What's the draw
Cosy booths, caviar and pressing for champagne – the inimitable Bob Bob Ricard has, thankfully, managed to navigate the choppy waters of the pandemic and come out the other side with both its Soho and its City sites intact. And, with a head chef still reasonably new in the door in the form of Tom Peters, there's plenty to discover in 2021's iteration of this enduring destination restaurant outside of the bubbly (although we're pretty keen for that, too).
What to drink
On our visit, the button was pressed, and over walked a waiter more than happy to furnish us with a glass of Bollinger Special Cuvée, in our opinion one of the best and most reliably non-vintage champagnes going and a name with a reputation that suits a special occasion. After, we dove into a grüner veltliner from Austrian winemaker Loimer, with popcorn, smoked hay and buttercup on the nose, pleasant white grape and apricot flavours, and genuine value at £52 for the bottle.
What to eat
The venue's reputation for a meal that blows the budget has probably served it well over the years, but on our visit in late-ish 2020 we actually found plenty that offered great value, too, with a fair few starters at £10 and mains starting from just over double that. Food ranges from modern European to classic Russian (reflecting owner Leonid Shutov's heritage) – we loved a palmeni, a traditional Russian seafood dumpling in an unctuous, rich bisque, topped with gently bursting cod's roe. Thankfully, Peters has kept the kiev – a classic Bob Bob Ricard dish – which is crisp and juicy, on a bed of creamed corn, while for a side, anchovies cut through the last of the summer's tomatoes with a rich salsa verde. There's no doubt about the star of the show, though – turbot coulibiac is a hunk of meaty turbot, served wellington-style in crisp puff pastry, with umami-laden mushrooms, scallop mouse and a champagne beurre blanc lending the dish acidity and bite: a great reminder that underneath the restaurant's penchant for the overblown there's always been a backbone of excellent cooking.
Mains from £16, wine from £6 by the glass. 1 Upper James Street, W1F 9DF; bobbobricard.com