What can you tell us about Boulestin?
Boulestin is the new restaurant by Joel Kissin who, for ten years, was a partner with Sir Terence Conran in a restaurant empire which covered Bluebird, Quaglinos and Bluebird. It takes its name and culinary inspiration from Marcel Boulestin - a renowned French food writer who opened a restaurant of the same name in Covent Garden in the late 1920s. Hardly surprising given its origins, but Kissin’s Mayfair version focuses on classic French food, with many dishes from Marcel’s pre-war cookbooks.
Where is it?
At the bottom and more peaceful end of Mayfair’s St James Street two doors down from Berry, Bros & Rudd. It opened in September 2013 and sits of the former site of L’Oranger.
Who’s it suitable for?
Mayfair-types (obviously), then anyone who fits one or all of the following categories: a) lovers of French food (the menu gallantly gallops though all the Gallic classics - try saying that when you've had a Pastis or two), b) lovers of timeless restaurants such as The Wolseley, The Ivy and any others that favour great service and luxe/classic deco c) anyone who has money and d) anyone who likes butter.
So where should I meet for a drink first?
Once you hit the bottom end of St James’s Street, the options diminish somewhat (though we spotted a couple of ye olde pubs en route which would do for a quick one).
Other options include making like the wealthy tourists in the old-school glamour of The Ritz’s Rivioli Bar or, if you don’t mind a trek down Dover Street pre-dinner, a cocktail at the ever-entertaining Mr Fogg’s.
And when I get there, where should I sit?
The beautiful dining room (an open space with smooth cream walls, fine art, huge mirrors and orbed wall lights) is decidedly lacking in ‘bad’ tables and we were very happy with our seat on the near left hand corner. This and the booth in the opposite far corner are probably the best for rubbernecking (which you will certainly want to do, if only to check out the sequins on display from some of the older lady diners); whilst the round tables that run down the centre would be great for a small group.
And what about the food?
Too many restaurants in London have buzz in abundance then fall slightly by the wayside when it comes to the eating part. From what we sampled, the same could not be said of Boulestin.
It was lucky our charming waiter brought a basket of still-warm mini baguettes to our table not long after we sat down, as we agonised over our menu choices for a good twenty minutes. There are just so many great dishes on Boulestin’s menu. The kind of deeply comforting, classic French dishes full of skill and (aforementioned) kilos of butter.
Deciding against the excellent-sounding Soupe de Poissons with Gruyere and Croutons and Beetroot Salad with Jersey Curd and Walnuts – we instead opted for the Grilled Squid and Scallops. The well-cooked squid came on a bed of roast peppers and haricot beans (which, though delicious, tasted decidedly like fancy baked beans). Scallops came perfectly caramelised, dotted with tiny cubes of sweet butternut squash, crisp fried sage and pine nuts.
The main courses are divided into Poultry & Game, Fish, Meat and Offal (which didn’t help us to make our decision any quicker). After toying with the idea of the Grilled John Dory with Fennel, Tumeric, Orange & Coriander, then momentarily entertaining the notion of Roast Partridge or Daube of Beef or Pan-roasted Poussin Forestiere, we settled on a perfectly pink veal cutlet perfumed with sage and lemon; and a ruby-centered hunk of rib-eye. The latter was served with a spot of Bernaise (more butter) and joyfully crisp frites. Sides of pommes puree, spinach, and bacon-studded cabbage were blissfully drenched in more of the yellow stuff.
If you can possibly manage it, save room for the dessert as there are so many tempting lovelies on display including their version of the classic apple tart. We went with a light and sharp slice of lemon tart, which would have been all if the waiter (on hearing we love dessert wine) had not insisted we try the Sauternes custard. We nodded out of politeness then ended up finishing the smooth dome of set crème doused with sweet syrupy booze in seconds.
And what about drinks?
The wine list is fairly extensive and covers most of the new and old world bases with a nice selection of non-vintage and vintage champagnes. We chose a delicious white rioja from Conde de Valemar.
The London food scene is awash with trends, fads and fancies but sometimes it's more exciting to come across a restaurant (especially a new one) that has a truly timeless and unashamedly old-fashioned appeal. Boulestin has no tricks up its sleeve and you certainly won't find it setting up in Dalston any time soon but, with a little luck and some faithful Mayfair patrons, it will still be there in fifty years time – serving classic cuisine with effortless grace in a room full of people who adore le buerre.
Boulestin, 5 St James’s Street, SW1A 1EF. Read more about Boulestin.
Prices were correct at time of writing. Hot Dinners ate as guests of Boulestin.