bob bob ricard, or fiddling while rome is burning

if i were a food writer for a sunday newspaper, i could write a witty 1,500 words piece based around a trope (a theme, a whatever) about how the world could be divided into those who would find the champagne button at bob bob ricard fun (and funny) and those who wouldn't. but i am not and i won't.

because the truth is, i found the button moderately funny. i really wanted to press it, yes. but i can see why it would annoy me after a while, that button, like a comedian with a single punchline or a one-trick pony. what was much more entertaining was the bob bob staff's response to me sending the waiter away so i could press the button and summon him back 3 seconds later to take our order (of sparkling english wine, so we didn't even qualify, technically). he laughed, as if no one had done it before. i could bet my half of tonight's bill that dozens of people do the same thing to him every day, that he thinks we're all prats, and that he moans about it to his mates in a trendy soho bar afterwards. so hats off to you my froggy lebanese friends from bob bob's - i salute your good humour and impeccable manners!

the other good thing in this place is the decor. it's a bit like an old train or a restaurant from black and white movies in which all women wear skirts of modest length and little hats: all crinkly blue curtains, grey marble and the sort of brass railings that make me spark off in static shocks just thinking about them. you get your own little booth with blue leather seats - you could make yourself quite comfortable in one of those, for a quite a while.

as for the food...the food was like the stock market at the moment - moments of irrational exuberance followed by something more akin to quiet desperation. (speaking of which, post-work hours in the west end after working in the city for 3 years are like a return to civilisation. the people! the clothes! the make up! the shops, THE SHOPS! not a cufflink in sight, and no brogues to be seen anywhere unless they're neon pink and worn by girls.) anyway, the exuberance was the starter. some very fine asparagus, perfectly cooked, with a little mound of sea salt and a bowl of wobbly hollandaise sauce. i'm not normally too keen on the stuff, mainly because it tends to look a bit too fluorescent yellow and taste like it's been thickened with cornflour - but this was exceptional. i have pangs of jealousy, having tried and failed to make mayonnaise three times in the last six months.

it was the next course of slow-cooked pork belly that was more of a quiet disappointment. not terrible by any means but it could have been a lot better. the pork was a bit on the cold side - though the warm plates helped. you can't really eat fatty food cold - instead of that gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth feel, you end up with scary lumps of gelatine.

also, i swapped julie some pork for her black pudding, which she doesn't like. it was good but, again, nothing special. i've eaten better. or it might just be that i'd overdone it - by my calculation, the amount i ate probably equals drinking the blood of a small piglet. particularly weird when you come home to find that the WHO has raised the threat level to five while you had your back turned. the pig was accompanied by some fairly non-descript apple salad and we had spinach and peas on the side, which were nice.

i had cheese to finish and we were back in the bull market: four generous pieces, with three rough oatcakes and a small bunch of grapes. i know they charged me 10 quid for all this but it was a lot of cheese and it was good. i've had some seriously stingy cheese plates in other places for at least £7. if it hadn't been a school night, i would have had a glass of red wine with it. julie had the chocolate souffle, which she said was very nice, and it looked it.

finally, the service was perfect - smiley, nice, chatty and in no way pretentious. it started off badly because they were trying to top up our wine in a way both julie and i agreed was our pet hate in restaurants. but they soon slowed down, and turned it into a bit of a joke. as an aside, i seem to have become the sort of person who chats to waiters (and butchers, and greengrocers, and cleaners). i think it's a dangerous sign of old age, like grey hairs or wrinkles - you've surrendered your pretentiousness and coolness and are now quite happy to talk about holidays or make jokes about the champagne button.

so all in all , bob bob ricard is good fun. not cheap, mind, but i'd definitely go back. it's possibly not somewhere you'd go on a first date but as a night out with mates, you could do a lot worse.


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