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Menuwatch: Bibo

10 July 2014 by
Menuwatch: Bibo

Not a trace of the MasterChef co-host's failed venture remains after seasoned restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas took over the site in March this year, redecorated the entire space and turned it into an elegantly simple neighbourhood Italian restaurant and bar.

Although the plan had originally been for Theo Randall, who runs his eponymous restaurant at the InterContinental hotel on Park Lane to be involved as co-patron, Chris Beverley, who previously worked with Randall as well as at Chez Bruce and the Oxo Tower, was eventually the one to take on the role of head chef.

The structure of the menu at the 70-seater eaterie, which has a brigade of six chefs, is traditionally Italian and made up of antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni and dolci, gelati and formaggi. However, Beverley hopes that the mixture of antipasti and bar nibbles (such as the deliciously spicy n'duja crocchette or the peperonata and cacioricotta crostini at £3.50 each) will encourage a relaxed atmosphere. The layout of the restaurant complements this, with a more informal bar area at the front with large windows looking onto a small street-level terrace.

"The idea at the top of the menu with the antipasti and the nibbles was that we want it to be quite informal with lots of plates on the table and people sharing, which I think of as very Italian," Beverley explains.

When it comes to the style of the food, it veers towards 'Anglo-Italian', giving the menu a certain flexibility that 'Italian-Italian' restaurants (as Beverley calls them) cannot benefit from. This allows the inclusion of dishes such as lamb shoulder, purple broccoli, potatoes and anchovy (£17), which the chef admits wouldn't look out of place on a menu of a more British restaurant like St John.

Regardless of the style, what Beverley is interested in is freshness and simplicity. "I have inherited that from Theo - we are not into doing seven different textures of the same ingredient. It is really about being fresh, seasonal and simple and treating things well."

That philosophy is perhaps best demonstrated in dishes such as the broad bean, homemade ricotta, rocket and mint salad (£6). The use of broad beans, imported from Italy in the first few weeks of the season in April, makes all the difference, according to Beverley. "They are so nice and so sweet," he enthuses. "Later on in the season they get bigger and starchier, and their skin is much thicker and they get a bit bitter, but these early season ones are just so delicious we don't even bother taking the skins off because they are so soft and the flavour is so good."

The fact the restaurant is pretty keenly priced for one of London's more well-to-do neighbourhoods (the average spend per head is £40 including drinks) means that when it comes to suppliers, Beverley has to balance getting the best possible quality at a given price.

It helps then, that wherever they can, the team at Bibo make their own produce - a case in point being the homemade ricotta served with the broad bean salad. "We have worked a little bit on that recipe and the ricotta is softer and definitely a little bit richer and tastier than the stuff we have bought in," he says.

Other bestsellers include pork tortellini and sage butter (£9/14), burrata, peas and culaccia (£7) and the indulgent mini doughnuts - bombolini with Amalfi lemon curd (£6) - that were introduced to the menu when the restaurant opened and have stayed there ever since.

Fittingly, for a restaurant whose name translates to 'I drink' in Latin, the ubiquitous Zeren Wilson has developed the wine list and is on hand to make recommendations - which may well involve Lambrusco, a wine whose reputation Wilson has taken it upon himself to restore and which certainly offers the restaurant a point of difference to its competitors.

Quirky or not, it's these little touches that serve to demonstrate that Beverley and the rest of the team are thinking seriously about how to deliver an enjoyable, relaxed and informal experience, above anything else.

"I think things like that - and the fact that we are making the effort to make our own ricotta and go the extra mile to get the simple things absolutely right - is the essence of what we do," Beverley says.

146 Upper Richmond Road, London SW15 2SWwww.biborestaurant.com

FROM THE MENU

Antipasti
â- Cuttlefish, peas, white wine £6.50
â- Camone and Marinda tomatoes, caprini freschi, pangrattato £5.50

Primi â- Taglierini nero, octopus, garlic, chilli £9/14
â- Artichoke risotto £8/13

Secondi
â- Onglet, aubergine, chickpeas, salsa rossa £16
â- Sea bream, asparagus, crème fraÁ®che £16.50

Dolci â- Bombolini with Amalfi lemon curd £6
â- Gorgonzola dolce, poached pear, walnuts and honey £6.50

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