Hibiscus operates in a smart location just off Regents Street, its interior befitting a two starred restaurant in Mayfair. Its all clean lines, neutral decor and plush seating. Modern art dominates the walls as a army of waiting staff glide over the thickly carpeted floor. Its all very Michelin. Its not the kind of place you come to have a good time, unless your idea of a good time happens to be hushed conversation and overhearing a nearby table discuss hedge funds. They make no excuses that here is a temple of gastronomy, pushing the boundaries of modernist haute cuisine in a city not known for its food innovation.
The modernist approach is in your face from the off. Eggs arrive in a carton, the perfectly trimmed shell encasing a silky mushroom mousseline, a coconut froth and a dusting of curry powder. It succeeds in providing interest in that I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not until the last mouthful. I don’t. A smoked chicken terrine is pitch perfect, the flavour pronounced and lifted by a little foie gras. We forced the last of the meat and quince jelly on to sourdough from the Hedone bakery, which is about as good as a shopping trip for bread can get.
Poached cod arrives under a cloud of foam, the fish surrendering to the merest of pressure from the fork. The fine dice of shallot, lemon and capers taking French home cooking to dizzying heights. We fight over who can mop the last of the cooking liquor up with more of the bread. No such arguments were needed with black pudding of Hare with a glossy jugged sauce. It was blood with more blood and needed far more acidity than a roasted apple to cut through richness that bordered on sickly. The accompanying pomme puree had been overworked to a gloop. There should be a t-shirt and Hall of Fame for anyone that can finish this in one sitting.
More game was had with partridge, with a slightly tough breast and wondrous confit leg which had me gnawing at the bone. There was clever use of cauliflower roasted and also worked into a couscous like texture. Genius was at work with the sauce, perked by curry and raisins, which lifted the dish firmly into two star territory in a unique and playful way.
Desserts were a mixed bag. I saw little enjoyment in their take on Tiramisu, with a grainy ice cream spoiling a pleasantly different combination of coffee and cardamom. It made me wish I had joined the rest of the table in ordering the sticky date sponge which drew silences thanks to a fudge sauce with a pronounced smoked flavour.
The bill is kind for this level, with lunch for three, including half a bottle of wine each and a cocktail apiece, creeping in at seventy quid a head. It allows a small glimpse into the world of Claude Bosi’s cooking, which provokes at all times and succeeds a little bit less. The best of the cooking is up their with the best, with other dishes disjointed in comparison. Maybe my palate is too primitive but food at Hibiscus is not somewhere I would come running back to when I’m next in the capital, however intriguing it may be.