Eating at Kensington and Chelsea’s art nouveau icon
Attempting to find a particular restaurant in London usually involves squinting at Google Maps on your phone and periodically glancing upwards at door numbers. That isn’t a problem with Bibendum though. This restaurant is hard to miss as it’s situated inside an iconic art nouveau/art deco-ish building that was formerly the UK headquarters of tire company Michelin. The ground floor hosts a small florists and fishmongers as well as a casual oyster bar, while the more formal restaurant is located on the top floor.
Among the building’s many motoring motifs are the stained glass windows of Bibendum himself, more colloquially known as the Michelin Man. At least two of the windows visible from street level form part of the decor of the dining room itself. Whatever your feelings on corporate logos, the stained glass windows look gorgeous and are naturally best appreciated on a sunny day. The dining room itself is decorated with plenty of other Bibendum memorabilia from posters to small statuettes and the whole place has a light and airy feel thanks to the high ceilings and skylight.
Dining a la carte at Bibendum can be quite expensive, but, as with many of London’s other glossy eateries, the set menu is a more affordable way of appreciating the kitchen’s charms. I tried out the weekend lunch menu, which changes fairly frequently and is also available on weekday evenings. It costs £30 for three courses with coffee and petit fours, but this rises to £40 once you factor in the service charge and soft drinks.
Things did not start out promisingly. The game ragout starter consisted of some unsatisfyingly small flecks of game, which might have well have been reconstituted mince given their lack of character, in a bland and watery tomato and herb broth. The only saving grace was the light and fluffy gnocchi, although even these were chewier than I would’ve preferred.
Thankfully, my main course was significantly better. A large fillet of coarsely textured and aged pork had a slightly nutty flavour that was complimented well by the lightly spiced harissa marinade and tart, gently spicy yoghurt. The coarse and creamy hummus was a well-chosen finishing touch to a beautifully well-rounded Middle Eastern-inspired main course. In case you’re sad at the lack of vegetables, a small side dish of green beans and potatoes is thrown in.
I was looking forward to the rhubarb crumble parfait for dessert, but the fruity sweetness of the icy parfait tasted more like strawberries than rhubarb, although there was still a touch of tartness to it. The fine grained crumble added a nice crunch without getting in the way of the parfait’s smoothness. Not a bad effort overall, despite the lack of pronounced rhubarb-ness.
The rather anonymous coffee was nothing to write home about, but the tart orange zestiness of one of the petit fours was a nice finishing touch.
If everything on Bibendum’s set menu was as delightfully accomplished as the harissa-marinated pork then I would have no hesitation in recommending the place unconditionally and awarding a four, or perhaps even five star rating. Sadly though, the rest of the dishes in my meal weren’t in the same league. Although I’d much rather have Bibendum’s set menu than the full a la carte menu at some other London restaurants in the same price range, it’s likely the kitchen’s full efforts are devoted to the a la carte menu and that’s what I’ll be having next time.
Branch tried: Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 6RD
Phone: 020 7581 5817
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday noon-14.30 and 19.00-23.00. Saturday 12.30-15.00 and 19.00-23.00. Sunday 12.30-15.00 and 19.00-22.30
Reservations: highly recommended.
Total cost for one person based on three-course set menu including soft drinks and service charge: £39 approx.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (set menu-specific rating)