Claude Bosi opened Hibiscus in Ludlow in 2000, three years after he had moved to the UK from France to work in the Overton Grange Hotel. The restaurant was an instant success, winning it’s first Michelin star in 2001 and it’s second three years later. In 2007 Bosi took the bold decision to move Hibiscus to London, the timing of the move meant that he lost his stars, but was soon able to regain them and achieve wider critical success. Bosi gained notoriety in 2012 when he abused a food blogger, James Isherwood, over twitter after the blogger wrote that his crab “…..came wrapped in breadcrumbs but they were so over cooked, it was just like a crab flavoured Findus crispy pancake, with the smallest dollop of puree, it’s role on the plate was irrelevant.” Claude was justifiably irked that the blogger had not mentioned anything to him on the night, but his consequent abuse was extreme, with him tweeting “Nice way to gain respect with chefs…!! I think your a C*** and this its personal sorry…!!” A number of other top chefs, including Tom Kerridge and Sat Bains, weighed in and offered further insults (Jay Rayner also added his tuppenceworth from somewhat more shaky ground), leading to James deleting his twitter account and blog. I think poor James was the straw that broke the camel’s back, allowing disgruntled chefs to seek revenge on food bloggers who are generally well meaning but not always honest with front of house staff; I suspect that similar situations will crop up in the future and it will be interesting to see if the chefs pull their knives out again.
Bosi has now entrusted a 29 year old Glaswegian, Ian Scaramuzza, to lead his kitchen – he was schooled by Andrew Fairlie, rising quickly through the ranks before moving to Hibiscus in 2011. Scaramuzza’s menu remains true to Bosi’s principles – simple food prepared in the French tradition, but using modern techniques and drawing inspiration from British and North African cuisine. I went along for the evening tasting menu with matching wine, the highlight of the meal was cod “a la Grenobloise” – a generous portion of cod had been perfectly cooked so that it was moist and flaky, the traditional brown butter sauce had been passed through an espuma so that it was light and airy, and the croutons provided supplemental texture.
My favourite of the wine pairings was an Equipo Navazos, Pedro Ximenez which worked very well with the king crab, haddock and apple dish pictured above. The chalky overtones cut through the rich crab jelly, yeasty notes lingered on the palette and integrated with the fresh apple on the plate. The Pedro Ximenez grape is generally used to make sherry and this wine may be a tad dry to drink on its own, but it paired perfectly with Mr Scaramuzza’s crab. It is a bargain at £35 and the UK retail price looks to be around £15 which is a very reasonable mark-up for a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Another highlight was venison loin, served with a perfect pomme souffle, pumpkin mash and a drizzle of game sauce. The venison had been cooked sous vide and melted in the mouth whilst retaining a strong gamey flavour; the pomme souffle lent texture and the pumpkin mash sweetness. Desserts were a reasonable but unremarkable panna cotta with apple and an interesting mango carpaccio with kaffir lime parfit. The mango and lime worked very well with the chosen wine, a 2007 Domaine de Souch from Jurancon – this is made using gros manseng grapes and the sweet yet sharp flavours complemented the punchy lime parfit, whilst the apricot finish added roundness and sweetness. Unfortunately they don’t offer this by the glass and a bottle is £80, but I would highly recommend it for a special occasion. The service was impeccable and the sommelier was very (possibly dangerously) generous with her wine servings.
Verdict: simple, yet precise food and fantastic service 9/10