29 Maddox Street
020 7629 2999
Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, October 30th, 2007
The Damage: £125 each with wine.
The Background: There are two things I struggle with every so often in London:
1. Finding people willing and able to go out for a seven course meal on a semi-regular basis.
2. Finding people willing and able to go to random shows for bands they might not have heard of before. Here’s my list of random shows I’d be interested in going to.
Andrew Bird: November 9th
Pink Martini: November 10th
Air: November 15th
The Arcade Fire: November 17th, 18th, and 19th
Interpol: November 29th and 30th
Band of Horses: November 29th
Jens Lekman: December 11th
But this is what I love about my "Internet friends." (A phrase I must stop using.) When Howard asked me a few weeks ago if I’d be up for a trip to Hibiscus, I didn’t have to think all that much before saying yes. This was a no brainer.
I didn’t know much about Hibiscus to start. I knew people on the boards were excited it was coming to London. I know the restaurant used to be in Shropshire, but I have no idea where that is. And I knew that they had two Michelin stars. That’s all I had.
We met up for drinks at the pub around the corner, The Windmill, which was perfectly acceptable. We showed up at the restaurant bang on the dot, our coats were professionally swept away, and we were offered a large round table in the very new-feeling (and smelling) dining room.
Here’s what I liked about Hibiscus immediately:
The carpet. It was gray and had cool stripes.
The sliding doors into the kitchen. I got a peep or two as we were waiting in the reception area. Seemed like a cleverer trick than the swinging doors.
The smell of fresh wood from the paneling, the stairs, and potentially also the wine cellar.
The instant acknowledgment of my "Oh a Kir Royale would be nice" and the offer of bringing some cassis to the table for everyone. (Howard had to one up me on his request for Creme de Something-Else.)
The puffy cheese puffs of cheesy goodness they brought to the table for us to snack on it.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
The one hour before our first course arrived. Granted, we amused ourselves, but it was a little excessive.
The Food: Now, I would be a total liar if I told you I remembered everything we had. We had to play a couple of rounds of "And then what did we have?" on Facebook before we got everything, and now I have the added advantage of Ben’s post over here to guide my memory. But here’s the quick list. Check out Howard and Ben’s site for the photos.
Hibiscus soda with smoked olive oil: Light and refreshing and different. Mixed reviews from the table though.
Cauliflower veloute. I thought this was lovely–particularly the dollop of coconut ice that the veloute was poured over.
Beetroot tarte. You know how I feel about beets. But this was actually okay. And I loved the way they alternated two shades of beets around the table.
Dover sole stuffed with mushrooms. Nicely done.
Testicles. Lamb testicles. I could say so many terrible things here, and you can misinterpret everything I write. I’ve never eaten testicles before. They’re not bad. But I wouldn’t seek them out purposefully.
Pork belly. This was perhaps my favorite dish. I am a sucker for all things pork these days. Except for maybe…
Sausage roll. The guys loved this. Me? Not so much. I just don’t "get" sausage rolls. They’re in the same camp as scotch eggs for me. The brown sauce was quite nice, however.
Granny smith puree. Lovely and fresh.
Pannacotta. Very rich and delicious. Too rich though. We left a lot of this behind.
What else can I tell you? We loved the sommelier. He was really enthusiastic and passionate about Hibiscus, the Hibiscus family, and the wine list. He steered us towards a number of good values–I liked the Riesling and the Pinot Noir the best.
I loved the tile work and cleanliness of the loo. And I loved how when Dave thought he might have lost his bag in the restaurant, the staff called Ben the next day to make sure Dave had found it. (He did, it was at The Windmill.)
The Verdict: I think this experience was made all that much more wonderful by the staff. And the company, of course. I thought the food was inventive and excellently presented and prepared. I have a feeling Hibiscus might not be for everyone, and I don’t know if I’ll be returning any time soon bar a celebratory occasion, but I had a lovely time and I think most people would as well.