Archive for June, 2015

Interview: Q&A Profile of Claude Bosi (June 2015)

Posted on: June 6th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Claude Bosi

Celebrating its 15th anniversary in June 2015, Chef Claude Bosi originally opened Hibiscus in Ludlow, before relocating to London in October 2007.  The personal signature from the kitchen brings together classic French cooking with modern techniques and the finest British ingredients – a successful formula which has garnered a customer following and numerous culinary accolades. Hibiscus has held two Michelin stars since 2003; it has a 9/10 rating in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015, and is ranked 5th in the UK; has five rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide 2015 (retained since 2003) and is a member of Relais & Chateaux.

Claude found time to speak to Simon Carter of fine dining guide to profile his 15 years of experiences at Hibiscus, his philosophies as well as plans for the future.  Interview took place June 4th 2015.

The picture above combines the 15 years anniversary tasting menu (middle, faded but hopefully readable) with an image of Claude (Left) contemplating what to put on that menu and then right three dishes from the menu.  Throughout the interview Q&A there are further food pictures taken from this celebration menu.  Booking essential, menu only available lunch and dinner until 30th June 2015.

It must feel good to reach your 15 year anniversary with Hibiscus at the top of the restaurant world?

Fantastic, it seems to have gone so quickly. If I stopped and thought about it too much I might feel old (Laughing)

How have the Ludlow and London years compared?

Ludlow to start with was a mix of local clients including those who had stayed with me from my previous employer (Overton Grange) and then progressively more destination restaurant clients.

The London years have been about accumulating private as well as business clients, I am lucky that a good proportion of my customers are loyal and regular. There are also naturally tourists who may be recommended the restaurant by their hotel concierge. There is of course the constant for twelve years of two Michelin stars, which brings in interesting clients who have sought out the restaurant.

And since 2013 you have become your own boss?

After completing the deal to buy out the financial backers at Hibiscus (29 Maddox Street) in 2013 I am delighted to be my own boss. It has not affected my mentality in any way in that I was as dedicated at being successful with those backers as I am for myself. I am grateful at having had the opportunity here with Hibiscus.

I also no longer have any focus on the pubs so 100% of my time, drive and enthusiasm goes into Hibiscus.

Hibiscus Egg

What is the make-up of your staffing at Hibiscus?

We have 14 chefs in the kitchen per service and we can seat 46-48 covers upstairs, the private dining room downstairs can seat up to 18 and the chef’s table six. Front of house is around 12, so that’s 26 staff in the restaurant, four receptionists and two in the office – so it’s a business of 32 people overall.

What has the response of your customer’s been like to your 15 year anniversary June tasting menu idea?

I was really amazed by the response, I didn’t know what to expect, maybe one or two replies when we polled our guests, but we had a lot of replies. In the end we chose the best summer combinations that naturally complemented each other across the menu. This special tasting menu is only on offer through the month of June to coincide with our 15th anniversary of Hibiscus.

HIbiscus Lobster

What do you think of the move toward tasting menus in the top end of the market generally?

I understand why. When you consider the number of staff required to maintain a busy restaurant; the cost implications for staff and produce; the control and consistency opportunity that tasting menus offer, then a restaurateur or head chef would be foolish not to consider such menus.

Personally, we tried it here at Hibiscus and were not ready for this move – the older I get the more I like to try fewer courses rather than more, so I’m delighted to have a three course a la carte, a three course set at lunch times (£49.50 including half bottle of wine and coffee) as well as a six and eight course tasting menus.

Something I have noticed is that customers in the modern age are less likely to spend 2-3 hours plus at the table so also giving an experience that people can enjoy in 45 to 90 minutes becomes important.

It might appear that people today have less available time for everything so in some ways we want to break from the perception of ‘fine dining’ meaning spending too much time in a restaurant: We wish to welcome as many as possible so this perception may put off some potential new people from coming into the top end restaurants.

So yes, fewer courses is perhaps a counter trend but being accessible on time and courses does not mean compromise on food – I will source the very best produce and prepare it to the best of my kitchens’ ability, that idea will not change.

Hibiscus Pea Mint

Is the Michelin Guide still the force in the industry for chefs and consumers? (And Why?)

Michelin remains the most important guide, there is no doubt about it! When I got the first star at Overton Grange I thought I was dreaming because for me only people you worked for and looked up to received such accolades. Customers definitely look at the guide; the demand, the customer type, the expectations all change and therefore so does your business at each star level.

