At the newly reopened Bibendum, diners can expect acclaimed chef Claude Bosi to bring some modernity to the London landmark. Famously, the 31-year-old restaurant has never earned a Michelin star, despite being named for the brand’s mascot and occupying the tire company’s former UK headquarters. Lyon-born Bosi, whose London restaurant Hibiscus earned two stars from Michelin, hopes to change that. “This is a big challenge,” he says of winning that recognition.
To tackle the challenge, Bosi is making some changes to Bibendum’s menu. To start, he’s eliminating the tasting menu, a feature of the previous iteration of Bibendum as well as of Hibiscus, which closed in 2016. Diners will now select from an a la carte menu with “more approachable pricing,” a move that the chef considers a more modern approach to serving customers.
Although Bosi plans to bring some new energy to the historic space, the building itself was a draw when he signed on for the takeover. “To be able to cook in that place — the place is magical,” he says. The layout of the space is more or less the same as it was before, and the sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the dining room with light will stay. But Bosi has made changes, including a contemporary open kitchen that is now the focal point of the restaurant.
The new menu options will include classic dishes from the Bibendum of old. In fact, an entire “Bibendum Classic” menu will feature the quintessential French dishes the restaurant was known for, including calves’ brains, calf liver and onions, steak au poivre, and steak tartare. “I figured you didn’t want to go to the place and say, ‘Okay, Claude Bosi is coming, forget the past, let’s start again,’” the chef says. “I think it’s not right, it’s very unfair, because that place has a major reputation for some of the best dishes, and people are still coming for them.”
Those familiar with Bosi’s own approach to French cuisine, developed in the kitchens of French heavyweights Alain Ducasse and Alain Passard, are also unlikely to be disappointed. At Hibiscus, the chef focused on food that was unquestionably French with influences from Bosi’s own international travels. “The only difference is the delivery,” he says. “We had a tasting menu at Hibiscus and now we’re going to serve a la carte, but the philosophy behind the dishes and the way we’re mixing flavors will be the same.”
Whether or not these changes will earn Bibendum a long-awaited Michelin star is anyone’s guess. Bosi doesn’t speculate as to why the Michelin has never awarded Bibendum a star before, but he hopes to be acknowledged by the organization, as he was with Hibiscus. “It proves that just because you have the [Michelin] name, doesn’t mean you have a Michelin star,” he says of the restaurants historical lack of recognition. “You have to be good to be able to get it, so we have to be good — very good — to get one or two. We’ll see how it goes.”
In the meantime, Bosi is trying not to think too much about it. He says, “I’ve always been very honest with my food. I think I know where we stand, and it’s maybe arrogant, but I’ll do what I do and if it works, great, but I can’t change it.”
Eater asked A Lady in London’s Julie Falconer to shoot the new interior. Have a look around:
• Bibendum [Official Site]
• Chef Claude Bosi on Hibiscus, Critics, and Responsibility [E]