It was the end of another year and I was determined that we the girls would have a nice pre-Christmas meal together. And after a year of lacklustre working day lunches, I wanted something nice and anyway, Christmas time was the only time of year we could get away with a long lunch on a weekday. Hibiscus has been on my to-eat list for a while and their £29.50 set lunch seemed a good and affordable option. Run by chef Claude Bosi and his wife Claire in front of house, the restaurant retained its two stars when it moved from Shropshire to London two years ago. And yes, the a la carte prices are on par with other two starred restaurants. However, only until recently, lunch was only served Monday through Friday and there was no way I could take off so much time during the day to eat there. Christmas it would be (but now they offer lunch on Saturday too).
So, the Wednesday before Christmas at 1:30pm, we found ourselves at the entrance to Hibiscus. After shedding all our outerwear (and there was a lot that chilly day), we were led to a round table near the back. The dining room was much smaller than I expected but I didn’t dislike the minimalist decor.
After ordering, bread and butter arrived for the table – that bread was warm with a wonderfully crisp crust. Along came an amuse too – a little egg filled with a cream and custard of ras el hanout, a Moroccan blend of spices. I could have downed two of them – the custard was incredibly appetising and I could barely wait for the rest of my meal.
We all started with the Terrine of Woolley Park Farm Goose & Foie Gras, Confit “Main de Buddha”, Black Radish Salad, Curry Oil. A generous slice of terrine appeared with dollops of confit puree. I was quite excited to taste some Buddha’s hand fruit (yes, I’m sad) and it didn’t let me down; it had a strong citrus flavour, as you would expect from a fruit with a ridiculous rind surface area. And I thought it paired well with the rich foie and goose meat.
For mains, we again all chose the same thing: Roast Shropshire Partridge, Caper & Raisin Sauce, Glazed Savoy Cabbage, Smoked Beurre Blanc. Our cutlery was changed and we were presented with the oddest looking knives we’d ever seen. My maroon, Rachel’s pink and Mirna’s turquoise monogrammed knives with matching knife stands were possibly the most colourful and possibly kitsch cutlery ever presented to us. We noticed that men at other tables were presented with good old black ones. Rachel and I went around the plate, tasting each little bit individually before tucking in properly. I also burst out laughing when I got to the Savoy cabbage – there must’ve been at least 50% butter in that little green quenelle. The partridge was moist and tender and delicious with the beurre blanc and caper and raisin sauce and the pomegranate seeds added a lovely tart crunch along with adding to the paint palette of a plate. A little square of toast spread with the bird’s rich liver sat at the edge of the plate. The vegetables on the side (apart from the cabbage) were just alright. Rachel found two bits of shot inside her partridge leg; it’s as expected when it comes to game but I’m still glad she didn’t chomp down on them!
Mirna and I selected the Iced Chestnut Parfait, Sharon Fruit Sorbet for dessert. The parfait was studded with lots of chestnut bits and came topped with a light and crisp sugar layer. It was topped with a smooth sharon fruit sorbet and a wedge of the most ripe sharon fruit I’ve come across and it was surrounded by a moat of sharon fruit puree. I thought there was a bit of sharon fruit overkill – perhaps the puree could have been replaced with another flavour that did not overpower the gentleness of the parfait. Still, a lovely dessert.
Rachel chose the Sicilian Mandarin Trifle to shake things up a bit. It seemed lightly scented with orange blossom and the taste I had included some gorgeous mandarin jelly. The honeycomb toffee on top was equally fantastic.
We needed coffees after such a rich meal. One espresso, one americano, one latte. My espresso came quite long, looking like the biggest espresso I’d ever had in a restaurant. Rachel’s americano was mixed at the table for her and she was pleased with it. Mirna did not like her latte though, finding the espresso too long and the whole thing too milky. The coffees came with some petit fours. From the front to the back, these were a smoked caramel fudge, white chocolate with a passion fruit filling, milk chocolate with a caramel filling and a dark chocolate with a softer dark ganache within. I quite liked the fudge with its light smokiness and the passion fruit white chocolate was gorgeous but unfortunately the final two chocolates were let down by a strange sourness in the fillings. It was bad enough that we just couldn’t finish them. The only major negative to the meal but it didn’t get us down.
Altogether it came to £40 each for the set lunch menu, a shared bottle of water, coffees and petit fours, and service. And that service was exemplary. One of my friends was interested in the coffee cups (for a possible present) and I tried to surreptitiously take a photo of the name of the maker at the bottom of the saucer. The hostess saw me and then kindly told us the manufacturer and where we could purchase it (Selfridges). Just before we left, she handed us an envelope with further information – manufacturer, model of the cups, and another shop (Harrods) where there was still stock of that model! Had they actually called up these department stores to find out?! Anyway, I’d love to come back to Hibiscus when we’ve got a little more disposable income to spend on one of their tasting menus on Friday or Saturday.
29 Maddox Street
London W1S 2PA
Right, when this post comes out, I should be on a plane to Barcelona already. Have a happy new year, everyone! See you in 2010!