Located at the Mondrian Shoreditch hotel in London, Bibo aims to attract hipsters on a big night out with whole lobster paella, inventive cocktails and loud music. Jenny Southan reports
Described as a “lively, urban space, perfect for casual lunches and spirited dinners,” Bibo is three Michelin-starred chef Dani García’s first branch in the UK. (He also has Bibo restaurants in Marbella, Madrid, Tarifa, Doha and Málaga.)
Located on the lower ground floor of the trendy Mondrian Shoreditch hotel in East London (formerly the Curtain Club and Hotel), Bibo created quite a buzz when it opened last August. Curious to try it, I booked a table with a friend.
The cavernous interiors were warm and inviting. I learned that design firm Epicurean (the specialist food and beverage division of Goddard Littlefair) incorporated rose-coloured handmade tiles, antique tan leather, teal and rose fabrics, oversized rattan pendant lights, polished copper walls and “sardine mobiles” suspended from the ceiling to give it a whole new Spanish-style look.(Previously it was Red Rooster, which served American southern soul food.) At the centre is a sit-up bar but there is also private dining room and an outdoor courtyard.Apparently, Bibo combines García’s “rich Andalusian heritage with the techniques and ingredients of each Bibo location to create dishes which are renowned and well-loved around the globe”.
Signature dishes at the London outpost include oxtail brioche with mushroom, DG sauce and rocket; Russian salad with quail eggs, potato, extra virgin olive oil mayo, tuna belly, fried quail eggs and garlic chips; and jamón croquetas with tomato powder. We shared a selection of plant-based tapas – I loved the tortilla, which was attractively slathered in spicy tomato sauce and mayo (£8) and the zingy tomato salad. Other dishes we tried were a fresh but rather boring baby gem wedge salad (£6); the patatas bravas (we’d have welcomed a larger portion) at £6; and the £13 grilled, chopped avocado with coriander pesto and feta (again quite un-generous). We also tried the roasted, glazed aubergine topped with roasted broccoli, herbs and yoghurt.As you’d expect from a Spanish restaurant, paella is a standout item. Cooked in metal skillets for two people, options include whole grilled blue lobster paella (£60) and roasted chicken paella (£46). When we visited, they didn’t have a vegetarian paella on the menu but I am pleased to say they now do (made with carrots, broccolini, mushrooms and kale).We both had the cheesecake for dessert but it was a bit too savoury for my liking – I wasn’t sure about the grated Alpine cheese on top. Chocolate churros next time?The biggest problem for us was the music, which was very loud, and because staff were wearing masks it was really hard to hear them speak. They also seemed quite rushed and were not really taking the time to talk us through each dish (probably because it was so hard to communicate).
This was also something that restaurant critic Grace Dent picked up on. She wrote a review in The Guardian saying: “A pivotal moment in my restaurant-reviewing career came when, just after eating my porcini croquettes, I downloaded a decibel-monitoring app on to my phone…
“Dinner with friends is all about telling stories, and stories are all about detail; they are also about timing and red herrings and withholding information until the perfect point. And none of that can happen at places such as Bibo that, my new app told me, play dance music at 84 decibels.”In addition to wine list with 120 different labels, Bibo has a fantastic cocktail menu that is really well conceived, with great photos to show how each one is presented in different glassware. Imaginatively served, I enjoyed the red wine sangria.
Bibo is a great bet for a raucous dinner party with friends who have plenty of money to splash and don’t mind consuming a few mouthfuls of tapas. The interior design is a highlight, as are the cocktails.