Mashed potato with caviar and a good burger – Claude Bosi talks favourite dishes, top spots to eat out locally, and his joy at the success of Bibendum and Esher’s The Swan Inn. By Tina Lofthouse

 

It’s been a busy few years for Claude Bosi. Not only is he leading Bibendum, one of London’s most iconic restaurants, to Michelin-starred glory, winning two of the coveted stars, but also overseeing Esher’s popular gastropub The Swan Inn as chef proprietor.

Bibendum, set in the old Michelin Tyres London HQ and named after Michelin’s famous tyre man character, was originally opened by Sir Terrence Conran and publisher Paul Hamlyn back in 1987, and was soon a major fixture on the London dining scene. Ironically, given the Michelin building location and in spite of its success, it never won a Michelin star in its thirty-year-history. Claude Bosi became involved, re-opening after a massive refurbishment in March 2017. Just months later, it had been awarded two Michelin stars.

Claude is no stranger to success. He won two Michelin stars at his restaurant Hibiscus in Ludlow, Shropshire, and again when he moved Hibiscus to London – although time was pressed before the builders moved out and Michelin came in and it initially lost a star when it first opened. He is delighted by how quickly the two stars were awarded to Bibendum. “We worked hard for it but sometimes what you want and what you get aren’t the same thing. However it paid off. We managed to do something very quickly. It was great teamwork, and an amazing achievement.”

Is there any particular advice that has spurred him on his journey? “I am quite stubborn and I don’t really listen to advice. If I mess up, I want to take responsibility for it. That said, the best advice is to stick to your beliefs and don’t change your mind to follow a trend. Stick to what you do.”

“I am quite stubborn and I don’t really listen to advice. If I mess up, I want to take responsibility for it.  That said, the best advice is to stick to your beliefs and don’t change your mind to  follow a trend.”

He loves the fact that his new restaurant is in such an iconic building – the original stained-glass windows with the cartoon tyre man loom over the proceedings, an elegant dining room with white linen on the tables. Dishes include favourite touches from Hibiscus (most of the team came with him) along with Bibendum classics – its original premise when it first opened in the eighties was to bring to London classic, accessible French cooking, although it was hardly at bistro prices. Offal was a mainstay, and it remains, albeit with a Bosi twist with the menu featuring dishes such as ‘My mum’s tripe and cuttlefish gratin, pig’s ear and ham cake’.

Claude grew up in Lyon, where his parents ran a bistro. “My mum would go to the market each morning to get fresh produce, which would result in a plat du jour every day. It was all very simple and you could pop in for a coffee and a sandwich.” He likens the conviviality of the bistro to our British pubs, and with his brother Cedric, he took over the Fox and Grapes in Wimbledon (now in the hands of Paul Merrett). In 2016, he set his sights on Esher’s The Swan Inn, turning it into a gorgeous gastropub with comfort food favourites and pub classics.  “There is as much you can do with a burger as you can do with a plate of lobster. Food is not just about luxury ingredients. You can do a great fish and chips.”  The Swan’s approach is proving popular, offering traditional roasts and burgers alongside dishes such as skate wings with beurre blanc. “We have had great feedback and have a brilliant team with Joe

[Hendricks, general manager] up front and Harry [Orchard] in the kitchen.” Joe and Claude have previously worked together at both Hibiscus and The Fox and Grapes.

When asked what his most memorable dish of all time is, Claude declares it to be mashed potato –  with the addition of caviar, which he ate at Geist in Copenhagen. “I can still taste it now,” he enthuses. “It was beautiful.” Geist’s chef, Bo Bech, combined the ingredients to raise the idea that potato could be as good as caviar if given the right care.

Claude moved in 1997 from his native France straight to Shropshire, where he started at Overton Grange, before opening Hibiscus.

Home for him now is Clapham Common. “We’re lucky there in that we have great places to eat out.” He cites The Dairy, Trinity, Soif, May the Fifteenth and Pizza Metro, although he describes his three-and-a-half year-old son as something of a tornado when he goes out to eat. “I tend to keep my head down when I go out. It usually ends with me apologising and trying to pick up the crumbs from the floor.”

At home, Claude favours cooking simple dishes. “I Iove making food that you can cook in just one pot as I usually do the washing up. I love ragus and chicken casserole, comforting dishes that you just put on the stove and let cook. Otherwise, I roast a chicken with some vegetables.”

It is time at home with his family that he holds dear. “Bibendum took a lot of time and so I spend as much time as I can with them.”