don’t do Michelin stars for cats (except maybe Chaupette) so he couldn’t come along…
We were greeted with great smiles and glasses of champagne “courtesy of your friends at Truly” (Thanks guys!). And from there we settled in for an en enjoyable evening of decadent food.
In front of us was a menu – not of the dishes, but of ingredients. What we’d end up eating would come as a complete surprise as long as we weren’t allergic to anything on the list, which we weren’t. Of course, I knew I’d forget just about everything we were about to eat, so I asked for the plates to be written down before I left, so I could tell you what my photos were all about.
For three hours, we were presented with dish after dish of the most stunning creations – the work of Chef Claude Bosi. It’s obviously important to him that his staff all know that dining is one of life’s great pleasures. Claude, after all, comes from Lyon – the food capital of France, a place where sitting down for a well-prepared meal in good company is the essence of the culture.
The combinations of flavours were, more often than not, unexpected. And the textures that were threaded through each dish were just as thrilling. But first, the setting.
There were no more than about 16 tables in the main dining area. You could almost be in someone’s home and as each meal takes a few hours to consume, you see the same faces always around you. The atmosphere is comfortably quiet with a certain down-to-earth elegance, if that’s not an oxymoran.
There were wood floors, blue sofas along one wall, matching chairs at the other tables, tablecloths, a chest of drawers at the middle with a huge chandelier at the center. On the walls were carefully selected photographs, chosen by Edward Burtynsky, Michael Wolf and Simon Roberts, chosen by art consultant and curator Maxine Davidson.
While we were admiring the art, three starters (not part of the 8 courses!) arrived. There was a bowl of some of the best nuts I’ve ever tasted and I wish I remembered what was on them. They were salty with a bit of a tang to them, roasted and crunchy and delicious.
With those (again, I don’t remember exactly what these were) some sort of light and airy Parmesan gougères – ball-shaped, bite-sized pieces that we were advised to eat in one go because as soon as you bit them, they gush in your mouth with some incredible cheesiness.
The third appetiser was one of the prettiest. I don’t have a list of the appetizers, but the rest of the food I’ll be able to tell you more about!
Then a bowl of bread with that perfect home-baked texture arrived with a ball of creamy butter on the side. How cool is this serving dish?
And there was yet another starter before we dipped into the main courses and two desserts at the end. We were presented with two tiny cones with what looked like ice cream – a pre-dessert? Nope. They were filled with foie gras and some sort of mushroom flavour. If anyone from Hibiscus is reading this, please fill me in one what the ingredients to all these appetizers really are…
And then, after all of that, the main menu begins. Between each course, the staff bring new cutlery and re-set the table. There’s a lot of care that goes into attention to detail, from the re-filling of half empty glasses of water to the type of plate or bowl or container each dish is served in – all different.
The first course came in an egg carton, with hay at the bottom. And it was, indeed, eggs. But not any old eggs. These are put through a special machine that slices them perfectly straight across the top. A delicate job! They are filled with chestnut mushroom, coconut and curry and are warm to the touch. Love the creativity in the presentation.
After the eggs, it was Devonshire crab, sea leaves and smoked haddock consommé. It reminded me of eating jello. I think there were little pieces of apple in it too if I’m not mistaken. I think this one gets the star for most unusual texture. Tasty for sure.
The next dish also came in amazing bowls. I wish I knew where they bought their dishes. It was Cevennes onion and cinnamon dumplings, pickled onions. It’s served with the broth poured over the dumplings in front of you at the table. Reminded me of an exotic take on french onion soup, which I suppose it is, minus the bread and cheese. Loved the cinnamon.
There was quite a bit of seafood on the menu and the next dish was a Cornish cod beurre noisette “à la Grenobloise” (the end of which comes from Grenoble, France and means “a preparation of brown butter, capers, parsley, lemon juice and lemon meats with tiny croutons.” I loved the way the texture of the dish matched the texture of the food (which is why I’m sharing both of these photos…). Excellent textures all around here.
Then came the Native lobster, paimpol beans, red peppers and raspberries. Who would have thought to put lobster and raspberries together? But it works very well. Nothing against the dish, but I’ve never been a fan of beans so I maybe pushed those aside. It’s a beautiful dish though.
The following dish – ardour foie gras, figs, turnip and vanilla – sounds a bit more exotic than it tastes. They brought it around the dining room so we could see how it was cooked before it was served because when it was on our plates, it looked completely different.
We agreed it was our least favourite of the night. It didn’t have the same spark as the others, though the fig was excellent. I found it a bit too oily though, and slightly bland in comparison to the rest.
The last savoury dish was grouse – which was a flashback for Jorge whose dad hunts them in Spain. It was served with what I think was a sourdough sauce, trompettes and pommes boulangere. We were given Hibiscus knives – Jorge’s with a black handle, mine a pale pink. By this point, we were both completely stuffed and neither of us could finish the full plate.
While we were resting between mains and dessert, the one and only Chef Claude Bosi came out of the kitchen to make his rounds and meet the diners which I thought was a nice touch and very cool to see how he is involved in the full customer experience. It was nice to be able to put a face to food as it were.
The first dessert was light – a Meadowsweet panna cotta topped with Golden Delicious apple. What came to mind? Babyfood, but of the very best possible adult variety.
At this point in the night, almost three hours in, I started to think – wouldn’t it be nice to have a driver like a lot of the people who dine here regularly probably do? Someone please roll me home. But there was still another desert to follow – Chocolate millefeuilles with Indonesian basil ice cream and star anise. And I would have loved to have eaten the whole thing, but I’m afraid that after about half I was simply defeated. It just wouldn’t fit. And as much as I love chocolate, I’d say this ice cream was actually the best part.
We couldn’t even fit tea or coffee or the two different types of petit fours that were yet to be served. They offered to box them up for us so we could take them home and eat them the following day.
I’m glad they did because I think we enjoyed them more not trying to cram them in on a full stomach. The first we ate originally looked like chunks of cake which turned out to be completely wrong – they were some sort of aerated chocolate that just broke down and melted in your mouth when you ate it. Wow, those were good.
The others were little mouthfuls of cranberry, lemony flavours. Also tasty.
More than three hours after we arrived, it was time to head home with a slow window shopping stroll down Bond Street and a quick bus.
They handed us a little black bag with our petit fours. When we got home we realized that they had also enclosed a menu signed by the chef (I had completely forgotten that I had asked in the beginning for a list of what we were going to eat).
There was also a little bag of honeycomb sweets “from the chef”.
All in all a wonderful, relaxing experience and one that we won’t soon forget!
Thank you, Malibu. I’m looking forward to the rest of my #BestSummerEver list: