Monday, 1 February 2010
Vintage Vodka Tasting at Bob Bob Ricard, Soho
This is not going to be a long post. I'd love to give you the usual blow-by-blow account of the more than a dozen small dishes we were served at Bob Bob Ricard on Friday, a thoughtful and precise analysis of the mix of flavours and ingredients, and a concise rundown of the styles and influences of this unique Russian-British restaurant. I'd love to talk about the charming, bloody-minded drive of our hosts Leonid and Richard, who have against all odds (and, let's face it, all notions of common sense) opened a huge, lavishly fitted-out restaurant and private member's bar, looking like a cross between the Moulin Rouge and an opium den, in the tail-end of the biggest recession to hit this country since the 1930s. I'd love to tell you about all of it. I can't do that though, because after the sixth icy-cold shot of vintage vodka matched with a pot of Cold River caviar, I had lost my notes, forgotten my name, and begun taking a surprising number of photographs that looked like this:
So thanks to the exceptional and (at the time) welcome generosity of Bob Bob Ricard, I have no real way of knowing exactly what went on for a good proportion of the evening, but certain highlights swim through the murky vodka-laced haze. Ox tongue in aspic, with horseradish cream, was the first item to arrive, so that's a relatively clear memory. The instructions were to get a forkful of food ready, down the vodka in one (this a Kauffman 2006) and then follow it up with the mouthful of food. Somehow I was distracted when this was being announced, however, and looked up halfway through a mouthful of the aspic to find everyone else on the table waiting for me, poised ready with a vodka in one hand and a dainty portion of food in the other.
Leonid explained again, slowly, as if to a child. "You have to drink the vodka first."
"Mmm! ... Shorry."
And it was downhill from there. A Russian Premium Standard Platinum vodka was matched with tiny slivers of pickled herring that I can only semi-confidently relate thanks to the illiterate notes on my iPhone and the word "LOVELY!!!" enthused beside it. Boiled quails eggs topped with salmon roe and an incredibly sharp cured fish of some sort were also exciting enough to punch through the alcoholic fog, matched according to my notes with something called a "russan sndrd imp -- SMOOTH!!!!". Presumably it was another vodka.
After that, the notes dry up and the evening is surrendered to the vodka gods. What in the end amounted to a Russian "tapas" tasting menu and matching vodkas swam by in a giggly, messy miasma, a total of at least twelve (probably many more) plates of food each matched with yet another icy shot of premium vintage vodka. According to Leonid, the point of vodka is to be as tasteless and smooth as possible, so as to give you a nice alcoholic buzz without distracting from the food. After the 10th shot of vodka I think I could have been run over by the number 12 bus without being distracted by it, so he's clearly onto something. Oh - one more dish has just occurred to me; a simply stunning bowl of pork dumplings in a cream and white wine sauce, which I will just have to go back and revisit with eyes that can focus correctly. I have a half-formed memory of me stuffing one into the mouth of a terrified woman I'd met barely half an hour previously, screaming "TRY THIS!" with fanatical zeal.
I'm pretty sure, in fact I'm almost certain, that I would have enjoyed the food and the evening at Bob Bob Ricard even if I hadn't have been force-fed nearly a bottle of premium vintage vodka, but unfortunately there's no real way of knowing this until I make a return visit. So until I do, make what you will of the above or go and try out Bob Bob Ricard for yourself. I can heartily recommend it. At least, I think I can.