Last time I was here too many White Cosmopolitans meant that the only thing to remind me of what I’d eaten were the stains on my shirt the next morning. Tonight I arrived in a slightly more sober state, determined to at least get past the starters before the drink got to work. I was immediately struck by the effortless class and charm of the restaurant, something alcohol had dulled my appreciation of last time around. The dining room has been cleverly designed so that it is split into several sections giving it a more intimate feel.
The previous night I’d eaten at Balthazar, a grand brasserie that has tried incredibly hard to create a certain French mood and feeling. Bar Boulud has perfected this with ease and has the feel of a restaurant that has been running for years. That being said, there is still is something about it though that does make you feel like you are eating in an international chain of hotels, which of course you are given its location in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental. It just feels like a restaurant that is built for wealthy travellers who need somewhere comfortable and familiar to dine in. Everything here has a certain ease and grace to it, and reading between the lines on the menu, it is basically the best room-service menu you could wish for.
To start we shared the Degustation De Charcuterie (£18), which is made up a selection of pâtés, terrines and sliced meats. They were all perfectly enjoyable, but each lacked a distinctive flavour of its own. There was no obvious difference in taste between the Pork Head terrine and the Moroccan spiced one. The sliced Serrano ham again was fine, but wasn’t one I will remember. What will stick with me was the incredibly powerful French mustard, which was a real sinus cleaner and perhaps a little strong for the meats.
We also shared two of the sausages for £18. The Tunisienne is a spicy lamb merguez served with a mint tabouleh and a couscous and pepper stew. This was a bit of a let down both in its size and taste. There really wasn’t much spice and the couscous was average. The other sausage was the ‘Morteau’, made from smoked-cumin spiced sausage and served on a bed of lentils. Again the size of the portion was a little disappointing, but this one tasted much better, mainly because the lentils had been soaked it a porky jus.
For main I couldn’t resist the burger. The BB (£20) stood out from its rather long description- a beef patty, foie gras, red wine braised short ribs truffle, frisée horseradish mayonnaise confit tomato and a black onion seed bun. If ever there was a way to make a burger sound a lot more complicated than it actually was. With a side of fries (£5) this is an expensive burger. But it sure as hell was tasty. The patty was packed with flavour and perfectly cooked. A burger connoisseur might complain that the bun didn’t hold its shape, but tonight I was in the mood for something sloppy. There wasn’t enough of the foie gras though, as always seems to be the case in dishes where it makes a cameo appearance. And the horseradish mayo was lost in all that meaty juice. The side of fries were as good as you could wish for, really crispy and you got plenty for that fiver.
My partner had the Piggie burger(£14), made up of a beef patty, bbq pulled pork, green chili mayonnaise and red cabbage slaw. It tastes as good as it sounds. Again with a side of fries for a fiver it creeps up towards the limit of what I’m willing to pay for a burger, but I’d say this trumps the B&L burger for £20. It’s definitely worth coming back for.
With a White Cosmopolitan (£13.25) each to finish things off the bill came to £70 a head, which seemed a lot for some cold meats and a burger. Admittedly we did drink a bottle of the house white each, but what did catch my eye was the £4.10 for each bottle of soda water (we were drinking spritzers). We managed to spend nearly £35 on soda water alone! Overall it isn’t a restaurant I’d go to for the French food, but if I was in Knightsbridge and didn’t want to glam myself up and needed some simple comfort food like a good old burger, then this would be top of my list.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA