This wass the third time we’ve eaten at Hibiscus (the second whilst it’s been in London) and, on each occasion, we’ve taken the “Taste of .....whatever season it was” menu – four courses, with the expected bells & whistles of canapés, amuse, pre-dessert, currently at £80 (December 2010).
It kicked off well with excellent cheese gougeres and crisp, rich balls of polenta, parmesan and olive. There was also really good granary bread.
The amuse, served in an eggshell, was mushroom veloute mixed with a little scrambled egg and coconut. The velouté part was very well made and perfectly seasoned. The egg wasn’t to my wife’s taste – but then she doesn’t really like egg.
The starter proper was served as a parmesan royale, which was light and delicate, topped with roasted nuts which gave a nice texture change and a hint of sweetness. Poured around it, at the table, velouté made a second appearance in a potato and toasted rice one – again a delicate flavour here. Looked lovely
Plaice was a star dish and, truth be told, there needed to be a star at this point in the meal. Perfectly cooked with still just a hint of translucence in the middle, it was topped with something crunchy, but I’m not sure what. Surrounded by some roasted salsify and mushrooms, which brought an earthiness and a tangy clementine sauce, we really enjoyed this.
The main course was shoulder of pork cooked “blanquette style”, although it seemed as though Bosi was almost playing with American BBQ food. Certainly it was long-cooked until extremely fork-cutting tender, similar to “pulled pork”. But there was none of the smokiness in the meat that you expect in the American south – but it appeared in the smoked mashed potato. This was the second time we’d had this in recent times and it really does work to lift a plate. Sticking to our perceived American theme, there was a scattering of sweetcorn and, also, tiny dice of something white (unfortunately, too small and too few for our palates to determine what they were).
Pre-dessert reflected Hibiscus’ interest in incorporating vegetables into desserts so a Granny Smith sorbet came accompanied by fine dice of celeriac and a cumin crisp. This was clever, introducing a slight savoury texture contrast, but not necessarily a great improvement on a simple sharp apple sorbet.
Dessert itself brought a disc of icecream, sorbet and a wedge of poached fruit (perhaps quince or medlar). Sweet, yet still light – a pleasant end to the meal. And finally, good coffee and petit fours.
We’d read reports that recent service had been cold and stand-offish, but there was none of that. Certainly, service is formal but staff smile, staff engage you, staff respond warmly. The newish sommelier is excellent – thoroughly knowledgable of his craft. We spent just shy of £250 – including aperitifs, a couple of glasses of wine, a couple of bottles of water and service. Every dish had worked in its own way. Everything had been nice (a fairly “middle of the road” word that seems to work here). Nothing had jarred and the courses had flowed well one to the other as an integrated menu. But I think when you’re eating Michelin 2*, and spending that sort of money, you might want and expect a “WOW factor” somewhere during the evening. Something that you’ll still be talking about weeks later. And there just wasn’t.