RESTAURANT REVIEW: BIBENDUM

Bibendum, South Kensington, is reviewed by Alex Larman who discovers how the experts serve dinner in the old Michelin House

London has lots of restaurants that would like to think that they’re legendary, but only half a dozen really make the cut. One thinks of Le Gavroche, The River Café, The Ivy and one or two other worthy contenders. But the one that seems to sum up what people expect of the archetypal London restaurant is Bibendum, with its equally famous (and glorious) Michelin building.

Ever since it opened in 1987, it has epitomised what people expect from a British take on a French bistro, thanks to the fabulously talented men involved, including food guru Simon Hopkinson, head chef Matthew Harris (whose brother Henry is no slouch in nearby Racine) and, of course, owner and patron Terence Conran.

Bibendum's marinated sea bass

Bibendum’s marinated sea bass

A recent visit was thus less a straightforward review and more a trip to check that it’s firing on all cylinders. Thankfully, the formula ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ appears to have been stuck to with aplomb. The staff glide elegantly between tables, attending to empty water and wine glasses with discretion and style. I order a half-dozen meaty, juicy escargots that come swimming in perfectly green garlic butter, followed by a perfectly cooked and presented fillet steak au poivre – and the maitre’d gives me a small but imperceptible nod of approval.

Bibendum isn’t cheap, something that has often raised a few eyebrows when the bill arrives. Perhaps in an attempt to combat this, there is now a good-value two-course menu at £36, offering some innovative and interesting cooking at rather less than you might pay in some nearby establishments.

Class has never come cheap, and an evening at Bibendum is still, after all these years, one of London’s best treats.

Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road SW3 6RD, 020 7581 5817; bibendum.co.uk