Michelin House, SW3
What and where? The Michelin man, whose stars cause mild panic attacks in chefs in the world over, is actually called Bibendum. And so is the restaurant at Michelin House, South Kensington, where the jolly tyre man is everywhere; on the napkins, in the butter dish, even frolicking across a stained glass window. French chef Claude Bosi closed his acclaimed restaurant Hibiscus to lead the team at Bibendum in late 2016, and he’s been trying to live up to Beastly Bib’s exacting standards ever since.
What’s the deal? Two courses for £35 or three courses for £40. Throw in half a bottle of wine and coffee for an extra £15. Only available Wednesday to Saturday (there’s a pricier set menu on Sunday and the restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday).
What’s for lunch? The menu changes frequently, but expect French classics made with British ingredients in delicately arranged portions. Generally speaking, there are two options – fish or meat – for both the starter and the main and a choice of three desserts; lighter-than-your usual tarte tartin parfait, ice cream with springy honey madeleines or the chef’s cheese selection for another tenner. Like all fine French establishments, bread and amuse bouches are included.
Is it veggie friendly? Bibendum follows that ridiculous French tradition of leaving all the non-meaty stuff off the menu and making you ask for it like a hungry Dickensian urchin – they definitely know what vegetables are, but make no attempt to publicise their existence. At your request however they’ll eagerly rustle up a savoury passion fruit, beetroot and feta terrine, and turn a no-rice truffle risotto starter (made with celeriac and dubbed a ‘nosotto’) into a main course. Still, the lack of choice here should turn off larger herds of vegetarians.
What should I pick? If the stars align you’ll be gifted a four-strong pile of extraordinary gougeres as a canape. These warm, hollow pastries are exquisitely dusted cheesy puffs of air, wafted from the heavens. Then, four buttery fingers of macaroni with veal sweetbreads to start, a glistening indulgence with plenty of bite. The main event has to be the carvery, sliced expertly at the table, served with a complementary sauce, seasonal greens and an obscenely creamy slice of gratin. It’s a Sunday roast, straight from the fevered fromage dreams of a Frenchman.
Should I make room for dessert? Elegant portion-sizing doesn’t stop this being a heavy lunch, but luckily all three desserts are light enough to squeeze in. And, frankly, is there a trio of words in the English language as enticing “ice cream trolley”?
Need to book? With its reputation plus a modest number of covers, it’s advisable to either book online at bibendum.co.uk or call 0207 581 5817.
Could I do it in a lunch hour? Yes, but you won’t want to.
The verdict... Classic, French and refined, you’re in safe hands at Bibendum. Hushed up behind sapphire-stained windows, it feels more like a place of worship than a restaurant.