The only ‘feature’ identifying the bar is a doorman – but don’t be intimidated as he’s lovely, and no way near as surly as the one at Purl in Marylebone. Once through the shabby black door we clambered up the narrow wooden staircase, with bars located on both the second and third floors. We stopped fleetingly to meet the manager: my friend is one of the most charming people I know, and has now found a second home in Opium - so much so that he has been known to spend eight hours straight there. And the vibe at Opium is indeed warm, with its wooden walls and seating, and the abundance of red jars and décor. The energy of the crowd pleased to have located this exclusive hard-to-find spot is also invigorating, and there’s no two hour turn around, nor waiters nudging bills at you while you’re finishing your first drink.
We sat on stools around a wooden bartender’s table lined with apothecary-style bottles filled with innumerable spirits.
The bar staff are fun, unpretentious, and supremely talented. When I requested a cocktail, my only stipulation was that it should be savoury and, after some theatrics, this beauty was served to me.
Exactly what I wanted. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but imagine it was along the lines of the Boulevardier of Sour Dreams: nikka from the barrel, fresh orange juice, antica formula, campari, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup, egg white, orange zest garnish. Utterly sublime.
Price - ££££
Drinks - 10/10
Ambience – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Suitable for: dates, friends, celebrations, late night drinks, bar food
After several cocktails, we stumbled off to Bob Bob Ricard, a Gatsby-esque restaurant dominating the corner of St James’ Street. The doorman & maître d', decked out in pale pink, were charming. Opulence is the theme here but with none of the attached snootiness. I tied in well with the décor, wearing an all-over leopard print dress – my singing teacher, who possesses leopard print everything, would have been proud.
We were guided through the maze of businessmen and couples to our own deliciously intimate booth. Its gold-lined marble table glittered beneath mirrored gold ceiling tiles, and was encircled by plush velvet curtains to shield us from other diners on three sides. For the four of us not known to hold back on raucous laughter, this was perfect.
This restaurant is also ahead of the game in terms of marketing: the BBR “press for champagne button” toys with one’s willpower. Who has ever resisted a button? Even the fire alarm button became too much for one girl at my school. She was expelled a week later. Maybe it was worth it. My willpower lasted ten minutes (I had to test that it worked, of course).
The waiter arrived seconds later, and we went for a bottle of Ayal Rose Majeur, NV: sweet, pink and crisp. At a later point in the evening, the waiter missed the flute while pouring. ‘Spillage is lickage’ is definitely not appropriate for BBR, but nor is losing some of your £75 investment… Our waiter had also misled us in saying that the Brut was the same price as the Rosé. It is not.
We plunged straight into main courses with the 2010 Rioja to keep it company. As we were being served, a couple was shown to the only table in our sight-line, that is, directly opposite. Perhaps they were confused by the level of intimacy provided by the booths, but for the rest of the evening we had the questionable luxury of VIP seats for their love fest, rudely interrupted on occasion by the waiter. After toying with the idea of the lemon sole goujons, I chose the filet mignon rossini: 28 day aged scotch beef with seared foie gras, confit apple, served with truffle gravy. Gorgeous presentation:
But flavour wise, the dish was mixed.
The positives: tender, nicely cooked pink fillet steak. It was juicy, very fine quality & had zero fat – a winner in my book. The accompanying truffle sauce was flavourful, and complemented the sweetness of the steak very well, too.
I was caught stealing some of my friend’s chips…
Well-portioned, and served in an elegant pink-lined box, these were delightful – thin, crunchy, and potentially rivalling those of Le Caprice.
The negatives: the foie gras. I’m not a PETA supporter etc. , and am happy to try foie gras in full knowledge of the gruesome production process. The flavour itself is full of umami – deeply savoury. So savoury, however, that the flavour dominates, and then lingers. Not even a gulp of the Rioja could clear my palate after the minute piece of foie gras. The globes of confit apple were intelligently added to cleanse and refresh the palate. They were tangy and gave a crisp crunch to the softer textures on the plate. However, they tasted as if they had been prepared a (long) while in advance – like a cloth that has remained damp overnight. The side portion of sautéed spinach was also on the mean side for an inexpensive ingredient so quick to prepare.
My companions, meanwhile, enjoyed their crispy suckling pork belly (one called it the best he’d ever had), and lobster macaroni and cheese. I tried the latter, and it was indeed delicious.
Dessert was dramatic: having spent at least an hour menu-stalking that morning I knew I was going to have the BBR signature chocolate glory dish - chocolate jivara mousse, chocolate brownie, meringue, and passion fruit jelly.
The melting chocolate sphere has become a mainstay for several restaurants, with the drama adding a flourish to the end of a meal. I recently visited Petrus, Gordon Ramsay’s 2012 Michelin Star restaurant. Sadly, that meal was a compilation of negatives, with the only dish worth remembering being their chocolate sphere. But why bother going to Petrus – atmosphere- less, poor, and excruciatingly slow service, and food that is below weak (an M&S ready meal is far superior and a fraction of the cost)? Do, on the other hand, bother with the BBR signature dessert: a shimmering gold globe, lashings of smoothly intense chocolate sauce, and the refreshing tang of passion fruit (plus a great photo opportunity).
All in all, a wonderfully opulent experience - not perfection, but now that the taste of foie gras has faded, I shall be back to try the lemon sole goujons.
Bob Bob Ricard
Price - ££££
Ambience – 10/10
Food – 7/10
Service – 7/10
Loos – 10/10
Suitable for: Dates, celebrations