In recent times it has perhaps been to Michelin’s credit that they have shown that two stars can be achieved in the relaxed and accessible surroundings of a pub (where Tom (Kerridge) has done fantastically.)

As a restaurant we are first and foremost serving quality food but then equally this must be in the context of wonderful hospitality. We want customers to feel good about themselves, to make it easy for them to enjoy every minute; be welcomed and treated warmly and with respect. It is as if you are coming to my house, yes a difference is you get a bill at the end, but I want you to feel that warmth of hospitality at Hibiscus.

Is a third star something you are working/aspiring towards?

Anyone who is close to a star wants a star, anyone who has one star wants two and anyone who has two would like three; this is only natural. I do think about the dream of three Michelin stars but I do not work towards it as it might change the way I think about food and the way I go about preparing menus. I might spend too much time looking at other restaurants that have three Michelin stars and wondering whether I could implement things they are doing into my repertoire. This would be wrong for me…

I do what I think is right, right for me, for my style of food, for my front of house and my hospitality philosophy. If I get three stars this way it would be real for me and I would be very very happy. If not to be, then also fine.

What is your view of the increasing volume of (immediate) online feedback for restaurants?

Interesting and scary at the same time. People can have strange expectations and write unpleasant things based (on at best) misunderstandings. Generally if the feedback is positive you know you are doing OK and if it is consistently negative then maybe it can help you to change in some way. I’m pleased to say that the ‘social media’ or ‘information age’ appears to be working well for us at Hibiscus.

What are your plans for the future?

Keep busy, a lot of openings and a lot of closings in London. So keep my head down be busy and focus on Hibiscus.

Restaurant Review: Masala Grill, London (May 2015)

Posted on: June 5th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Masala Grill Kings Road Interior

They say that location is everything. With this maxim in mind, one can understand the recent move of the much-loved ‘Chutney Mary’ to the West End. With few other fine dining establishments in the area specialising in Indian cuisine, there exists a golden triangle of opportunity between Amaya (Belgravia), The Cinnamon Club (Westminster) and Benares, Tamarind and Gymkhana (Mayfair) which the new St. James Street location will surely capture.

Masala Grill Example Dish

Masala Grill Example Dish: Dahi Puri


But what of the Kings Road location that for 25 years satisfied the hunger in West London for high quality Indian cooking? Thankfully MW Eat, the family team behind Chutney Mary, have chosen this location to launch their newest venture: Masala Grill. Building on the reputation and success of the former venture, the identity of Masala Grill is formed by specialising in authentic family recipes that reflect the different regions of India, bringing together the expertise of sister establishments such as Amaya and Veeraswamy with the innovation and panache of something new.

Muttar Tikki Chaat

Example Dish: Masala Grill Muttar Tikki Chaat


The interior of the old restaurant has been revamped to give a less formal feel. Particularly impressive is the domed conservatory, housing a tree and strung with decorative streamers. A rich tapestry of colours – red and amber predominating and exotic objets d’art create an oasis of colour and vibrancy that is thoroughly atmospheric and conjures images of Rajasthan. The menu too offers fresh thinking and it is pleasing to note that innovation has been encouraged, through the creative input of co-owners (and sisters) Namita and Camellia Panjabi.

Inspiration is taken from traditional street food, particularly grilled meats and fish; however there is also a range of curries, biryanis and thalis on offer which showcase both traditional and contemporary Indian cooking.

Fine Dining Guide visited Masala Grill within a fortnight of its opening on a Thursday evening in May 2015.

We were pleased to find a deliberately simple menu, with all offerings except dessert featured on one double sided A3 card. The menu is divided into appetisers (to accompany drinks), starters and main course dishes such as grills and curries. Accompaniments such as vegetable dishes, rice and breads are all listed separately. Prices seem very reasonable with most starters under £10 and the majority of main courses in the £15-20 range.

MasalaGrill_Malai Chicken Tikka

Example Dish: Masala Grill Malai Chicken Tikka


The wine list is similarly focused on quality and value, comprising around 30 different whites and reds (priced from £23-£90) and a small selection of Champagnes, sparkling wine and Rose. A tempting range of cocktails is listed at £8 each.

We began our meal by sampling a couple of the cocktails. The Passion fruit and mango mojito is a long drink that is both crisp and refreshing, with the sharp and astringent passion fruit offsetting the sweet and fragrant mango. ‘Paradise on Ice’ lived up to its name; a tropical concoction of flavours comprising rum, grapefruit liqueur, guava juice and lime served in a martini glass. These were the perfect aperitifs to whet our appetite for the rich and spicy flavours to come.

