Michelin starred Chef Daniel Boulud has 17 restaurants across the globe, but his only London establishment, Bar Boulud, has undergone a unique transformation for the summer. Housed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the eatery known for its French bistro dishes and charcuterie has opened a pop-up restaurant for the months of July and August. The new offering, Boulud Sud, takes diners on a tour of the Mediterranean (but regulars can still opt for their favourite bistro dishes, too).
As the Maitre D’, how have you managed the restaurant’s transformation into the Boulud Sud pop-up?
Tomas: For me, it was about preparation as we’re not just talking about a small change on the menu but about shifting the entire concept into a different direction.
We started by talking about the decoration of the restaurant and the whole feel, how it was going to look with lemon and olive trees, and how it would affect our guests’ experience. Then we looked at different uniforms for the team, which is important as you can’t simply put a different name on a napkin and expect people to just believe in it. I also wanted a big lavender pot at the front of the restaurant so that when guests walk in they feel like they’re somewhere different.
As the Executive chef, how have you constructed the menu for Boulud Sud?
Thomas: The idea itself came from Chef Daniel who wanted to bring a bit more sun into London, so we focused on the flavours, the cooking processes and special ingredients from the Mediterranean. The menu travels between Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Morocco and France.
Creating a new menu means you need to find new produce, new suppliers, and to make sure you’re using the right ingredients. My sous chef and I did a lot of research, ensuring we have authentic and real flavours. Harissa, for example, is important as a lot of people in the Mediterranean use it. This means you can find it anywhere, but if you use a banal, classic Harissa it’s not good enough, so we sourced the spices for our Harissa from Morocco.
What authentic cooking methods and touches have you used for the Bar Boulud dishes?
Thomas: We have a special dish we call Sicilian Sardine Escabeche, which is all about the process of how the fish is cooked – we had to find a really good white balsamic for it and understand the balance of acidity needed for the dish. In Italy, sardines are used a lot in summer as they are in full season. It wasn’t a challenge to find sardines in London but it was hard to find really fresh ones, so we had to tweak the dish slightly and instead use an amazing mackerel from Cornwall. It means we can still respect the cooking process for the dish but use something local, too. Another example would be the dishes we use to serve up our traditional chicken tagine, which have been brought over from Morocco.
Once the décor and menu had been decided on, how did you communicate the change to your guests?
Tomas: I used our Twitter and Instagram feeds to make sure we got the message out. Bar Boulud has been very popular for the past six years and we’ve managed to create an incredible base of regulars and guests, so I started contacting some of them by email to tell them about the summer pop-up.
As a Maître D’, not only do I get to have direct contact with our guests but Twitter and Instagram allows me to be responsive and engaging, and to reflect the passion and enthusiasm that all of us put into our work here every day.
Photos courtesy of Bar Boulud