Bosi knows his meat, in fact, he learnt from one of the best – Alain Passard at L'Arpège in Paris as a young chef, before the restaurant was as vegetable-focused as it is now. “If you wanted to learn how to cook a big piece of meat, big piece of fish, that was where to go.” It paid off: a chef who worked for Bosi at his previous London restaurant, Hibiscus, once told me he was the best cooker of meat he’d ever seen.
When he has guests to his home, that big piece of meat is usually a fillet. Or maybe he’ll do something like a chicken casserole. He’ll often start with a seafood platter or a crab salad. And always “plenty of cheese on the table”.
“Don't try to go out of your comfort zone. Keep the flavours simple. A family-style meal in the middle of the table will make it safer. You serve your next-door; next-door serves you. You know, it’s a great atmosphere at the table and I like that.”
He also describes himself as a big fish eater. “A whole fish with a nice dressing on top of it or something very simple makes me very happy. Just lightly grilled.” He has memories of visiting a local organic trout farm with his parents near where he grew up in Lyon. They would “bake it in the oven, put it on the table and just help ourselves, it was just fantastic,” he says.
Claude Bosi at Bibendum, London
The dish he’s chosen for the virtual dining experience he’ll be hosting in celebration of the EE BAFTAs 2021 in partnership with S.Pellegrino evokes similar memories of home. His cod à la Grenobloise (with roasted cauliflower as the alternative veggie option) is a Bibendum signature. The dish pairs fish with a brown butter and bread-infused sauce on top of crushed potatoes. Capers give an additional acidic hit. It’s a dish he has a long history with, having had to cook a sole Grenobloise in an early culinary exam. “I’m from Lyon, not far from Grenoble, so it's a dish that is not unusual to see on menus where I come from and it's a flavour I really like eating,” he says.
I’m often curious as to what top chefs are like in their home kitchens. Bosi has an open plan one that allows him to interact with his guests, which he loves. “You don't turn your back, you can still cook have a glass of wine, have some fun, but 90% of my stuff will be ready before the guests arrive. In this case you really have time to entertain.” No need for a sous chef, however. “It's just me. My wife knows if I cook, no one is in [the kitchen]. The kitchen is not big enough to have two or three people, just to stop the kids running around, that is already hard work. It's better if I'm on my own.”
Then for dessert, it’s that trifle, which has also featured in his restaurant’s takeaway boxes. Initially reticent to send his food out this way, his team is now pushing out a three-course meal for two, with canapés and petit fours, every two weeks. “Just to keep the place alive. It’s not really a moneymaker. You know there's nothing worse to go in a place and the kitchen is cold, the restaurant is cold. At the end we have made enough money with the takeaway to pay [staff].”
He says he’ll be continuing with the takeaways post-lockdown. “Not necessarily from Bibendum, but more from myself from Claude Bosi at Home, where we're looking maybe to develop an outside kitchen.”
But more than anything, he’s looking forward to reopening and welcoming back the public. Bibendum, housed in the historic Michelin House in Chelsea, is split into two different offerings: an oyster bar on the ground floor and his fine-dining restaurant upstairs. The oyster bar’s outdoor space means it can reopen on 12 April in line with the latest roadmap out of England’s lockdown, while upstairs will be opening on 19 May. Lockdown has allowed him to concentrate particularly on the oyster bar, to turn it into more of a neighbourhood bistro, which is what he’s always wanted, he says. But being cooped up at home for too long doesn't really agree with Claude Bosi.
“At the beginning, the first six months were great because we just had a baby at home. But I'm not made to be at home all the time. It's definitely not me. I need to get up in the morning and be driven for something.”