Bob Bob Ricard creates a Last Days of the Romanovs aura of the reverent and the risqué that appeals to famous faces in public places. Like a grand duchess in flight, one is briskly handed from doorman to footman to maître to waiter - each murmuring your name with a slight bow - and ushered to a richly upholstered booth hidden from prying eyes by peacock-blue velvet curtains. The light is sinfully low and the room shimmers with the glint of Byzantine mosaics, mirrors, marble and Pullman carriage brass. It's an Orient Express carriage reimagined as a Fabergé egg. Bolshevik restaurant critics sneered at the 'Press for Champagne' button, but the men my friend Mr Barker calls 'randy dandies' have thawed many a heart thanks to such a simple device. As many a restaurant has learned to its cost, theatre is absurd without stealthy, smooth service. When you press for champagne at Bob Bob, it arrives as if by magic.
Dining at Bob Bob Ricard has all the sense of anticipation of opening night at the Ballets Russes. The Russian-English cuisine reflects the nationalities of the owners, Leonid Shutov and Richard Howarth, and strikes just the right balance of flamboyance and familiarity. You could start by toasting the evening with vodka shots served at -18 degrees and light bites of Petrossian caviar, but I fear one can get carried away ... feet first like Mag Wildwood in Breakfast at Tiffany's, as it happens. The twice-baked Stinking Bishop cheese soufflé is darling, as is a salad of goat's cheese and beetroot, sliced so thinly it resembles a stained-glass window on a plate. Although I consider it close to treason to grill or bake an oyster, surprises such as venison steak tartare served with a raw quail's egg and lobster macaroni cheese are to be applauded. A new star dish - poached Loch Duart salmon served with warm cucumber, mustard and dill - has supplanted the chicken Kiev that is still mourned as one might a lost lover.
Bob Bob Ricard's wine list is intentionally concise, and its upper register is modest in its mark-up. It is exceptionally convivial to hunker down for the evening in one's booth, endlessly pressing the buzzer for more bottles of Tattinger Brut Reserve, and you are never ask to relinquish the table at the point of a bayonet, as is common in some of the West End's more avaricious addresses. Here, there is always time for a little more delicious gossip and another spoonful of shared Eton mess en perle. The Club Room below Bob Bob Ricard is as sparkling as a Van Cleef minaudière and serves the same menu as Bob Bob but later, and at tables surrounding a glamorous backgammon-board dance floor. The club room is like a threesome between Bullets over Broadway, Boardwalk Empire and The Cotton Club.
Where to eat ... with amorous intent
1 Upper James Street W1
T3l. 020 3145 1000
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Words (c) James Sherwood, Pictures (c) Bob Bob Ricard