Bibi wins Menu of the Year Award, sponsored by Belazu
Bibi is the first solo project from Chet Sharma, opened in partnership with JKS Restaurants, and it is where the chef has been able to indulge his passion for maximising the impact of every element within a dish.
Sharma earned a reputation for refinement working on the launch of Mark Birchall's Moor Hall and at Simon Rogan's L'Enclume, so returning to the cuisine of his childhood at Bibi (Urdu for ‘lady of the house', in recognition of his grandmothers) took some retraining.
"I needed to re-educate my Indian palate," he told The Caterer in 2021, shortly after Bibi launched. "My background has been very fine dining at two- and three-Michelin-star level and modern European, so I wasn't ready."
Bibi, located on a corner site in London's Mayfair, seats 33 guests inside and 20 more on the terrace. The menu is split into bar snacks, small savoury plates presented as chaat (snacks), sigree (grills) and desserts. The menu is flexible enough that someone can come in for lunch for £15 or spend more by adding supplements and wine.
Dishes are playful with plenty of spicing showmanship. Each small plate seems composed of a few ingredients, but packs layer upon layer of flavour thanks to Sharma's dedication to technique, sourcing and spicing. Take the raw Belted Galloway beef pepper fry(pictured above). The menu lists it as including fermented Tellicherry peppercorns, but there are multiple types of pepper in the dish. The lacto-fermented peppercorns provide a freshness, bordering on menthol, that cuts through the fattiness of the diced sirloin. Apparent simplicity repeatedly belies layers of technique and expertise. Sharma described his chukh masala tikka as "a chicken thigh with a fermented chilli base and a little coleslaw", but in reality Sharma sources chamba chillies from Himachal Pradesh, salting and cooking them in mustard oil to make a paste. This is combined with a heavily reduced chicken stock and lemon juice, in which the chicken is marinated and glazed before being cooked slowly high over coals on the bespoke grill on which almost every dish is cooked. In another dish, of khatti meethi cod, the complexity comes in the spice mix. For this sweet and sour dish of cod served on a dosa with a coconut emulsion and crushed peanut podi, Sharma employs a Chettinad spice mix that includes tamarind, sugar, star anise, black peppercorns and dagad phool (an edible lichen).
"Some dishes are always going to look simple, like the cod and Swaledale lamb, which are just two or three components on plate," Sharma told The Caterer. "But each component has layers of flavour. The idea is careful sourcing, smart cooking, and authenticity with a relatable flavour."
What the judges said
"Fresh and imaginative cooking from Chet and the team." – Sally Abé
"Excellent produce, delicious food, serious technique, and a huge investment of thought, energy and innovation in the construction of outstanding flavour." – Jackson Boxer
- Bibi, London
- Bridge Arms, Canterbury
- Da Terra, London
- Paradise, London
- Wild Honey St James, London
- Sally Abé, consultant chef, the Pem
- Jackson Boxer, chef-proprietor, Orasay and Brunswick House
- Richard Corrigan, chef-proprietor, Corrigan Collection
- Jeremy Lee, head chef, Quo Vadis
- James Mackenzie, chef proprietor, the Pipe and Glass Inn