|Wild mushroom veloute with sweet coconut custard
American Express and Toptable have recently launched a new website, Top Treats. If you have an Amex card, you can use it to book restaurants on-line throughout the UK and earn Amex and Toptable rewards, as well as enter monthly prize draws. In conjunction with the new site, Amex offered to treat me to dinner at a restaurant of my choice, so I thought for a good, long two and a half seconds, then chose Hibiscus.
Hibiscus has been on my wish list for a while. Chef-patron Claude Bosi has trained under some of France's most renowned chefs and has an excellent reputation for producing classical French cuisine with a dash of modern flair. His restaurant has 2 Michelin stars, and I think it lives up to them on both the food and the service front.
Not wishing to miss a trick, we opted for the 8 course tasting menu. This is not one for control freaks - you advise of any allergies, but then each dish is in the chef's hands and you don't know what you're getting until it arrives. This also requires an element of trust in your sommelier for the wine selection - and the list is so pricey that it can really raise the anticipated cost of your meal.
After some excellent bread and cheesy gougeres, our amuse set the scene for what was to come - a wild mushroom veloute in an eggshell, resting atop a sweet coconut custard was a delicate, surprising mix of flavours which shouldn't work, but somehow did - just.
|Langoustine with passionfruit, wattleseed and sea herbs
A terrific tartare of Scottish langoustine was sweet and fresh. It was surrounded by tiny dots of tart passionfruit with wattleseed and sea herbs adding colour and zing.
|Scallop with pork pie sauce - the new surf 'n turf
Half of a truly humungous roasted hand dived scallop followed. Its crunchy top was encrusted with hazlenuts, apple puree, herbs and butter. Perfectly cooked, nothing less than the fabulous, punchy pork pie sauce (yes, PORK PIE SAUCE) accompanying it would have distracted me from the scallop itself. A sharp, thick pink grapefruit with wood sorrel worked well to cut through the porky sauce. Scallop and pork pie - who would have thought? Is this the new surf 'n turf?
Earlier in the week, we ate one of the most memorable (and expensive) meals of our lives at Per Se in New York (review to follow) and these first two dishes were up there with those we loved at Per Se.
|Hen's egg raviolo with smoked potato and Autumn truffle
A raviolo of hen's egg yolk and smoked potato with chopped autumn truffle was a fraction disappointing. The egg yolk oozed magnificently, but the autumnal truffles lacked the oomph and earthy pungency that they needed to add depth to this dish and the hard, gritty texture of the tiny, chopped pieces didn't work as nicely as it might for that melt in the mouth feel.
|Cornish skate with brown butter, Jerusalem artichoke and sweetcorn
A Cornish skate wing was cooked in brown butter with Jerusalem artichoke, vanilla puree, sweetcorn and butter foam milk. The addition of the corn was fantastic, complementing the perfectly cooked skate. TPG was less convinced, but I'd be happy to see a more liberal use of such sweet, plump, juicy corn on menus everywhere.
|Foie gras, sea buckthorn gel, quince and Szechuan pepper compote
Roast "Adour" Foie Gras was immensely rich and bloody, accompanied nicely by a gooey sea buckthorn gel and a quince and Szechuan pepper compote.
|Apple puree, sweet celeriac, chestnut cream
The sweet courses were the biggest let down for us - no horror stories, but no fireworks either. As a pre-dessert, the apple puree, sweet celeriac and chestnut cream was simply refreshing but not particularly memorable. We were licking our lips at the sight of a large millefeuille type pastry number which was delivered to another table, so we were slightly disappointed when a decidedly more staid looking tart landed in its place (and mildly confused that it erroneously bore a "Happy Birthday" candle for me - sending a momentary look of "Oh my God, I've forgotten her birthday" across TPG's face, for which I will always be grateful to them).
Every table seemed to be given a different dessert. Ours was a fine cream tart of Jerusalem artichoke, toasted oat ice cream, and salted caramel sauce. Yes, a vegetable based dessert. This will not be everyone's cup of tea - it was not TPG's, although he's a man with a sweet tooth that adds honey to sugar. The sweet pastry itself was gorgeous - faultless, in fact - and on this we agreed. The artichoke tart, toasted oat ice cream and salted caramel sauce were only very mildly sweetened - the flavours were subtle and earthy, so while some will no doubt be in raptures over the originality and cleverness of this dish, for me it was just nice (but no millefeuille) and for TP-sugar-rush-G it was devastating.
I wasn't completely sold on the decor either - low ceilings, wood panelling and warm amber tones still left me feeling the room was a tad too stiff and corporate for my tastes. Or perhaps I just miss windows.
Service was attentive and friendly - hard to fault until the very end when TPG's wine glass was whisked away with that treasured last sip left, and also when we struggled for what seemed like an age to catch attention to finalise our bill.
All in all, a memorable experience and interesting, original food that is generally excellent.
The 8 course tasting menu costs £95 per head and is available on Friday and Saturday nights (or 4 courses are £75 and 6 courses are £85). Various other a la carte and set price lunch/dinner menus are also available.
Hibiscus, 29 Maddox Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2PA. Telephone: 020 7629 2999
Greedy Diva was a guest of Amex.