Bibi is a brand new high-end opening within the capital, of which there’s presently no scarcity. “Excessive-end” is a coy means that hospitality individuals talk the notion of imported chandeliers, four-ply lavatory roll, complicated cocktails, teensy parts on lovely tableware and, outdoors, a Mercedes-AMG wagon being clamped by Westminster council. These eating places have survived the Covid maelstrom.
In Knightsbridge, a petty little pandemic wasn’t going to cease the Nusr-et juggernaut rolling into city, foisting its grotesque, gold leaf-wrapped steaks on the cerebrally awry, whereas over at the Savoy, Gordon Ramsay is on the verge of opening a second restaurant serving caviar on nori waffles. The listing goes on, however Bibi – a contemporary Indian restaurant on North Audley Avenue, the place rows of Bugattis, Bentleys and Rolls-Royce Phantoms park to choose up a couple of bits of grocery from Selfridges meals corridor – proves that not all high-end eating places are constructed equally.
It’s backed by the JKS group, which additionally owns Gymkhana, in addition to quite a few different well-loved eating places akin to Hoppers, Lyle’s and Bao, though it’s the incessantly booked-up and undoubtedly groundbreaking Gymkhana that Bibi places me in thoughts of most. Since my dinner at Bibi on a latest Friday, I’ve really useful this odd, experimental, lovely restaurant for each date nights and people needing to lovebomb purchasers. Sure, it’s not low-cost and cheerful – a small, delicate plate of uncooked Highland beef pepper fry with fermented Tellicherry peppercorns prices £14, whereas 5 items of okra will set you again £8 – however the aromatic okra is like nothing I’ve tasted elsewhere. I’d fortunately bathe in its peanut sauce, sploshing it about my armpits and behind my ears, earlier than dressing with out showering.
Bibi’s chef, Chet Sharma, is a educated physicist who labored at the Ledbury, Gymkhana and Moor Corridor earlier than turning into JKS’s head of menu growth. He’s half genius and clearly half subversive, as are all the most effective individuals to go away in control of your dinner. You’ll know this from the second you step into his new restaurant, sit up on the counter, take within the mock-Rajasthani design and gleaming, mango wooden furnishings, and order a plate of sweetcorn kurkure, that are absurdly compelling, deep-fried bullets of kernels rolled in at the least 20 spices and served sizzling and crisp. They pair completely with a kulukki sharbath, a cloudy Indian lemon juice with a inexperienced chilli kick and laced with sabja seeds, which lend it a pleasant, frogspawny texture. Sharma’s different bar snack is a Wookey Gap cheese papad, or heavenly, luxurious, super-sized Quavers with a cultured cream dip layered with mango protect and inexperienced chutney.
Bibi’s fairly polished flooring, ornate ceiling, gloriously obsessive menu (it particulars the place on the subcontinent each spice hails from) and exact, skilled and deftly drilled service all add as much as the feeling that here’s a place that takes hospitality very significantly. And maybe that’s one more reason I liked it a lot, as a result of there are numerous headless chickens operating about in the intervening time. The Bibi crew is unquestionably not a kind of; JKS has put its finest gamers in right here, and now could be the time to benefit from them.
Dishes are undeniably reasonably small and presupposed to be shared, though your common, fork-wielding heffalump akin to myself may simply end them alone. Don’t mistake, say, chukh masala tikka for a saucy vat of crimson-coloured hen; it’s as an alternative a small portion of marinated boneless thigh, a succulent and Vesuvius-hot spin on the curry home basic – Charles has been raving about it for days and days, and nagging me to return so he can strive the Lahori hen with cashew and yoghurt whey. Buffalo paneer is equally temporary and significant, barely bigger than a bank card, however I nonetheless bear in mind its dainty, milky texture and the style of the charred onion and pepper recent from the Sigree grill that titivates a lot of Bibi’s dishes, whereas I think that the achari Swaledale lamb saddle, at £16 for 2 chops, will develop into one of many place’s signature dishes. I principally grazed across the vegetable aspect of the menu, dipping quite a few roomali rotis into oozy puddles of wealthy, grass-fed ghee dal and ending off the kaima yakhni pulao rice that’s simmered in hen inventory.
Each dish was uncommon, unexpectedly introduced and a playful reimagining of a basic, which is strictly how I felt about Gymkhana all these years in the past. JKS has a behavior of making dishes to puzzle and obsess, whereas rewriting the playbook in a self-effacing method; it’s the antithesis of Salt Bae and his £100 burgers that may change your life (spoiler alert: they won’t). I hardly ever eat dessert in Indian eating places, as a result of I’m by no means disciplined sufficient to go away room for a closing hurrah, however at Bibi they’ve even considered that and supply tiny preserved mango kulfi ice lollies, a bit like Mini-Magnums, and all silky-sweet and soothing.
Bibi has made 2021 bearable. I don’t have a Bugatti to get there, however after I sit upstairs on the entrance of the Quantity 73, it feels as if I’m driving, and that’s simply pretty much as good.