The rubbery corporate mascot we know as the Michelin Man actually has a name: Bibendum, drawn from a Latin phrase once used in the tire company’s advertising: “nunc est bibendum,” best translated as “time for a drink” — odd advice, perhaps, for drivers, but good news for diners.
Bibendum is also the name of the restaurant that the designer and tastemaker Terence Conran and the publisher Paul Hamlyn opened in 1987 in Michelin House at the edge of London’s Chelsea neighborhood. Michelin built this ornate headquarters-cum-service-station in 1911, incorporating exuberant tire and motoring imagery into its design, including the big Bibendum-themed stained glass windows that account for much of the airy second-floor dining room’s whimsical charm (there’s informal dining on the ground floor).
This year saw a total renovation and reopening under a prominent new chef and partner: The room looks more open, with sleek gray leather banquettes on either side of the large front window and the elimination of a tall serving console that used to dominate the space. Happily, the stained glass remains, along with plenty of Michelin Man knickknacks. And the sign over the door now reads “Claude Bosi at Bibendum.”
Thirty years ago, the menu listed uncommonly well-prepared French classics with a light English accent. Today the kitchen, glassed in and visible to diners, produces the kind of elegant food for which Mr. Bosi gained high regard at his previous restaurant, Hibiscus (which garnered two Michelin stars): modern dishes (and a few traditional favorites) that have been meticulously considered and cooked — but that, for all the thought and precision, remain bright and full of flavor.
Take the turbot Grenobloise. During a late spring visit, the firm fish had been coaxed into an even oval shape and set on a foundation of crushed potatoes and brown butter enlivened by lemon and capers and lent texture by crisped bread fragments. With a frothy sauce based on the same ingredients, the dish neatly combined high style with irresistible deliciousness.
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