Bob Bob Ricard: Russian-Themed Decadence in the Heart of London

By Paul Joseph

It has been said there is no other restaurant in London – or indeed anywhere – quite like Bob Bob Ricard. First opened in late 2008, the Soho-based diner has received wide acclaim for its fun and opulent all-booth interior and consistently excellent Russian-influenced menu.

Consequently, six years after arriving on the capital’s gastronomic landscape, it was to your author’s great shame that I had not yet experienced ‘BBR’ for myself until a balmy Thursday evening last month. So did it meet expectations? Resoundingly.

The sense of theatre hits you as soon as you catch sight of the glitzy, Orient Express-themed décor, but the first hint of there being substance to go with the style is when you peruse the mouth-watering drinks list. A salted chocolate martini and a rhubarb gin and tonic were both absolutely sublime and imbued us with an excitement over what was to follow.

Resisting the temptation to sample more aperitifs, we took our cossetted seats in a full-to-the-rafters dining room. Upon asking our waitress if there was ever a quite night here, she responded with an expression of fatigued pride. Perhaps to her relief, our restraint meant that the ‘press for champagne’ button (there is one in every booth) would remain unused, as we instead focused our attentions on the much vaunted food menu.

With a nod towards its Russian co-owner Leonid Shutov (whose second London restaurant venture, ‘Biblioteka’, is set to open next year), BBR offers several Russian classics, notably caviar served with shots of vodka chilled to -8 degrees, Brezhnev oysters, borsch (beetroot soup) and zakuski (small appetizers).

For starters, I opted for a closer-to-home classic: scallops, black pudding and apple served with baby watercress and truffle dressing, while my companion had a three cheese soufflé made with parmesan, wigmore and shropshire blue cheese and served with endive, apple and hazelnut salad.

The scallops were succulent, not too rich and cooked to perfection with just the right texture, and were complemented by the bitter apple and a moist and light black pudding. By all accounts, the cheese soufflé similarly impressed, oozing flavour and creamy-cheesiness, not to mention impressing with its 'towering flame' presentation.

For mains, the meat offerings proved too alluring for us both, the Chateaubriand for one (more typically served for two) rendering my resistance futile, while my companion plumped for the fillet medallions rossini. Both were outstanding, the 28-day aged Scottish-sourced beef up there with anything we have tasted across London. Sides of French fries, carrots and parsnips and truffled mash potato were all good too.

Our request for a wine recommendation brought us a 2009 Rioja Crianza hailing from the Hacienda Lopez de Haro vineyard in Spain, and it was the perfect accompaniment to our steaks; fruity, vibrant and rich with a sweet tannin structure.

Dessert did not disappoint either. A classic warm chocolate fondant with white chocolate ice cream and berries was delicately crafted with the hot, molten bitter chocolate complemented by the sweet tangy fruit. My companion’s trio of crème brulees – chocolate, passion fruit and earl grey tea – were also well received.

All that was left was for us to check out the new basement bar, which by coincidence was holding its soft launch when we visited. A small dancefloor and higher octane music creates a more buzzy atmosphere than upstairs, but with table seating and the same menu it is as much about eating as partying.

We stayed for a glass of champagne before departing into the night wondering whether Bob Bob Ricard may just be the best restaurant in London.

By Paul Joseph