Claude Bosi at Bibendum
Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, SW3 6RD
WLC Rank : 49
Glass from : £ 9 (125 ml)
BEST FORGenerous flavours from beautiful dishes
A list appealing to Francophiles and far beyond
Quirky finds from historical properties
“Thank God chef could reopen the place,“ says Elio Machiné, who is “working hard to impress our guests and come back better.”
Now comprising a deeply-carpeted restaurant, oyster bar with hubbub, and Cognac den with rolled armchairs, Chelsea’s Michelin House began life as the UK HQ for Michelin tyres. Wrought in stained glass is one of the world’s most iconic trademarks – the Michelin man, depicted in the white of natural rubber.
Milan-born head sommelier, Elio Machiné, who sports colourful braces, noticed guests seldom asked to photograph wine labels when he arrived at Bibendum last year – nor did they order a second bottle, hence he eliminated the majority of natural references, “including four pages of orange wine, which you’d need to create a dish around to work.”
Clasped in a soft jade-coloured cover and bound within bright orange rings, Machiné’s list is far from exclusively French despite the nationality of Lyon-born chef patron, Claude Bosi. Hence, he embraces the wines of South Africa’s Eben Sadie, “and basically have his whole range,” including Skurfberg Chenin Blanc which “refreshes layered crab bavarois with brown then white meat, smoky pear gel and compressed cucumber.” And, with hints of oxidation, multi-vintage, Quinta dos Carvalhais from Portugal’s Dão harmonises with signature caviar-topped duck jelly infused with spices, “which looks elegant but is actually a very powerful dish.” On Portuguese wines, Machiné also managed to secure age-worthy wines made by the ornate, neo-gothic five-star Bussaco Palace Hotel, built as a palace for a Portuguese Queen. Machiné also rates Seghesio’s Zinfandel from California’s Alexander Valley which brings “a touch of sweetness” to hay-cooked sweetbread with vanilla sauce. And honouring his heritage, supple Nebbiolo from a Valtellina suntrap nicknamed “Inferno” (Nino Negri) proved a useful alternative to Barolo.
Machiné studied art at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, “and was quite good to be honest,” later working at his father’s Lake Maggiore trattoria. He moved to Manchester for the winter season. “My first experience outside Italy, I ended up spending six years there.” A chance meeting saw him invited to an interview with Diego Masciaga, then GM at The Waterside Inn. “I was shaking as I drove to Bray. ‘Relax,’ said Diego, declining my CV, ‘just tell me about yourself.’ He said I could retire in Bray, but should first go to London to grow at Le Gavroche” Machiné, technically a “demi chef de rang,” worked as pass boy, dreaming of joining the sommelier team. “How could wine have such powerful perfume, I thought?” Of then head sommelier, David Galleti, Machiné was “ready to die for him,” despite being “ready to leave Gavroche every day for the first six months.” However, requiring “sacrifice,” that competitive environment “moulded” him. He later worked at Umu, “falling in love with sake,” and helped open Margot, Covent Garden.
Compared to the “shocking amount of bottles selling at any price at Gavroche,” Machiné tries to levy acceptable mark-ups on such smart bottles as the 100 Parker Point winning Guigal La Turque 2010, “so you don’t need to be a billionaire to buy it.”
When not at work, Machiné is able to, more clearly, contemplate chef’s dishes, with wines by the glass changing as often as Bosi’s dishes.
By Douglas Blyde.
Given the patron originated from L’Hexagone, this is an unsurprisingly France-first list which also foregrounds natural wines, although not as forcedly so as at Claude Bosi’s previous Michelin-starred restaurant, Hibiscus. It is devised by France’s only female Master of Wine, Isabelle Legeron, who also founded the RAW natural wine fair and wrote the accessible book, ‘Natural Wine’. Her vinous picks are represented by sommelier, Martino Bosco (formerly of Hibiscus and D&D’s Plateau) at the spacious, spruced first-floor dining room at Chelsea’s Michelin House which began life as the UK HQ and tyre depot for Michelin tyres. It is particularly pleasurable a space to savour daytime when light pours through the stained glass windows which feature one of the world’s oldest trademarks – the Michelin man (the reason he is depicted in white being that white is the natural colour of rubber).
In Legeron’s words, ‘our list is exciting because it really mirrors Claude and his kitchen. There is a whole raft of wines hailing from the Rhône (where Claude is from), including several from Côte-Rôtie’s exceptional Jean-Michel Stephan.’
Legeron prefers smaller, artisan growers who share the same philosophy in their vinegrowing and winemaking as Bosi does in his sourcing and creating. ‘Our attention has always been on choosing wines that help highlight the complexity and playfulness of flavours in Claude’s dishes – you should honestly try his signature tripe and cuttlefish gratin with a Loire Cabernet Franc, say, Beaulieu Corbineau…’
Other dishes may include veal sweetbread with seaweed butter, monks beard and confit Italian lemon, and, to share, roast Bresse chicken with black truffle, followed by olive oil parfait pear and marron glacé.
Given the eclectic nature of her list, Legeron advises guests are as likely to end up drinking a classic left bank Bordeaux or Grande Marque Champagne as they are to be sipping a Friulian orange wine or German Riesling. ‘It is all about enhancing the tasting experience,’ she reasons.
Expect also a rich seam of bins, too, from Alsace, Burgundy, Jura and Savoie, representatives from Iberia, the UK (and not just in sparkling terms), the USA, Australia, and a good range of Ports dating to the 1950s, as well as micro lot teas by Lalani & Co.
Legeron adds, aptly, ‘as Horace would say, back in 23 BC: Nunc est Bibendum, now is the time for drinking.’
By Douglas Blyde.