Bob Bob Ricard – Utterly Bizarre Dining In The Heart Of Soho

by timchester

Where to even begin with this one? Seriously, where to begin? Imagine, if you can, a Russian-owned English restaurant designed like an Edwardian railway carriage serving “posh comfort food” in the darkest depths of Soho. A vintage brasserie straight outta 2008 filled with plump banquettes and garish brass bits and bobs where the staff wear salmon pink jackets, turquoise waistcoats and flashes of tweed, a place where seemingly anything goes, where, according to critics, Uncle Fester serves Ribena, where Liberace designs Texan diners, and where cornflakes sit next to caviar on the menu. You’re about halfway there.
BBRpie

Yep, the stupidly-named Bob Bob Ricard is a fantastically odd place and it’s garnered equal amounts of praise and derision in its short two year history, hovering somewhere between an 81% approval rating on Urbanspoon and a rare zero stars from AA Gill. I quite liked it. I liked its sheer ludicrousness and amusing pretensions and aspirations of grandeur that were punctured at every opportunity. I liked the fact that it’s ridiculously bright and opulent and smart and yet the front door opens out onto a branch of Greggs. I loved that it took three concierges dressed in camp jackets to take my coat and get confused about where my party was. And I was in tragicomic stitches when we were informed most politely that “our table is ready now” and schlepped upstairs with an unfortunately attired lackey carrying the cocktails to find that, actually, all the tables were ready. Our whole evening in this surreal place was one long act in the theatre of the absurd, and it deserved a standing ovation.

So where to begin? We could start with the food but let’s not. The “press for champagne button” positioned by every table has been a favourite with most of its reviewers (although for most it either doesn’t work, is ignored, or takes ages to summon bubbly), while others can’t get over the basement ‘members’ bar. And to be fair, a lot of fun is to be had down there. Designed like a dining carriage (albeit with a backgammon-themed floor) and packed to the rafters with unforgiving amber lights and reflective surfaces, walking through it is like navigating a hall of mirrors with a strobe strapped to your forehead. By the time I reached my group I felt like I’d snorted forty lines of absinthe and stumbled into a fuse box.

Perching on what looked like a stewardess’ take-off-and-landing chair and downing something purple, frothy and egg whitey calmed my synapses, as did a quick visit to the Liberty print-festooned conveniences (I picked this photographic habit up from Comptoir Libanais and I have to say I’m warming to the theme).

BBRloos

Upstairs in our booth (it’s all-booth, although they have some nice one seater spots for the loners out there) and with a server that reminded me of Juliette from Dogtanian and the Three Muskahounds (in a good way) by our side it was time to tickle BBR’s Achilles heel and get round to the food.

This is where the facade crumbles, like the paper thin pastry of the venison pie above. That David Dickinson-coloured artwork may look like a work of Christmas jumper kitsch genius but it was imprinted on Rizla-strength crust, something that coloured me disappointed. And the dryish meat below didn’t do much to brighten my mood, neither did the metallic-tasting truffle mash ordered separately. Sides in general were stingy – the potato dauphinoise was creamy but tiny and the mac cheese about as alluring as Lembit Opik. Pigs cheeks looked good but I had better in Madrid last month; I doubt these were slow cooked for eight hours. A crispy baby chicken came out supine, legs akimbo and tantalisingly crisp, sat next to a lemon half wrapped in muslin (nice touch) and a meagre puddle of coleslaw.

To follow, a trio of ice cream (peanut butter and banana the best) and a trio of crème brulées. The various flavours (passionfruit, raspberry and pistachio) were bold and adventurous but the wrong consistency, a bit style over substance and a custard microcosm of the whole place. Why not focus on one great dish instead of three mediocre? Then again, why change? Asking Bob Bob Ricard to make concessions to tradition, taste (either kind) or convention would take all the fun out. It would be the jungle without Gillian or the Apprentice without Stuart. Forget the potted shrimp or beef soup, its the quirks, the foibles and the downright eccentricity of this place that makes it classically British.

Clientele: Strikingly mundane compared to the Lewis Carroll cast of characters serving
Soundtrack: The least of their worries
Price Per Head: Just about under £31.75 if you’re shrewd.
Website

Bob Bob Ricard on Urbanspoon

{ 3 trackbacks }

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

cher brighton November 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Who are you calling mundane, Sir? ;-P

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timchester November 25, 2010 at 11:04 am

Only by comparison…

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Rob January 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

“By the time I reached my group I felt like I’d snorted forty lines of absinthe and stumbled into a fuse box” has to be one my favourite lines from a review EVER. Nice work.

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timchester January 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Cheers Rob. Some good stuff on yours too – I’m going to make the trek to that Southwark coffee place now…

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Lindsay July 20, 2015 at 8:27 am

Hi Phil.My wife and daughter bohugt me your book as a fun’ read, you know nothing serious and knowing how much I’ve enjoyed Veggie Tales over the years.My wife and I were one of those unexpected fans you mentioned in your book long before we had our daughter we were hooked as young newly weds teaching Sunday school and occasionally popping in a Veggie Tales episode to go along with our lesson. One year at VBS I even wore my green Larry shirt (original one with the HUGE eyes) while playing congas in the orchestra and for just a few moments Larry actually DID have hands!I LOVED your book and I’m so glad the Lord led you to write itIt started off all fun and then you started slipping in those spiritual nuggets (how dare you!). LOL!It reminded me of the tag line from a video short from the 80 s, Hardware Wars’ You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss five bucks good-bye! .Seriously, I would laugh out loud so much my wife started moving to the next room when she noticed me pick it up to start reading. It was like an emotional roller coaster. The way you wrote the book it made me feel like I was there going through it with you. It was very moving. The references to TRON, Star Wars, etc really connected with me. TRON and trash-80 s got me in to computers and the computer field.I too worked the late shift at a TV station about the same time frame making bump’ VHS tapes with all the commercials on them for the next day’s broadcast. We had an Amiga and I would do computer graphics on there for commercials and ads. So all the technical stuff in the book was great and brought back memories. We didn’t have access to any high-end Unix workstations but the Video Toaster and Lightwave 3D were very nice.Your Yoda Blackaby’ reference had be in tears I was laughing so hard. And the final chapter of totally surrendering and just walking with God’ and waiting on the Lord’ really hit home. Thanks!Me and my family anxiously await all that God has in store for your next great adventure. May God bless you and your family and anyone who had anything to do with Big Idea.Be sure and keep a journal of your Jellyfish startup might be yet another book coming out of that. The Chronicals of Phil (I hope so) Yours in Christ,J.J.Atlanta, GA

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I hate my life but at least this makes it bearable.

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