A force of nature has arrived at Bob Bob Ricard. (Yes another one, in addition to the eccentric, generous and rather lovely owners, Leonid and Richard).
Lady Lavinia is in the house, ladies and gentleman, and she's a (rather stunning) force to be reckoned with.
Previously maitre d' and reservations manager at some of the very best establishments in London, New York and elsewhere, Lady Lavinia is now creative director, looking after guests of the newly refurbished Bobby's Bar.
Already, in her few weeks at BBR, she's not only won new admirers to add to her very long list of adoring fans, she's also shaken up the bar menu with the introduction of some rather fine bar snacks in the form of luxurious little tarts.
And gentlemen full of relish…
Hence the creation of my favourite nibble."
Before moving on to some of those nibbles, we thought we'd try some of the hot winter cocktails, to get a little colour into our frozen cheeks and hands.
Pete's gooseberry and ginger hot toddy was suitably warming (and comfortingly alcoholic) – the ginger came through far more clearly than the gooseberry. My Rose Petal Blush served equally well to defrost me, inside and out and was delightfully presented too, with it's whole cinnamon stick to stir. But it had far too many cloves stuck into the orange slice, resulting in a strongly medicinal flavour.
Once warmed, we switched to the regular cocktail list and quickly moved our attention to the tarts!
Cherry Tomato & Parmesan with Goats Curd and Baby Watercress (£4.50)
The tomatoes are intensely sweet and utterly delicious. The goats curd is sharp; it provides a nice contrast. I don't detect the parmesan but imagine it's what contributes the salty, umami aspect. The "baby watercress" tastes more like basil to me, but perhaps that's down to what my brain is expecting. The juice released from the tomatoes makes the base soggy and therefore droopy, which makes this tart hard to eat without cutlery.
Gentleman's Relish & Anchovie Fillets with Nostraline Olives (£5.50)
What a marvellous tart! The pastry, whilst oily, is still crispy and has a thin base. The flavours are balanced perfectly to provide salty, savoury bites of joy. I don't usually like gentleman's relish but it's bloody fantastic in this.
Tarte Monsieur with English Mustard and Black Truffle (£6.50)
The first thing you notice, as you lift a slice of tart towards your mouth, is the intense waft of aroma from the grated black truffle. It's earthy, muddy, woody and rich and really rather heady. Inside the tart, on the same outrageously rich pastry, are layers of a mild cheese and ham that work well with the mustard. I love the way these combine with the taste of truffle. Oily overall but that's no bad thing in winter!
Tarte Madame with English Mustard and Quails Egg (£6.50)
The Tarte Madame, is, as you'd expect, much like a Monsieur but with the addition of an egg. But for me, that little quails egg just can't deliver on flavour like the glorious black truffle so I'd advise you to be sexist and go for man tart.
Fig & Blossom Honey with Mascarpone Cheese (£4.50)
To be honest, I had a feeling I'd rather like this as soon as I heard the description from Lady Lavinia the previous time I'd dropped in to BBR. Oh my, it's even better than I expected! The kitchen has taken care to source decent figs with good flavour – it's so easy to buy bland and mealy figs if not careful. The combination of thin slices of this magnificent fruit with a sweet, subtly flavoured honey and rich, creamy mascarpone, not to mention generous sprinklings of pistachio, is unbelievably good. Droopy again, making it messy to eat, especially as that mascarpone starts melting and dripping fast, it's best not to worry about trying to look elegant in front of your companions and just cram this into your mouth as fast as you can. Mmmm!
A couple of the tarts are a little expensive, given their small size and their role as bar snacks, but they are really rather good.
Do pop in to Bobby's Bar and try them out for yourself. If you're lucky, you'll also meet the rather gorgeous Lady Lavinia…