BiBi, Mayfair: restaurant review
At this acclaimed recent opening, chef-patron Chet Sharma refines his take on Indian accented brasserie dishes in a laid-back Mayfair dining room
What's the draw
Chet Sharma is one of those chefs whose CV speaks for itself: time spent in the kitchens at Moor Hall, The Ledbury and Mugaritz point to a razor-sharp focus on fine dining, while his role overseeing the culinary operations of the JKS group's restaurants are also reflective of his Indian heritage. At BiBi, he combines the two – Indian-accented food served with a light fine-dining flourish, from a beautiful new site in Mayfair. And early signs are positive: the restaurant was a hit with critics on opening, and it's been booked up for weeks.
What to drink
A short, sharp cocktail list that makes deft use of that South Asian flavour profile is the order of the day on arrival – we tried the Calamansi Gola, built around tequila infused with the calamansi citrus fruit, with lime, mango, ginger and a touch of green chilli. The wine list, too, is compact, but full of bottles that are out-there enough for curious minds but will still please a Mayfair crowd. We loved a glass of Monterrei from Alanda – a blend of native white grapes from the Monterrei region in the north-west of Spain, with tonnes of fresh minerality and characteristic pear drops on the palate.
What to eat
Indian and South Asian restaurants in the capital range across a myriad of styles, with plenty of regional and stylistic variation. And if JKS perfected the art of Indian fine dining in London with the Michelin-starred Trishna and Gymkhana, it feels like Sharma is trying to do the same here with an Indian take on bistronomy – approachable but elegantly cooked small plates, with trappings of fine dining but none of the hushed reverence, and much of it cooked on a wood-fired grill at the centre of the open kitchen.
Sweetcorn fritters are covered in piquant, gently numbing pepper dust, while unctuous oyster is covered in a spoonful of papadi yoghurt sauce and sesame seeds. An early hit, a rectangle of luscious buffalo paneer, sits atop gently stewed onion and chillies, and while elegance is the name of the game with most of Sharma's dishes, he's not afraid of the odd bit of more punchy spicing, as in Belted Galloway served as a tartare and spiked with fermented Tellicherry peppercorns. Other ingredients are similarly named on the menu – Swaledale lamb, King Oyster mushrooms, Orkney scallops – and despite a creeping, lazy heat and piquancy that makes itself known over the course of the meal, Sharma's cooking nonetheless puts them to the fore, lets them speak for themselves, and makes it hard not to think about booking your next table on your way out.
Small plates from £5, wine from £6.50 by the glass. 42 North Audley Street, W1K 6ZP; bibirestaurants.com