December 7, 2007

29 Maddox Street, 020 7629 2999; www.hibiscusrestaurant.co.uk

(November 20, 2007) On a recent trip to the London Apple Store on Regent Street, we had noticed this restaurant and then read a rave review of it in “Time Out” so we knew our instincts were right. It is a small, calm oasis in a street busy with restaurants.
The 45 seats are well-spaced around the dining room, done up in muted greens and grays.

The French chef, Claude Bosi, and his wife, Claire, opened the original Hibiscus in Shropshire about seven years ago and received great critical acclaim. Recently they moved to London with most of the staff and have made a big impression already.The menu has several formulas—two courses at £21.50, three at £25, evening at £55 and a lunch “surprise menu” at £65.

The wine list is gigantic, with more than 500 selections, and 16 by the glass. We chose the three course menu and drank our wines by the glass so we could try different ones. The amuse bouche was a cold glass of hibiscus flower soda with smoked olive oil. Gary’s foie gras ice cream with a warm emulsion of balsamic vinegar, caramel and brioche with puffed rice was already worth the price of the meal.Varian’s croquettes of lamb sweetmeats with an unexpected garnish of tartare of native oysters, sweet corn in a Thai curry sauce was a thoroughly new taste sensation and a delicious one at that.

For his main course, Gary went with the grilled rack of Shropshire veal, accompanied by the best potato dish ever, described as a fricassee of old varieties of root vegetables, served crisp on the outside and soft inside.

The suckling pig is served in two courses, starting with roasted meat with sea urchin, and a kohlrabi fondant with sweet potato and the second, looking like pigs in a blanket, was a warm sausage roll in a pâte feuilletée, an autumn salad with truffle dressing.

The chef is truly a genius, particularly with vegetables.

Dessert for Gary was a lemon grass mousse with foam and fruit purée, and for Varian, a selection of seven cheeses, all of which were spectacular. The recommended Portuguese wine complimented it very nicely. Gary enjoyed his aperitif Chardonnay and an Alsatian glass with his foie gras, switching to the Italian with Varian for the rest of the meal.

We totally agreed with Guy Dimond in “Time Out” in that this is “the most thrilling meal in a long time.”

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