Welcome to the Basque Country at Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge
by Nick Harman - Saturday April 28, 2018 9:04 am
Hidden under the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bar Boulud has gone a bit Basque for the summer.
Right up in the northern-western region of Spain, close enough to shout a cheery Bonjour to Bordeaux, the area is notable for its generous handshakes between French and Spanish cuisine.
The new Basque dishes are scattered through Bar Boulud’s always attractive menu, sitting happily alongside the very-wantable rustic French dishes and the New York style burgers that always seem very popular with the Knightsbridge crowds.
I had a go at the Croquettes Basques, which were longer and crispier than the usual Spanish croquettas but they still had the lusciously creamy centre that makes a croqueta such an easy dish to over indulge in.
They were a bit salty, probably from the ham though and not from over-seasoning but I don’t mind salt despite what the doctor tells me. The garlic dip was fierce and very much in the face, as it should be when you consider the legendary feisty nature of the Basque people.
Padrón Peppers come primarily from Galicia (and funnily enough also from Lidl), but that’s geographic nit-picking. I always enjoy these cute green peppers and especially I like the Russian Roulette aspect - some are hot and some are not, and when they’re hot they can be very hot indeed.
I didn’t get any real bangers in my batch, which of course weren’t sourced from Lidl, but they’re were still a rather good nibble, especially with the sweet romesco sauce. Personally, I’d have blackened and shrivelled them a bit more in the pan and tossed in a little rock salt before serving,
Little nibbles on slices of baguette were called pinchos, although to my mind a Basque pincho should always come on a large toothpick, pincho does mean spike after all. Not bad, but not exciting.
Much better were the Piquillo Bacalao -cod brandade stuffed piquillo peppers with garlic chips. Not everyone likes salt cod, it’s quite an assertive taste, but I do like it and I like the way it can be found in cuisines all over the world. These were nicely ‘rough’, not over-processed and the sweet peppers encased them tightly making for easy finger food.
All fairly filling for a normal human you’d think, but I have grown an extra stomach so went on to wade into a superb Boudin Basque - pork blood sausage, spring onion mash potato and peppadew peppers. This boudin they build in house, a great slab of soft, unctuous boudin too, not as crumbly as French and not as resolutely solid as our own.
It melted down into rich billowy mash and when each forkful was topped with the crisp bite of spring onion and the bright sweet and mildly spicy peppadwews (actually South African), it was a dish I could have gone on loading up with until they started laying tables for dinner service.
It was pleasantly light and not oversweet, with the cherries adding a good alcohol note as well as an astringency to offset the custard.
It might seem a little unusual for a French restaurant to serve some Basque dishes, but the two are not entirely unrelated and Boulud’s unerring nose for what works on casual dining menus does not let him down here.