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Test Driving Bibi - Chet Sharma's Mayfair Indian restaurant delivers a knockout menu

roomInside Bibi - aim for those booths on the right if you can. 

What can you tell us about Bibi?

It comes from Chet Sharma, who was once at powerhouse restaurants L'Enclume and Moor Hall before becoming development chef at JKS (the people behind Gymkhana and Hoppers and who also back restaurants like BAO and Lyle's). Here he's fronting the restaurant and says he's aiming to create "impactful" Indian food. In our minds, he's certainly achieved that. 

Where is it?

You'll find it in a narrow space on North Audley Street in the heart of Mayfair - less than five minutes from Bond Street station and just off Oxford Street.  

Where should we sit? 

The booth by the window is probably the best seat, but we loved the little 2-4 seater booths that lined the room. You can also sit at the counter and watch the chefs in action. This would also be recommended - but for the fact that the stools are designed for those over six feet. Anyone shorter will struggle to reach the foot rest.

So what kind of food can we expect?

We'd probably describe it as Indian cuisine influenced by the British small plates scene. Everything was of a noticeably high quality that's just short of being too high-end, a delicate balance that's pulled off very well here. You can, in some dishes, really see the influence of L'Enclume and Moor Hall in the quality of presentation. 

Generally speaking, it's all about small plates for sharing (with a few sides). There are snacks, chaat (cold starters) and the main section which is the Sigree grill, where everything is at least part-grilled over charcoal. You can see a version of the seasonally changing menu here (note that it had already changed on our visit). We'd suggest ordering a couple of snacks, a couple of chaat and then four to five dishes from the Sigree section.

Here's what we had (with a little extra info on the dishes from Sharma himself):

roomWookey-hole Cheese Papad (£5) - these have been described (and we'd agree with this assessment) as Bibi's take on Quavers - that's high praise indeed.  

roomMorecambe Bay Shrimp Vada (£8) - these are lentil-based with confit, salted cod whipped in, followed by the shrimps. Deep-fried to order, these are near-perfect snackage so order them as soon as you get to your seats. 

roomRaw belted Galloway beef pepper fry, with fermented tellicherry peppercorns in the mix (£14) - their take on a tartare that's up there with the best.  

roomLoch Duart Salmon Jhal Muri - with raw salmon, odia mustard oil emulsion. Great for sharing - but they could be a little more generous with the little crisp papads to scoop this up. 

roomStar dish: Sharmaji's Lahori chicken with cashew and yoghurt whey (£12) - herb-fed, free-range chicken, marinated in a classic Lahori spice mix (cumin, coriander seed, mustard oil and fenugreek heavy). Very lightly grilled, it's added to a sauce of reduced yoghurt whey (from their own yoghurt) and roasted cashew paste and finished with grass-fed ghee from Gloucestershire. Just a truly exemplary dish. 

roomAged Swaledale lamb chop barra with Kashmiri walnut doon chettin (£22) - prepared with a traditional 'Barrah' marinade, with mustard oil and royal cumin and then grilled to perfection. A must-have

What about vegetarians?

There's plenty on the menu if you're veg-only (but only a couple of dishes that are specifically vegan). Even the grill section is equally divided between meat/fish and vegetarian dishes. We tried the following and can highly recommend them. 

roomBuffalo milk paneer with fenugreek kebab masala (£10) - beautifully prepared paneer, dive in while it's still hot. 

roomDahi aubergine with tempered yoghurt and tamarind glaze (£10) - this is made from peeled aubergines, salted and then cooked in a spring onion oil for two hours at 83˚C, then marinaded in a chettinad spice mix, mixed into tamarind, jaggery and onion paste. It is grilled before their service and held above the sigree to continue to keep warm and gently smoke a little.A damned good aubergine dish (and we LOVE aubergine dishes). 

On top of this, the chukh masala tikka is recommended but as Grace Dent warned, is a "Vesuvius-hot spin on the curry house classic". The much-lauded snacks of sweetcorn kurkure were sadly missing on our visit, so get them if you see them on the menu. 

And dessert?

It's definitely worth holding back a little for dessert - the kulfi "lollies" below are a must. 

roomMalai Kesar and preserved mango kulfi (£6 each). These are essentially Bibi's versions of a mini Solero and a mini Magnum. For the Malai Kesar specifically, it's is a classically made cooked milk ice cream, spiked with cardamom and saffron, piped into moulds, frozen and dipped (to order) in white chocolate and cocoa butter from Pondicherry, then rolled in a candied pistachio and dried rose petal crumb. it is amazing - and not too much if you've overdone it on the small plates. 

roomPassion fruit sorbet, coconut biscuit and rum cream (£9) - layers of texture and flavour, but light as a feather.

What about drink?

The wine list is on the punchy side, moving up to £50+ quite quickly, but still manages to have an entry bottle at £32, which is not bad for Mayfair (a 2018 Rousanne or Carbernet Franc from Alphabetical wine in South Africa). The cocktail list is particularly worth your attention, though. We tried the below:

roomRaspberry & Ajwain Gola - London Dry Gin, Fermented Raspberry, Lemon, Ajwain seed, Shaved ice (£10) and The Monsoon Martini - Vodka, Multani Mitti & Ambrette Seed (£12). We loved the shaved ice cocktail (and the enormous hand-cranked machine that produces it) and the martini was pitch perfect (and we are VERY particular about our martinis). 

Overall thoughts?

Chet Sharma has created something really very special in Mayfair, easily delivering one of our meals of the year. The room is beautifully decked out, there's a nice buzzy relaxed feel about the place (almost Soho crossed with Mayfair) and the food is phenomenal. This should absolutely be on your must-visit list this year. 

 

More about Bibi

Where is it? 42 North Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 6ZR

Find out moreVisit their website or follow them on Instagram @bibi_ldn.

Hot Dinners ate as guests of Bibi. Prices are correct at the time of writing. 

 

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