To start with, it’s all about the button.

There you are, sitting in a gilded leather booth that’s so ornate that you feel it might be time to stand up, push your serving of ‘Bobcorn’ away and get back to investigating a suspected felony on this luxurious train charging across Europe.

‘Bobcorn’

Except you can’t, because it’s taking all your self control not to constantly be jangling the ‘Press for champagne’ button.

And further to that, you’re not on the Orient Express. You’re in Soho, and still in London. And you’re out to dinner at a spot that quickly became a favoured haunt of the blogosphere.

As for that button… Here’s a little about its appeal.

For one, it’s the sheer novelty value. Mere seconds after you push it someone will appear by your side, offering champagne.

For two, it’s the atmosphere of the surroundings. Bob Bob Ricard may have a titter-worthy name, but it’s an elegant place. The interior design is  by David Collins, who was also responsible for the rarefied atmosphere at The Wolseley. There are chandeliers hanging from the Venetian-mirrored ceiling. Looking around the room, it’s only natural that your palms start to itch for a champagne glass.

For three, it’s the sass. The sass comes from the wine list. It not only lists some pretty darn enticing options, but directly pokes its tongue at the pricing of its peers. Beneath a listing of a  glass of Pol Roger Reserve NV you’ll find a rationale from Bob, saying it’s the only non vintage champagne he’ll drink (the man has taste, I’ll give him that). Also he reminds you that here there are no stingy 125ml servings.  Further on and in capitals, adjacent to Bob Bob Ricard’s price of £11.75 per glass is a note that ‘this glass would cost £17.60 at Gordon Ramsay Restaurant’.  There are similar comparisons littered throughout the menu.

From there, it’s easy to get carried away.

Soon, The Hungry One is toying with the call button like a toddler with a tambourine. And once the bubbles start flowing, it’s difficult to stop.

More of everything.

Tonight, we are celebrating. We’re still celebrating our wedding anniversary. We’re celebrating good health and safety and employment and a roof over our heads. None of which are things we’re taking lightly.

Bob Bob Ricard is a perfect special occasion restaurant. You can come in in jeans and trainers if you like, but the floor staff will still be sporting jackets in turquoise and a daffy shade of coral. They are  charming and attentive. They know that people have come here to have a good time. As for the food- well, it manages to be interesting without being arresting.

The menu treads a line between Russian classics; from caviar on ice and blinis to British comfort food, like beef wellington, or roast leg of lamb for two.

For us tonight to start there’s the aforementioned ‘Bob corn’; a whimsically striped box of warm baby popcorn, jazzed up with sugar, salt and pepper (£1.50).

There are Zakusi (like Russian tapas) and vodka shots which are served at minus 18. A home made Zubrowka, made with bison grass is £5.50 for 25 ml and has a mellow, caramel flavour that serves as a sniffy slap in the face to anyone who is using vodka merely to pimp up their OJ.

From there we go to a shared portion of venison steak tartar has a quail’s egg nestled in the curve of its belly ( £8.75).

The venison is ruby pink and hand cut into pieces the size of pencil erasers. A touch of extra seasoning from the Tabasco on the table gives it a gentle kick over the line from good, to great.

Other winners that we find include the Veal Holstein; a stout slab of pink meat that’s been breaded and fried that sits over a mound of truffled mashed potato.

Lolling over the top is a criss-cross of anchovies which bring a salty ping and a fried quail’s egg which bursts like an spray of sunshine. On the side there’s a half a lemon. It is thoughtfully sheathed in muslin, to catch any pips. It’s details like this which in the wrong environment can seem naff, precious and overplayed.  Here, they just make the night feel more special.

There are a host of Russian dishes on the menu which are definitely worth some attention. In particular, I’m talking about the dumplings. The meat pelmini are humped like the back of a lady bug.

There’s a good lick of stock in their bellies, so they burst with the same exuberance as Shanghai soup dumplings. They come with sour cream and white vinegar, which give it a kick of richness and piquancy. Similarly the truffled potato and mushroom vareniki come with sour cream, and a crown of crispy onion rings for extra crunch.

But what you really must not miss, are desserts. Striped strawberries and cream soufflé, is striped like a candy cane and stands proudly to attention. Puddled in the middle is a vibrant puree of strawberries and there’s a shiny jug of pouring cream for you to wield according to your taste. Suddenly you’re eating clouds and tasting summer’s days.

It’s a devastatingly good soufflé.

The chocolate glory ‘(mark 2)’comes with its own bit of theatre. To start it’s a chocolate sphere. A member of the floor staff will then pour hot ganache over the top, melting the top and revealing a treasure trove of chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse orange and passionfruit jelly. It’s as delicious as it is delightful.

By now, the bubbles have got to us and we’ve decided we’re in need of a third dessert. A trio of house made ice cream includes the hedonistic highs of peanut butter and banana, salted caramel and valhrona chocolate. Yes, in case you’re wondering they do taste as good as they sound.

At the beginning of a visit it may be all about the button. But as the night wears on, you start to realise that the charms of Bob Bob Ricard go much further than mere electrics. This is no one trick pony. This is a place that has been designed to help you celebrate. It’s also a place that helps you remember why you bother to go out in the first place.

Because if great food and wine can’t be fun too, then really;  what’s the point?

Bob Bob Ricard
1Upper James Street
Soho, London, W1F 9DF
Tel +44 (0) 20 3145 1000
www.bobbobricard.com
Opening: 7am – late (last orders 1am)

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