By Laura Jemmett-Park on Jul 11 2014
Whilst enjoying a little bit of sale shopping in knightsbridge a couple of Saturdays ago, I dropped into Bar Boulud located at the bottom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hyde Park for lunch.
I have wanted to try this place for a long time as it appears in a lot of top restaurant lists (ahem..most recently Tatler again) and their simple set lunch menus (Bouchon), reflecting the food of a different region of France each day, were the perfect excuse to go.
This French bistro is the sister of the popular Bar Boulud in New York from internationally acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, who was born in Lyon, France and has since become known as one of the best chefs in New York having moved there over 30 years ago.
The interior is smart, chic and less 'bar' like, more high-end-restaurant than the name might suggest. Despite the fact that the Sunday set lunch menu was croque monsieur and crêpe it felt as though we were sitting down to a lavish 8-course tasting menu as we were greeted by the extremely professional and friendly staff.
Walking in off the street next to the imposing One Hyde Park development, the restaurant immediately felt welcoming but formal and was full of very (almost intimidatingly) smart and glamorous people. The interior is classy and glamorous in an unfussy and unpretentious way. As I write I am struggling to remember exactly how it looked.....but I liked it! It was comfortable, airy and sleek - in a similar vain to many other smart restaurants, lauded, firstly for their food across London. It was not ground-breaking interior design but instead reflected good quality. The elegant red leather banquettes perfectly fitted the French bistro typology.
As we settled in to peruse the à La Carte menu, before going for the set lunch menu as we had planned all along, Yoko Ono and her PA were shown to the table directly next to us (sharing the banquette) almost without anyone batting an eyelid. We watched as new staff appeared from nowhere to come and say hello, before (quietly) ordering the set menu. We both went for two courses, me; starter and main, my other half; main and dessert.
Having stuffed myself full of the bread that was constantly replenished, the starter of a goats cheese salad came. It was fresh, creamy and delicious. As part of the set lunch menu, a glass of the house red or white wine is included, as is a coffee at the end. Like most people, I am sceptical of the house wine, however the white was very good indeed. This is a restaurant and bar that prides itself on the quality of its' wine list.
Our mains took a while to come, but the restaurant was buzzing and so it was enjoyable soaking up the atmosphere and chatting away. When the mains arrived they did exactly what it said on the menu. The croque monsieur was as good as any and the frites were delicious and moreish (good job the portion was generous). It was a simple, uncomplicated and tasty lunch - exactly what we wanted.
A few diners around us were ordering à La Carte and their meals looked very good and much more fine dining!
My other half had the crêpe for dessert, which came with a delicious strawberry compote and fresh cream. Again simple but good. Coffee afterwards was also included in the amazing price of the set menu - £17 for two courses, £19 for three.
We sat having lunch for hours and it was really nice not to be hassled at all. Then again, who would hassle us when Yoko Ono was present?
I definitely want to return to Bar Boulud to try the à La Carte (they are renowned for their amazing burgers), but if you are looking for a very reasonably priced, simple and tasty French lunch in a glamorous location, then this is a great place to go. Take advantage of the set menus which differ on every day of the week and include other French specials such as, country pâté, mussels in cream, steak haché, roast quail and chocolate fondant.
Or you could just give in and go for the enticingly-named 'Piggie' burger!