Bob Bob Ricard. Golden Balls in Golden Square.
I see we’ve failed at the first hurdle then, said the Managing Director, who sidled up to the table as we finished our main course, using the very words I’d used on Twitter just a short while earlier.
Gone are the days when I’d have done that English thing and said no, really, everything is lovely, thanks and anyway it was too late for that. I’d been caught red-handed.
Pedantic lawyer that I am, if you say, on your website, that this is an all-booth restaurant, then that is what I expect it to be. I do not expect to be taken into a somewhat claustrophobic booth-less overflow room of three tables.
Tell me everything that was wrong, said the MD, please. It was the please that did it.
So I went through the booth-thing, the terrible, slow service, the lukewarm borscht with unusual ingredients, the meagre portion of goujons, the spinach so salty that it was inedible and the unpleasant truffled mashed potato, lacking butter or cream.
The MD was gracious and had a sense of humour. He told me they’d had problems with the salt thing before. He wouldn’t let us pay for the meal. Textbook. I promised that I wouldn’t write about it until I’d had an opportunity to try it again.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long.
I know where we can go to eat, says the gloriously-named Mr Martyr. My favourite restaurant. Yes. Of course it is.
Lunchtime and the feel was entirely different from the buzzy/busy atmosphere of the previous (evening) visit. Like a different restaurant. More subdued and businesslike and made all the better by the fact that I was in a booth. I had arrived. I wondered whether I was part of the eclectic clientele referred to on their website. I expect that by eclectic they mean Russians, looking for a few familiar dishes, tasting of home. They tell you which the Russian ones are, by placing the letters RUS next to them, in red. There’s caviar, of course, and Venison Steak Tartare Imperiale but, oddly, no Russian mains.
Maybe the Russians are attracted to the eclectic décor. It wouldn’t be out of place in Las Vegas, what with all the gold, patterns. Like a Fabergé egg, it is quite unashamedly maximalist, bling-tastic and full of marble, shine and glitz. You can press a buzzer for champagne. Maybe eclectic people would ring that bell but it’s a bit Gordon Gekko for me. I do, on the other hand, entirely approve of the plug socket at the table, so that you may charge your dying iPhone, whilst you imbibe.
And imbibe you might, what with that wine list. I’d been surprised at the bold references to prices in other restaurants (in red, of course) but this is the schtick here: fine wine, cheaper than in other places. And some are really much cheaper, cheap being a relative term. It’s neither subtle nor classy, but it is interesting. Dom Pérignon 2004, £350 at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, £175 here. Louis Rœderer Cristal 2005, £530 at Petrus, £215 here. It’s quite addictive, once you start playing that game and the cynical lawyer in me does wonder about the ones that aren’t highlighted as cheaper, to the point I want to use the dying iPhone to check prices elsewhere.
And the food? This time some pale pink Russian dumplings, Pelmeni, filled with lobster and (possibly) prawn. Perfectly acceptable. To follow, a fish pie with a glorious crust, the name of the restaurant picked out in letters on it. I am, of course, childishly impressed by this small detail. The inside of fish pie was fine, not enough creamy mash and egg for my liking, though and a little too liquid.
For some reason, the waiter thought it was a good idea to take away my almost-finished pie, whilst the Martyr was still eating his and before I had time to pick off the crust. Do they know nothing?
Feeling robbed, dessert beckoned. Picked out (in red) on the menu is the BBR Signature Chocolate Glory. Chocolate jivara mousse, chocolate brownie, meringue and orange and passionfruit jelly. A glittering golden globe arrives flanked by raspberries with gold leaf flecks on top. Because we need raspberries decorated with gold.
The waiter pours hot chocolate sauce over the ball. I have seen this trick before. It is meant to melt immediately. It doesn’t, though, despite the waiter’s best efforts and we are left with a slightly melted ball of gold and brown. The jellies are incongruous and unwelcome. The chocolate sauce tastes bought. The mousse part is fine. I was not, I confess bowled over by this ball.
The food is of the comfort variety à la Wolseley but without that kitchen’s ability to get those dishes just right. It’s not wildly expensive, given the location and the very attentive service and notwithstanding the first visit, it’s somewhere I’d probably try again, for a sensible client lunch, if I wanted to be sure of some privacy of the gilded kind and if I couldn’t get into the Wolseley. I wouldn’t be going for the food, though. I’d be looking at that wine list and its various temptations. It does Chateau d’Yquem by the glass. A bit Gordon Gekko? You bet.