london 1520


Mayfair, W1K

Winning a top-five spot on the National Restaurants Awards’ best UK restaurants list within a year of opening is no easy feat. In the 2022 Awards, modern Indian restaurant BiBi did just this. Voted ‘Best Newcomer’ and lauded in the press, chef patron Chet Sharma was off to a remarkable start. A year on, has BiBi retained its crown? Having visited BiBi on two separate occasions this year, I have been able to judge the ebbs and flows of this restaurant’s journey for myself.

Nestled in a quiet and notably un-flashy corner of Mayfair, BiBi is unassuming on the outside save for its salmon-pink canopies (currently covered in scaffolding at the time of writing). In the restaurant’s tiny foyer, guests are greeted with a closed black curtain which, once swept aside, reveals an intimate interior with dark wooden furnishings, antique mirrors and red tinted lighting. A bustling chef’s counter occupies half of the narrow space, the smells are intense and the indoor grill, where my favourite lamb kebab is chargrilled by an open flame, adds a sweet smokiness to the air. Friendly waiters accompany you to your seat and are there to explain every dish as it comes to the table. Those sat at the chef’s counter enjoy the added bonus of interacting with the chefs, who hand you the plates themselves and explain their work.

On my first visit, I was stationed at the chef’s counter. I began with a green chilli soda with Indian lemonade and passion fruit sabja mocktail as I watched the chefs work their magic in front of me. The drink alone was exquisite, layered with spice and texture. As for the food, on my first visit it seemed like each dish was placed with precision on the menu, willing diners to warm up to the boldness of BiBi’s flavours. Snacks comprised poppadoms and dips that had been layered on top of each other trifle-style. On my second visit, the addition of a chicken liver parfait and chilli butter aside a small loaf of brioche bread was welcome, if not somewhat uncalled for.

The tasting menu began with sweet and sharp oysters in a delicate chilli broth, followed by a luxuriously soft raw scallop that had been diced and bathed in a green chilli lemonade foam. Next, soft and smoky brown butter confit cod split with coriander oil. Supremely intense and spicy goat pâté balls were to be smeared on homemade naan that was still warm to the touch, and counterbalanced by some raw red onions and a tangy coriander sauce. The star of the show was the lamb kebab, which you could choose to add to your menu for an extra £15 a head (on top of the £95 a head meal). The lamb was cooked to perfection: bright pink and moist on the inside, charred on the outside. It sat on a notably artistic swirl of walnut puree and was topped with a fragrant, chilli olive oil.

Next came the ‘BiBi favourite’ Lahori Chicken, which I can only describe as unctuous. The chicken was again chargrilled at the counter, and sat in a perfectly creamy, light and soft cashew foam which sang with notes of ginger and coriander. This was paired with an uber-sharp lime pickle, daal, roti and rice for good measure.

I reflected on BiBi’s saffron ‘egg’ dessert for several weeks after my first trip. Perched in a nest of shredded filo pastry – reminiscent of the Honey and Co feta cheesecake – is a white chocolate casing that enshrouds a silky lemon mousse. Inside, the mousse sits on a sharp burnt orange gel that oozes when cut into. Finally, the famous BiBi magnums, in this case a fresh mint ice cream in rich dark chocolate coating. All in all, this first experience of BiBi blew me away.

Sometimes it’s best not to meet your heroes twice

On my return to BiBi a couple of months later, I can’t say I was left with the same feeling of awe. Those dishes that remained consistent on the menu – the scallop, chicken, goat and lamb – were still total treats. But the spice levels throughout the menu, particularly in some of the earlier dishes, were distractingly overpowering and seemed to be misjudged. For the second plate, turbot was served with asparagus and jerusalem artichokes: nothing new on the surface. Yet the ingredients sat in a broth so spicy that three out of four of our table were unable to finish it. The assault on taste buds so early on was, we all agreed, really quite unenjoyable.

Next, a beef tartare that tasted as if the chef had mistakenly dropped a whole cup of ground black pepper into the mix. No one could argue that the dish was underseasoned, but a mouthful of the beef still seemed lacklustre after its punchy pepperiness had blitzed our senses. Sadly, my favourite egg dessert had been replaced with a mango lassi sorbet that sat atop a tapioca rice pudding, amounting to a confusingly cold and sloppy dish.

My first BiBi experience was always going to be a hard one to follow. The chilli that ran through BiBi’s tasting menu earlier this year was elegant and nuanced. On the second visit, it felt like a battle. The harmony of BiBi’s former menu had been replaced by a sense of confusion and dissonance that I hope the team manages to reconcile. For the price, it’s hard to justify the value of BiBi’s menu if it’s so liable to drastic innovation that it has the power to upset the consumer’s experience. Sometimes it’s best not to meet your heroes twice.

Food & Drink46
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42 North Audley Street

June 2023


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