About a year ago, I went on a truffle hunt in Tuscany. All morning we followed a hound through brambles, along slippery river banks, and across soggy fields, zigzagging and doubling back on our tracks, now fast, now slow, until at long last he dug his nose into some mud and began to shiver with excitement, and out came a truffle the size of a thumbnail. I am in no hurry to do that again, and luckily for truffle lovers there is Hibiscus, the restaurant in Maddox Street, which offers a Truffle Menu amongst its other menus. Alongside its double Michelin star award,
Hibiscus boasts a Relais & Chateaux plaque, five AA rosettes, and has been ranked at number seven in the Good Food Guide 2014. However, as I experienced a few months ago at Gordon Ramsay’s supposedly Michelin standard Pétrus, awards can sometimes be misleading. With my guard resolutely up, I entered the smart, clean-lined, blue/grey velvet world of Hibiscus. The Head Chef is Claude Bosi, and the menus reflect his sensitivity to seasonal and local produce. Having decided to save the Truffle Menu for a special occasion, I and my companions chose from the Lunch Menu.
This arrived before starters:
Very tongue in cheek.
Hollowed out egg shells filled with curry spiced aerated coconut milk with a delicate mushroom cream. Witty, innovative, bold and delicious, it did exactly what a good amuse bouche should do: titillate the palate whilst providing a hint of what’s to come - in this case paving the way for Claude Bosi’s bold, modern and interesting twist on Modern European cuisine.
The starters continued to impress. I had the pumpkin velouté, blue cheese royale, and buttermilk.
The sweet, perfectly smooth pumpkin velouté contrasted with the sharp saltiness of the blue cheese, and the pumpkin seeds and cubes of pumpkin added textural interest to the dish.
I also tried the cured Var Salmon with Celery, Blackberry and Wasabi. It matched the high standard of the velouté. The salmon was soft and delicately sweet with the additional ingredients working in perfect harmony.
My other dining companion’s starter met with joy too: pork belly and lobster Ravioli, paimpol beans, red pepper, and raspberry. When my companion accidentally spilt his glass of water on to the ravioli as the dish was placed in front of him, it was swept away immediately by the waiter and replaced within five minutes without any sneering or snootiness.
For main course I chose the poached cod à la Grenobloise. The fillet was beautifully cut, and just-cooked, so that the flesh was soft and juicy. The fillet sat on a nutty, browned butter sauce with crisp golden breadcrumbs adding texture, and the subtly vinegary capers worked as an astringent cutting through the creamy richness of the cod.
My companions thoroughly enjoyed the confit duck leg with chorizo, sweetcorn and gem lettuce, and the veal cheeks, parsnip and truffle, and sauce Veronique.
With such refined, innovative and bold savoury courses, dessert unfortunately fell slightly short. I chose roast figs, whisky ice cream and raspberry. Visually, the dessert worked very well, and spearing the roast figs with vanilla pods is a wonderful idea – one I shall definitively imitate. However, there was not enough sweetness in the dish. The restaurant was possibly relying on the natural sweetness of the figs since they were in season, but combined with the sourness of the raspberry, it missed the mark. The whisky ice cream was very good though, possessing just the right balance between creaminess and alcoholic tang.
My companion’s burrata with parsnip and pear compote also failed to meet the high expectations that the previous two courses had created. The pear and parsnip pairing appeared interesting on paper, and could have been made to work had the parsnip been roasted to draw out its sweetness. Sadly, it was bland both in terms of colour and flavour. A drizzle of honey as well as some sort of astringent was necessary to cut through the richness of the burrata.
When we left, we were handed little boxes of miniature freshly baked raspberry and pistachio madeleines which were delicious.
Overall, the ambience is good, the service impeccable, and although the desserts were somewhat disappointing, the savoury dishes were excellent- unfussy, innovative and clever.
Suitable for: smart dates, celebrations, business lunches, family, friends