Could Daniel Boulud be the hardest working chef in the restaurant industry? With locations in New York, Vancouver, Palm Beach, Las Vegas and Beijing, the opening of Bar Boulud in London brings his restaurant count up to 11.
It’s in New York, though, where Boulud is king. Despite being born in France, Boulud has made the Big Apple his home. Among the five restaurants scattered across the island of Manhattan are: Daniel, his three-Michelin starred fine dining restaurant, recently ranked the world’s eighth best; DBGB Kitchen and Bar, an industrial-style, casual restaurant specialising in sausages and burgers; and Bar Boulud, where charcuterie, pates and terrines feature heavily. It’s the latter that’s crossed the pond to London, where it makes its home in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in Knightsbride.
The restaurant has its own entrance so it’s easy to forget that this is a hotel restaurant, although the low ceilings don’t really do the space any favours. Whilst the decor is pleasant it seems a bit staid, as if they’ve catered more to the suited Knightsbridge clientele than the rustic casualness of the food. That said, the wine portraits – created using some of Boulud’s favourite wine and also found in the restaurant’s New York sister – are attractive and unusual.
Both the bar and restaurant areas are heaving with locals drinking and dining, and staff flit easily and quickly from table to table. There are plenty of friendly, informative, unflappable staff on the floor and quite a few chefs in the open kitchen as well, which adds to the lively buzz. Although Chef Boulud makes New York his home, he’s planning on going back and forth between there and London to make sure his UK operation runs smoothly. And, on a night soon after opening, he spent more time in the kitchen than schmoozing on the floor – always a good sign.
Bar Boulud’s menu is an interesting one, which caters to all sorts of tastes, from tapas-style picking and choosing to casual burgers to French bistro classics. Barring a few over-£20 dishes, prices are pretty reasonable, especially if you get stuck in to a sharing platter of charcuterie (£18 for a small board, £28 for a large), which includes a selection of meats, pates, terrines and vegetables from the menu – perfect if you’re having trouble deciding. The small board comes with three pates: one a delicate pulled rabbit; a rectangle of rich grand-mere pate, made with chicken liver, pork and cognac; a soft, spicy terrine of slow cooked lamb; plus two cubes of slightly salty, chewy head cheese. Also on the board are three types of thinly sliced ham, plus small dishes of pickled vegetables, pots of mustard and a crunchy celery and apple remoulade.
There are also a few types of sausages on the menu, which are recommended as a starter or sharer. The Thai sausage (£8) is plump and juicy, almost bursting with spices and accompanied by a refreshing, palate-cleansing salad of shredded papaya and red pepper in a lettuce leaf. A trio of burgers, made famous at DBGB in New York, includes the DBGB Piggie Burger (£13.50), which features shredded red cabbage, barbecue pulled pork, green chilli mayo and a cheddar bun on a cooked-perfectly-to-order, thick burger. The sweetness of the barbecued pulled pork works wonders with the meat whilst the cheddar bun is light but substantial enough to hold it all together. A large pot of fries are hot, thin, crisp and delicious.
A more traditional main of butter poached halibut (£21 and, according to the staff, one of Chef Boulud’s favourites) is also remarkable, rich and creamy but still delicate and fresh, presented beautifully with a mix of white and green asparagus, chanterelles and curls of pink radishes. A lightly tempura-ed spear of asparagus rests on top. Portions are generous so sides aren’t strictly necessary, but the super green spinach (£3.50) is highly recommended. Cooked twice and mixed through with pureed spinach, it’s creamy but not too buttery and as brightly green as the name promises.
For dessert, an international selection of cheeses costs £7.50 for three pieces, £10 for five and £12 for seven. They’re simply served but good quality, with the ash-rolled goat’s cheese from the Loire Valley a standout. The Coupe Peppermint (£8), however, is much more impressive in presentation, with a thin layer of chocolate balanced on top of a mix of mint ice cream, chocolate sorbet and flourless chocolate sponge, which dissolves once a small jug of decadently sweet hot chocolate sauce is poured over it.
The wine list features a thorough list of Champagnes, sparkling wines, reds, whites and sweet wines by the glass, priced starting at £5 a glass for the red and white wines. The Austrian Nittnaus Pinot Noir (£8) is thin but nicely spiced, matching up well with both the burger and the charcuterie, whilst the Achaval Ferrer Malbec from Argentina (£10.50) is full bodied and rich. By the bottle, prices range from £21.50 to £2,750 for a sweet wine, a Chateau d’Yquem from 1945 – plus plenty in between.
The Last Word
Daniel Boulud’s popularity overseas makes for a highly anticipated London venue that thankfully more than lives up to expectations. Whether you’re just ordering a charcuterie board to share or a full three course dinner with wine, expect to be impressed.