Just a little disclaimer: while at Bar Boulud, I sat at the table next to Morgan Freeman. It bears repeating, I SAT BESIDE AND ATE BURGERS NEXT TO MORGAN FREEMAN! I basically shared a burger with Morgan Freeman, it counts. Okay, now that’s out of my system…
Bar Boulud is just one outpost of renowned chef, Daniel Boulud’s empire. The French chef, who is originally from Lyon in the Rhone River valley, became famous in New York after moving there in the early 80s. Boulud’s centerpiece – three Michelin star restaurant DANIEL is located in NYC – but his empire spans the globe with locations in Florida, Singapore, Beijing, Montreal, Toronto and London. Bar Boulud sits in the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel, one of the poshest addresses in London’s Knightsbridge area. It actually sits below the Mandarin’s even-fancier establishment, DINNER by Heston
Blumenthal – another Michelin starred chef.
Unlike DINNER upstairs, the Boulud American-inspired French bistro concept is a majorly relaxed and welcoming environment. And unlike many other restaurants in this price range, it attracts people who aren’t dressed to the nine’s and just want a chilled out, but very nice meal. The slightly-underground Bar Boulud is designed to feel like a French wine cellar with vaulted ceilings and recessed, red-leather booths. It’s open kitchen does make things more lively than your average wine cellar and with the clientele ranging from meager, little me to the likes of Morgan Freeman, you can tell it has a wide appeal.
Bar Boulud features four delicious burgers on their regular menu, priced between £17 and £24. Now, this is pricey – it’s prohibitively pricey. And considering just a few short years back, the Boulud burgers were priced between £13-19, Boulud has realized that there is money to be made in a delicious hamburger. Price gouging or inflation? I’m unsure, but I do say that these burgers are worth it – considering the Hawksmoor burger for £15 without fries; Bar Boulud includes the pommes frites, and it’s on par with Hawksmoor. Boulud’s beef comes from the Castle of Mey; aged Aberdeen Angus Cross chuck steak (grass and silage fed from the North of Scotland).
The beef at Bar Boulud is ground daily in-house and you can really taste the richness of their aged beef. It comes from a boned fore-quarter joint that may include the back ribs, and is trimmed by French methods rather than US or UK butchery techniques. All the rough sinews are trimmed from the beef, producing what is known as steak haché. The butcher at Bar Boulud also adds a little hard beef fat to the lean meat when mincing in order to produce a beef patty with a 15-20% fat content – and a ton of deliciousness.
Their burgers include: the Yankee (£17) – a classic beef burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle on the homemade glazed brioche bun. The Frenchie (£19) is topped with confit pork belly, tomato, and dijon on a morbier peppered homemade bun. The Piggie (£19) piles bbq pork on top of the beef patty and then includes jalapeno mayo and cabbage on a cheddar bun. And finally, the piéce de résistance is Boulud’s £24 BB: a beef burger with foie gras, short rib meat, horseradish mayo, confit tomatoes on a black onion seed bun. They also serve up a sampler of three burgers, cut in halves so you and some select friends can divide your attention amongst these four 8oz. burger delights.
The main talking point of Bar Boulud’s burgers is the sheer richness of flavor in the meat. Places like Joe Allen and The Big Easy rely on the grill to impart wonderful smokiness and BBQ flavors from the other meats on offer. But Bar Boulud relies on quality, aging and their trimming/grinding procedure to highlight the richness of their meat – I like both approaches, but the Boulud approach really steps things up a notch. In addition to the trimming procedure I mentioned above, the beef is ground once at 2-4 degrees celsius, allowed to rest and then passed through the grinder a second time.
The result is a savory burger that melts in your mouth and remains the focal point of the experience. Even though the house-made buns are exquisite, they are purely a bit player to the beef. Even the toppings, though fresh and wonderful, are purely there for slight variation, not to overpower the burger patty.
They also feature a couple steaks on their menu that are worth mentioning. A 10 oz. ribeye or sirloin will set you back £32 and £34 respectively and are served with salad and béarnaise or peppercorn sauce. Bar Boulud also does a cote de boeuf for two people at £72; a 28-day dry aged cut of black angus ribeye served with your choice of two sides and two sauces. And I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the ‘Calamar’ starter: a generous portion of lightly battered squid served with an equally generous portion of beer-battered onion rings and a basil mayo dip. It’s delicious and I wouldn’t recommend going with it!
You can visit Bar Boulud in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel at 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA or check out their website here.
Bar Bouldud Burger – 43/50
Beef (10): Absolutely succulent – aged to perfection, rich and savory.
Bun (9): house-made brioche-style buns that are up there with the best.
Toppings (8): understated, but fresh and diverse. Only on the BB do they really take the driver’s seat (foie gras, short rib meat, horseradish mayo, confit tomatoes )
Value (7): Pricey – these burgers are expensive and the prices have been raised to new highs, but they do all come with fries.
Ambiance (9): A really nice environment for a cool dinner. Nobody expects you to be suited and booted. Even Morgan Freeman was just there in a flannel shirt.