GFG archives

Through the archives: Claude Bosi at Hibiscus
Published 05 September 2022


Eating food cooked by Claude Bosi is memorable: high on flavour, high on thought and inspiration; witty and wide-ranging in technique; dishes that lean on a new generation's interpretation of classical French cuisine. But when the chef first moved into the West End from his established base in Ludlow, Shropshire in 2007, there were some who wondered whether Hibiscus was altogether at home in London. In fact, the move cemented Bosi’s reputation as one of the best chefs in country. He now mans the kitchen at the highly acclaimed Bibendum.

The Good Food Guide 2009

When Claude and Claire Bosi first moved into the West End of London from their established base in Ludlow, Shropshire in 2007, there were some who wondered whether the business was altogether at home here. Hibiscus now occupies a ground-floor room in an office building just off Regent Street, the décor understated but comfortable, and the clientele a mix of city slickers, well-to-do tourists and Bosi fans. If we had our doubts then, they are now comprehensively dispelled. Hibiscus has acclimatised well, and a spring inspection found much to praise wholeheartedly. The cooking is high-rolling French cuisine with the accent on experiment based on sound culinary understanding. A main course that combines roast blade of Herefordshire beef with a razor clam cooked in lardo di Colonnata was a triumph of texture and taste. Another of grilled Pyrénean kid offered well-rested meat with the gentleness of veal, upheld by sweet garlic purée, pickled turnip, and a side dish of cottage pie made with some of the organ meat – a superb peformance. It's the kind of cooking that can look rather fragmented on presentation, but which comes into its own as the various ingredients are combined while eating. That was the case with a first course of mackerel tartare, garnished with Gariguette strawberries, celery and a dressing of wasabi and honey. It's also what sustains faith in desserts that might partner more of those strawberries, gratinated in sweet olive oil, with Parmesan sorbet, alongside a serving of whipped egg white topped with 75-year-old balsamic, or match a high-octane chocolate tart with an ice cream of Indonesian basil. 'The food is creative,' a reporter points out, 'but not so intellectualised that you fail to enjoy eating there. In other words, fresh, quality ingredients get to shine and, considering the high technique of the cooking, it's a lot of fun to eat at Hibiscus'. An opulent wine list will provide the enjoyment of agonised debate for the seriously resourced. Wines by-the-glass from £5 are very well chosen, though, including an excellent Petaluma Riesling, and the sommelier's selections are worth a look.

The Good Food Guide 2010

Even without the tripe à la lyonnaise, it would be clear that Hibiscus's menu is 100% Claude Bosi. Behind the voile that separates this small restaurant from bland Mayfair, the strapping Frenchman does as he pleases, overdosing on seasonal ingredients (spring menus are gorged with asparagus, fricasseed soya beans and gariguette strawberries) and making sweet tarts of ceps, peas or sweet potatoes. Guests are by now accustomed to the sideways thinking and esoteric ingredients that can, though only if they wish, make a fine French meal into a learning experience. The lessons are easy to take in a panelled wood-and-slate dining room where all-comers are put at their ease. Crusty gougères and excellent petits fours bookend an experience that emphasises texture as well as taste, playing around with each mouthful. To start, a fat quenelle of iced foie gras in a warm, buttery brioche 'emulsion' is blowsy and soft until the spoon finds little bombs of confit rhubarb, and pale, glistening tartare of mackerel gets a highly effective wake-up call from spots of wasabi and honey dressing. To follow, a star ingredient often arrives in two related services. Label Anglais chicken breast might be lined with a razor clam stuffing and served with crisp soya beans and blood orange purée, followed by a piece of thigh with impressively crunchy skin, airy liver parfait, and – slightly misplaced but hardly tear-jerking – rillettes of confit wing and more clams. An offbeat (some say 'weird') dessert might be creamy white asparagus tart with goats' cheese ice cream and crumbs of black olive, made with exemplary pastry. Staff honour the fun of a banana cake soufflé, gleefully slicing and dicing to admit a ball of excellent coffee ice cream and the contents of an ampoule of banana syrup, though at inspection there was a distinct post-coffee retreat. Wine selections start at £19.75 (£5.25 a glass), with plenty of halves. Though a low budget is no barrier to courteous discussion and some flexibility, the French highlights are best approached with a treat mentality.