The more things change, the more they remain the same. In June of 2019 I was at the opening of Bob Bob Cité, the sister restaurant to Soho’s Bob Bob Ricard, which I wrote, with no little hyperbole, was the best place to eat in the City of London.
It was a wildly expensive venture, a £25m love letter to gastronomic maximalism, the kind of place that makes Shoreditch’s Gloria look like a mom-and-pop joint. The decor was a lurid sea of blue and red, topped with rows of scrolling LED numbers that scuttled beneath the ceiling like ticker tape.
I described it as “like passing through a hall of mirrors into a giant pinball machine… like an optical illusion – one minute a pastiche of a 1950s diner, the next the cabin of a private jet, then a latter-day Damian Hirst installation.”
Then in March 2020 it closed. While many restaurants battled to keep trading through the pandemic, Bob Bob, located on the 3rd floor of the Leadenhall Building, in the epicentre of a Square Mile that resembled the opening scene of 28 Days Later, realised it was onto a loser and shut up shop.
So this week I went to its second opening, which was a pleasant reminder of how much I love this mad restaurant. Yet more millions have been lavished upon the newly rebranded Bob Bob Ricard City, this time rounding some of its more jagged corners. The primary colours now act as accents to an expanse of deep mahogany and thick rugs. The booths are less private jet, more Orient Express. Even the ticker tape, which once flashed from blue to red when someone hit the “Presser pour Champagne” button, now lights up almost apologetically. It’s certainly easier on the eye but I do miss the old version.
The decor isn’t the only thing that’s changed: rockstar chef Eric Chavot has departed – “family reasons” – and Ben Hobson, formerly of Galvin at Windows, has the top job. Thankfully the Anglo-Franco-Russian menu remains largely unchanged.
There is still a “vodka shots” section – Bob Bob is owned by Russian restaurateur Leonid Shutov, after all – and caviar and dumplings reside among the steak tartare and beef wellington and snails.
The lobster and crab pelmeni dumplings were excellent, neat little packages topped with roe and served with a rich langoustine bisque. But what I really wanted to know was whether the chicken and champagne pie had come through the pandemic unscathed. It had, right down to the glazed lid, which looks like it’s been polished to a high shine (although the “Bob Bob Cité” logo inscribed upon it has been replaced by a big coq).
It really is a glorious pie, that wafer-thin lid giving way to a filling that manages to be both light and decadent, with fennel, tarragon and leek complemented by the new addition (I think) of shitake mushrooms, giving it a satisfying bite. This is a pie I would cross county lines for, if not international borders, the Platonic ideal against which other pies should be judged, and against which they will come up wanting. They’re good pies.
The wine list is also worth mentioning, not only because it’s excellent (I can vouch for both the Sancerre and the Nuits St Georges), but also because Bob Bob has one of the London’s most sensible wine policies: everything sold by the bottle has a mark-up of no more than £50, meaning the more you spend, the better deal you get. To put this in perspective, the bottle of 2012 Dom Perignon sold here for £156 would set you back £355 were you to order it from Alain-Ducasse at The Dorchester. Our sommelier also introduced us to Klein Constantia, a South African dessert wine once favoured by Napoleon Bonaparte. Apparently he got through a bottle of a day while he was exiled on Elba, which doesn’t sound too bad at all, really.
We each managed to finish three courses, four glasses of wine and a shot of vodka in around 90 minutes, so it’s a viable option for lunch, especially as we all reacclimatise to life back in the City after 18 months of our own Napoleon-esque exile.
I said it two years ago and I’ll say it again: Bob Bob is the best place to eat in the City. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
• Bob Bob Ricard City is on the 3rd floor of the Leadenhall building. To reserve a table visit the website here.