We took the opportunity to sample the full range of appetisers from the menu with our drinks.

The crispy fried squid comes in a vibrant red batter, made with gram flour for extra crispiness. The squid meat was perfectly tender and mouthwatering, revealing the virtue of batter and a quick, hot frying.

MasalaGrill_Crispy Fried Squid

Example Dish: Masala Grill, Crispy Fried Squid.


The ‘Chicken Sixers’ gave us our fix of chilli and provide a hit of flavour with every bite.

Masala Grill: Chicken Sixer

Masala Grill: Chicken Sixer


Meanwhile the Pani puri were palate cleansing marvels! This dish, also known as Gol gappa, consists of small crisp shells of Pani (bread), filled with chopped onions, potato, chickpeas and tamarind. A conical of spiced liquid (Puri) is provided to fill the shells. Although this requires quick action to transfer the Pani Puri from plate to mouth without creating a mess, the challenge is half the fun and the taste is well worth the effort.

Not to overlook some of the classic street food dishes listed on the menu as ‘starters,’ the vegetable samosa chaat is one such delicacy. This comprises a traditional samosa topped with yogurt and chickpeas and a garnish of pomegranate seeds. The cool and creamy yoghurt is the perfect enhancement to the slightly dry samosa crust and adds richness to the simple vegetable filling.

Another was the ‘Mixed Vegetable Bhajia’, the vegetables had a wonderful lightness, which seemed more akin to a tempura batter than a traditional bhajia mix, avoiding any of the soft dough that can beset traditional bhajia.

Main courses were divided into Thalis (tasting dishes), biryanis, grills and curries. We sampled dishes both from the ‘Grill’ and ‘ Curry’ section. From the grill the salmon steak was a particular highlight. The succulent and translucent fillet was marinated in honey, dill, mustard and chilli. The technique of first cooking in a steam oven gave a wonderful moistness to the fillet, avoiding the uneven cooking that one might often associate with grilled fish.

The Raan Khyberi; a lamb dish cooked for 12hrs with a marinade of black cardamom and star anise. Although a grilled dish, this was served with light meat liquor. The meat itself was beautifully soft and gave way to the lightest of fork movements. The tastes were surprising subtle, but this had the advantage of allowing the full flavour of the meat to shine.

Masala Grill: Example Dish Nialli Barra

Masala Grill: Example Dish Nalli Barra


Prawn Malabari was predominantly flavoured with ginger and curry leaf while the base of the sauce was coconut. This was a rich and spicy dish, best paired with the simplicity of plain rice. The prawns were cooked to perfection having been added at the end of the cooking process to avoid over-cooking and the dreaded sensation of eating cotton wool.

To accompany the curry we sampled the Bhindi Dopiaza, or to translate okra-onions. This was a simple dish, but one full of flavour. The okra had crucial bite and the accompany sauce had good flavour but without over-powering the vegetables. For bread we tried Lacha Paratha. This has a rich, flaky consistency and is almost like pastry to eat. Although very moreish, this is probably better tried with simpler dishes such as the grills and was a little too rich to accompany a coconut based curry – a failure on our part when it came to ordering

Our main dishes were accompanied by a glass of the Aleegory Pinot Noir (Western Australia 2010). At £8.20 a glass, this is very drinkable and is well matched.

The dessert menu offers a number of Indian classics that it would be a pity to miss. One of these is Bebinca, a traditional Goan dessert made with layers of coconut pancakes. With an ingredient list that includes ghee, coconut milk and almonds, this is not for the faint hearted (or those with a cholesterol problem!), however this proved a wonderfully sweet and sticky sensation with a strong hit of nutmeg at the end. For those looking for a lighter option, there is a range of sorbets and ice creams. Both the lychee and orange sorbets may have been improved had the sharpness of the fruit been allowed to come through, but nevertheless made a pleasing end to the meal.

Masala Grill seems certain to successfully cater to displaced business from Chutney Mary. No doubt it will also attract an altogether new crowd, drawn by the informality, quality of cooking and exceptional value on offer. The service is knowledgeable, efficient and unobtrusive. Overseen on our visit by the welcoming and charming deputy manager Johnson Fernandez, it ran very smoothly indeed. Overall, Masala Grill is destined to be another success in the story of MW Eat and one that we shall watch with interest.