First some numbers. Bob Bob Cité, located on the third floor of the Leadenhall building in the City (more commonly known as The Cheesegrater) features 12-and-a-half kilometres of mirror-polish steel trim that weighs over five-and-a-half tons. The restaurant, which was five years in the making, also has 48,000 hand-polished ‘snake eye’ bolts whose weight alone required a separate structural assessment to ensure the floor could support the load. Front of house staff make use of a 14-piece set of bone china by Wedgwood, while the cellar is home to 200 wines and champagnes in large formats (up to the vanishingly rare Methuselah which holds eight bottles) and 50 vintages of armagnac dating back to as early as 1888.
And then there’s the actual numbers themselves, lit up in either red or blue, that line the top of Bob Bob Cité’s two large dining rooms as if you were sitting in the London Stock Exchange. For many, these are the most important digits of all, denoting the restaurant’s various table numbers and guiding the waiting staff accordingly. At the push of the ‘presser pour champagne’ button that sits tantalisingly at every table, the corresponding number changes colour (red to blue, blue to red, depending in which room you are sat) indicating to the floor staff that a glass of fizz is required post-haste.
None of this will comes as a surprise to fans of the original Bob Bob Ricard, Russian owner Leonid Shutov’s over-the-top, kitsch and downright fun Soho brasserie that has hitherto started a mini craze for letting diners summon drinks at the push of a button (Flesh & Buns Fitzrovia has a ‘push for pisco’ version and the new MEATliquor will feature a ‘poke for Jäger’ one. Nor will Bob Bob Cité’s flash interior and expensive fit-out raise an eyebrow based on the Soho original – Shutov doesn’t do things by halves and he certainly isn’t going to change his ways for restaurant number two.
But Bob Bob Cité does have a wildcard up its sleeve, even for those who thought they had seen it all with the original – and he goes by the name of Eric Chavot.
The Frenchman might seem an unlikely choice for such a ballsy project, where even a chef of his standing can’t compete with the sheer magnitude of the venture. Having won two Michelin stars at the somewhat understated dining room in The Capital in Knightsbridge before moving on to open Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair, a move to the City and the Bob Bob brand could be regarded as a step backwards for the chef. But it makes perfect sense. With Bob Bob Cité, Shutov wants to create a brasserie for the 21st century marrying Russian opulence and classic French cuisine with English eccentricity, and few chefs are more suited or up to the task.
Chavot has certainly embraced his role. Bob Bob Cité’s menu is full of crowd-pleasing brasserie dishes where he has been given the freedom to put his own stamp on them. Starters include duck egg with gruyère and truffle foam, served on salt beef hash and pickles; French onion soup; and steak tartare, while the large selection of mains runs from grills (35-day aged Scotch beef, lobster thermidor) and meat (veal blanquette, beef en croute) to fish (dover sole with brown butter; fish pie). Shutov’s love of caviar is also in evidence – a meal can start with either Siberian or Russian caviar, while dishes such as smoked salmon and steak tartare can have it added. As one would expect from a former two-star chef, the cooking is excellent, with the dishes more than holding their own against the striking backdrop. Like the steel trim, Chavot’s food is polished and impressive.
One more number for you. Bob Bob Cité is estimated to have cost a cool £25m, a figure at which even the likes of Richard Caring and Alan Yau might wince these days. Shutov says his aim is to create ‘London’s most unique restaurant’ (if that is even possible?) and it’s certainly one of the capital’s most striking. In that regard, it’s money worth spent.
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Eric Chavot’s chunky smoked salmon ‘Imperial’ at the newly opened @bobbobcite (lightly smoked salmon, lemon jelly, green gazpacho, potatoes and pickled onions topped with a generous dollop of Siberian sturgeon caviar). Leonid Shutov’s long-awaited follow up to @bobbobricard is even more outrageous and extravagant than its older Soho sibling and we say all the better for it (it is rumoured to have cost a cool £25m). Pick up our June issue to read about what is arguably the biggest restaurant launch of the year. #newopenings #chefstagram #London #food #restaurant #londoneats #TheCity #frenchfood #instafood
On the menu
French onion soup £12.50
Snails in garlic and parsley butter £14.50
Steak tartare (£27.50 with caviar) £15.50
Chicken pie, morel and king oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrots, sweet wine velouté £21.50
Pan-fried dover sole with brown butter, capers, gherkins, lemon and parsley £42.50
Rhum baba £14
The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London