Bob Bob Ricard is a booth-only restaurant in Soho, decorated in a luxurious Deco style, with bright mismatched velvets and lots of smooth, gilded bars and ornamentation.
It is most definitely 'high end' - the booths ensure that groups are small, discrete and civilised. On our visit, there were a few familiar-from-the-BBC types, well to do families with delightfully floppy-haired children and (unfortunately sat right opposite us) stroppy Mid-Atlantic business-law-whatever types getting irate about the world over eggs Benedict and superior burgers.
There are buttons on each booth wall, labelled simply 'Press For Champagne'. If there were room, I reckon it would say 'more champagne dahling'. If your budget runs more to lemonade than champagne, a mid afternoon visit is the best way to enjoy this restaurant, either choosing the price fixe menu (£19.50 for two courses, £24 for three - house wine is about £6 per glass which is actually pretty comparable to bars nearby) or the Afternoon Tea, at £22 (or £32 with a glass of bubbly).
We opted for the afternoon tea from the main menu. Upon arrival, we were seated pretty much instantly. Staff (dresses in candy-colour suits which reminded me a little bit of The Prisoner) were attentive, quick and eerily silent - unlike irate mid-Atlantic man. He was particularly percussive on words indicating he worked in business, law and media, and when having a general moan. The restaurant's clientele, us included, let it wash over - the booths were very useful in that respect.
Afternoon tea arrived - first the tea. There is an extensive menu for the teas (being English-Russian, you'd expect them to know their teas) - we opted for a traditional Assam. The tea was delicate; a little too delicate in some ways, they seemed to have used one teaspoon (rather than the traditional one-per-cup-and-one-for-the-pot). Mind you, the pots were pretty miniature. I have no doubt that they could have been refilled had we asked, but there are several stages between mini-and-super-light and a builder's brew in a tin mug. We both know our tea and this was ever so slightly on the neuvelle side of petite and delicate, more what a tourist might 'think' classy tea is like than an actual afternoon pot for one. A surprising let-down, especially considering the irreverent aspects of the menu (another tea option is your own toaster at your table, with jams and breads).
Luckily we'd also ordered champagne, so have enough to drink (there is an option for this on the menu).
The meal aspect of the tea was highly theatrical and well designed indeed. Plated on a three tier cake stand,layer by layer, came three tea-related 'courses'. His Lordship decided to pick and mix in any order, like an ill mannered food anarchist. The shame. I took the moral highground and went tier by tier, savoury first.
1) Selection of sandwiches (all exactly the same size and shape, crustless, arranged like a neat pile of building-blocks):
- Ham on tomato bread: wonderful, soft ham with a hint of mustard. The sundried tomato bread wasn't too tomato-ey. The very corner of one was ever so slightly dry (perhaps the main supply in the kitchen had been too loosely covered?) but other than that, perfect.
- Egg and cress on basil bread. Perfectly sliced and layered: every mouthful you got a hit of yolk and an even texture. I think there was some mustard in with the cress, too. Major kudos for the perfect seasoning: few egg sandwiches without mayo are neither bland nor oversalted. 'Just right'.
- Cucumber and cream cheese on onion bread. The onion lent a nice sweetness to the super light-and-refreshing filler.
- Coronation chicken on carrot and coriander bread. I must admit, I was dubious about this one, but it bore no resemblance to cheap, nasty coronation chicken whatsoever. Sliced poached chicken with a light mango sauce and a tasty, lightly herbed bread. Nice.
- To summarise: His Lordship, who is utterly, utterly tea/sarnie obsessed, did a Man From Del Monte nod. He said they were 'almost as good as my [his] best work'. This means sandwich genius.
3) A range of tiny little dolly-like cakes. Almost too cute to eat. Almost, but not quite. My favourite was the rum baba, it was full of rum like a tot in a cakey shot glass. Nom.
When we left, we could barely move. It looks all dainty but by Jove it packs a filling, carbohydrate rich punch. What else was there to do but follow up with a cocktail or two at Bourne and Hollingsworth (who do cocktails in tea cups... thematic) and Mark's Bar at Hix (attached to a classy restaurant, so also kinda thematic. But mostly just boozy).
Not the healthiest of Valentines, but definitely decadent... mwa mwa, have a romantic week dahlings! And... more champagne, naturally.