Find the discrete "Press for Champagne" built-in wall-button and a waiter dressed like a very elegant train steward will swiftly appear with a glass of bubbly to satisfy your thirst. The magic button is one of the many whimsical touches of opulence dispersed inside the decor of the recently opened restaurant Bob Bob Cité.
The flavours on the menu may transport you to the intimate settings of a super chic Parisian brasserie but the general ambience is another kind of voyage. Greeting you at the bottom of The Leadenhall Building is a private elevator that takes you to the 3rd floor, or what feels like another space-time dimension in the heart of the City of London.
The picturesque Art Deco interiors imagined by Brady Williams, pay homage to the iconic Orient Express or any kind of first class carriage for that matter. Picture rows of cream and baby blue banquettes and stools, glossy wood panelling, terrazzo-style wall embellishments, mirrors, neon lights and gold lighting fixtures. Each booth feels like a private cabin, designed to carry you from cocktail hour - I recommend the foamy and refreshing Champagne, gin and lemon French 75 - into the digestif.
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Armagnac collection in London
Passengers are invited to wander round the space as there are no doors dividing them and the action taking place. I took a sneak peek behind the bar where I found an impressive Armagnac collection (fifty vintages), with the oldest bottle dating back as far as 1888. Following the same concept of transparency, some dishes are brought to you by a kitchen commis rather than a waiter.
The glass-walled cupboards on either side of the bar area (wine on one side and Champagne on the other) are definitely stops you should take on your journey to dinner. They are extraordinarily well-stocked with two hundred Champagnes up to Methuselah (6 litres), along with a collection of Chateau d’Yquem dating back to 1928 and vintage Ports going back to 1945.
The menu by Chef Eric Chavot is a refined version of the French brasserie with staples such as onion soup, snails in garlic, veal blanquette, daube de boeuf provençal, steak tartare, lemon tart, and so on. It also includes many vegetarian options contrary to its counterparts on the other side of the English Channel.
A menu inspired by South West France
“The inspiration of the core foundations of the menu goes back a long way to my family roots in South West France: the quality of produce that was available, my mother’s home cooking, summer holidays with my grandmothers in Juan-les-Pins and in Paris (where my auntie worked on the poultry section in Rungis) and my first chef Monsieur Lahy who employed me as an apprentice. It’s through this medley of life’s experiences we’ve created a menu with great harmony flavours and composition,” describes Chef Eric Chavot.
If you are vegetarian, I recommend the truffled potato and mushroom vareniki, which is a hearty and flavoursome variation of the dumpling. The fresh grilled options (Les Grillades) are another highlight of the carte and the sea bream is a winner. So are the - compulsory - sides that come in generous portions.
Top quality produce
“We have a small core ‘family’ of great suppliers who have immense respect and love for their produce. Their concern for its provenance reflects the high quality of the produce consistently supplied to us,” the Chef explains. “Our delicious snails and Heritage tomatoes are supplied by Marcus Rowlandson at Le Marche @ The French Garden, New Covent Garden. He’s so passionate about where and how his produce is grown. We’ve visited Rungis together with some of the Bob Bob Cité chefs, so they have the best understanding of Le Marche’s produce, its provenance, availability and quality,” he adds.
“All ‘Mediterranean’ ingredients - olive oil, vinegars, capers, gherkins, capers, etc. are supplied by George Bennell at Belazu. They go all out to get as close as they can to bringing the taste of the ingredient at source into the kitchen, so everything about the sourcing and the process of getting the ingredients, matters to us. It’s why I’ve been buying from them for so many years,” he continues.
“James Hagen from Skandl Fjord provides us with fresh Devon Crab and a Juniper Smoked Salmon developed especially for Bob Bob Cité. The crab is pot-caught by family day boats landing in Paignton, cooked (in a traditional Norwegian method) and then carefully prepared by hand before arriving in London just a few hours later,” the Chef describes.
“The smoked salmon is made using Loch Duart fish caught daily, lightly cured and then gently smoked in the Cotswolds over local beech, juniper and oak woods, before being paper wrapped by hand and delivered to us. Last year I joined James and the Skandl team on a trip to his family boathouse on Veiholmen, a petite fishing community. It’s a tiny dot in the Norwegian Sea. We spent 4 days with the locals fishing, diving and creating delicious meals of lobsters, scallops, crabs and fish. When you eat seafood fished literally à la minute de la mer in the breath-taking natural environment of its origin, it really reinforces the importance of the provenance of all produce,” he concludes.
Tasty without being pretentious, the overall experience is great value for money and should definitely be on your radar as a cool and chic dining option in the City.
Bob Bob Cité, Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, City of London, EC3V 4AB | +44 203 928 6600 | firstname.lastname@example.org